In each of their first three games of the 2022 season, the Philadelphia Eagles threw the ball at least 20 times in the first half. That worked well for them, as the Eagles came into Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with a 3-0 record.
But the Jaguars shot out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, and given the fact that Jacksonville came into this game with the league’s most formidable run defense, you’d expect head coach Nick Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen to direct quarterback Jalen Hurts to throw it all over the yard.
This, they did not do. They did the exact opposite thing on their way to a 29-21 comeback win. Philadelphia ran the ball 50 times for 210 yards and four touchdowns in a performance that defined old-school for an offense that can be as new-age as you’d like.
The last time an NFL team ran the ball more than 50 times in a game in which they trailed at any point, it was the Kansas City Chiefs on October 7, 2012 against the Baltimore Ravens. The Chiefs went down 3-0, they never had a deficit of more than six points, and their quarterbacks were Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn. When that’s your situation, and Jamaal Charles is your primary running back, you’re going all-out even if you lose, 9-6.
The Eagles, meanwhile, are leading with a third-year quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has shown exponential progress as a passer, so there’s no need to hide your quarterback. This was more about Hurricane Ian blowing up the East Coast, turning the game into a rainy slogfest. And the Eagles are quite happy to slog you right through the mud.
The star was running back Miles Sanders, who set career highs in carries (27) and rushing yards (134), and tying his career high with two rushing touchdowns.
“We’ll do whatever we need to do to win the football game,” Sirianni said after. “Of course, conditions are going to play into that. We look at everything. We take everything into account. We were running the ball really well. That second quarter, our offensive line was rolling. And that’s a good defensive line. I’ve known that going back to my Indy days that that’s a really good defensive line.”
Of course, nothing was going to happen without the front five, and Sirianni was eager to point that out.
“Our offensive line, I’ll take them over anybody in this league. I love that group. They are gritty. They are grimy. They are tough. They are physical. And we had to play some guys today. You can see how good of a job that Coach Stout [Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland] does of developing guys and getting guys ready to play that might not play.”
The Eagles also did all of this with two of their offensive linemen (left tackle Jordan Mailata with a shoulder injury, and right guard Isaac Seumalo to an ankle injury) leaving during the game
“[T/G] Jack Driscoll, [G] Sua [Opeta], those guys stepped in and did a really nice job,” Sirianni concluded. “I told you guys this: nine sacks, you get a game ball for the defensive line. 200 yards rushing, you get a game ball for the offensive line. If I had eight game balls, I would have thrown them out right there, but [Vice President of Equipment Operations] Greg [Delimitros] didn’t have them ready for me quite yet.”
Mr. Delimitros might want to get all eight game balls ready, because this offensive line performance, from coaching to scheme to execution, was about as good as it gets — against a run defense that was about as good as it got until it ran headlong into this.
Running in passing situations.
(Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
One thing the Eagles did with their run game to set the Jaguars on edge was to run the ball with passing personnel. Miles Sanders had 27 rushing attempts for 134 yards and two touchdowns. 26 of those runs came out of 11 personnel — one back, one tight end, and three receivers. This forced the Jaguars’ defense to watch for everything as opposed to just the one thing, and that was evident from Sanders’ first run.
This was a nine-yard gain on second-and-10 from the Philadelphia 21-yard line, and the Eagles are in a 2×2 set. The Jaguars are expecting a pass here, and you can tell by how linebacker Devin Lloyd (No. 33) drops into Cover-6 off the snap. Center Jason Kelce (No. 62) pulls to the right, and it’s Kelec’s job to hit the second level and take out linebacker Foyesade Oluokun (No. 23). Which he does, but watch the massive gap in the middle of Jacksonville’s defense that opens up because the Jaguars are playing pass. That’s where Sanders goes on the cutback.
Throw every kind of blocking scheme at your opponent.
(Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
The Eagles’ offensive line is incredibly well-coached under Jeff Stoutland, and this allows them to hit you with just about every kind of blocking scheme imaginable.
Sanders had a 13-yard run halfway through the second quarter out of inside zone (No, I’m not sure what Devin Lloyd was doing here, either)…
…not to mention the pin-and-pull stuff above.
“We were getting some really good runs and advantageous looks and taking advantage of it,” Kelce said. “As we were running the ball, [the Jaguars] started loading up the box and making it difficult. I think we did a good job of sticking with it even though they were making it harder, for sure.”
Sanders had 13 rushes against seven of more in the box, and the Eagles didn’t have a single negative play in those instances. In those instances, the Eagles were perfectly happy to play bully-ball, throw scheme to the side, and start kicking ass.
The Jaguars knew what was coming, and they couldn't stop it.
(Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
Doug Pederson obviously knew what he was in for with this run game; he helped build it as the Eagles’ head coach and offensive shot-caller from 2016 through 2020.
In this case, and despite the great run defense Pederson has now, that didn’t make it any easier for the Jaguars to stop it — or for Pederson to watch it.
“That’s a good offensive line,” Pederson said. “We know all those guys and know how they’re coached. They’re well-coached. That’s what they pride themselves on. We have to be better on the defensive side. We have to stay in gaps and somehow try to slow down the rush as best we can. That’s how you win games at the end. When you have the lead, you just run behind the offensive line. As long as you make first downs and stay on the field, you have a chance to win the game.”
It’s an important lesson for Jaguars team that’s undeniably on the rise, and an absolute confirmation for any team playing the Eagles this season — watch out for the passing game, yes, but when it’s time for these guys to run the ball, big by pants are a must.