The Eagles’ recipe for success the last two games has been clear and obvious: run the ball, control the clock, build a lead.
Against the Patriots, whether it was Bill Belichick’s mind games or the absence of lead running back Jordan Howard, they threw the recipe book in the trash midway through their 17-10 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
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During the Eagles offense’s inept second half, they ran the ball just nine times for a grand total of 26 yards. The team reeled off a 16-play, 95-yard drive at the end of the first quarter that featured eight running plays for 37 yards, good for 4.6 yards per carry. The offense stayed on the field for more than nine minutes and gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead, keeping Tom Brady on the Patriots’ sideline.
Of course, all this was before starting right tackle Lane Johnson left with a head injury, but the 16-play sequence was exactly what the team has preached. The Eagles last two wins saw rushing totals of 146 and 218 yards. On Sunday, they had just 81.
Their 21 carries in the game tied a season-low set in a Week 2 loss to the Falcons, and the rushing total was the worst they’ve had since that Atlanta loss.
Was that Eagles coach Doug Pederson’s plan coming in?
“You always like to maybe run it a few more times,” Pederson said. “Sometimes you get in a game like this, again, you’re either 2nd-and-10, 2nd-and-11 ... you’re not staying ahead. That was kind of our struggle in the run game tonight, something that we have to look at and fix before next week.”
Miles Sanders paced the team with 11 carries for 38 yards. Jordan Howard, typically the featured back, missed the game with a shoulder stinger that held him out of practice all week. He was questionable going into the game, but wasn’t able to go.
The team signed Jay Ajayi on Friday, but Pederson said it was too soon to ask the 26-year-old to take snaps after spending 13 months off the field with a torn ACL.
Sanders said the Patriots didn’t make an adjustment, it was self-inflicted wounds that plagued the team’s ground game.
“We lost our focus and we made it difficult for ourselves,” Sanders said. “I think we were shooting ourselves in the foot. I don’t think they were necessarily beating us, but I think we were definitely beating ourselves."
Eagles’ running back Boston Scott, who was called up from the practice squad last month, had seven carries for 26 yards.
He agreed with Sanders that the Patriots didn’t switch things up, the Eagles just failed to execute.