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Eagles' balanced attack was key to the win over the 49ers | Early Birds

The Eagles had a 50-50 split in running and passing in the 25-20 victory.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (left) avoids San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead to keep a play alive in the fourth quarter.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (left) avoids San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead to keep a play alive in the fourth quarter.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

Before Sunday’s game against the host San Francisco 49ers, the Eagles were doubted by many. The NBC crew members who made predictions all picked the 49ers.

So did just about everybody else, but the Eagles had one of those games that could turn a season around. Coach Doug Pederson said after the Eagles' 25-20 victory that the team didn’t consider it a must-win situation, and there is a lot of credence to that because of the sorry state of the NFC East. At 1-2-1, the Eagles are in the first place.

The Eagles played as if their backs were against the wall and had true balance between the pass and run.

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A 50-50 run-pass split

The numbers couldn’t have been more balanced against the 49ers: 28 runs, 28 passes. While that is difficult to achieve weekly, it indicated that even in a passing league, the ability to run the ball is crucial.

The Eagles didn’t have a great statistical game running the ball. They gained 93 yards for just a 3.3 average. Yet what it did was enable them to keep the ball away from the 49ers.

A team that relies on the run, San Francisco didn’t have an overwhelming advantage in time of possession: 30 minutes, 31 seconds to 29:29 for the Eagles. The 49ers were successful running, but they had only 20 attempts for 116 yards (5.6 avg.).

Even with some injured running backs, the 49ers are still a formidable rushing team. That they had more than twice as many passing attempts as rushing attempts (46 to 20), was out of character. Granted, when C.J. Beathard came in at quarterback, the 49ers were down by 25-14 with less than six minutes remaining, so he had to pass — 19 times, to be exact.

Still, when a running team such as the 49ers has to attempt that many passes, it is in trouble, even if injured starter Jimmy Garoppolo is back in the lineup.

Here is the Eagles' breakdown in passing and running each game:

Washington, 27-17 L: The Eagles had 17 rushing attempts, 42 passes (3.4 yards per carry).

LA Rams, 37-19 L: 26 rushing attempts, 43 passes (4.7 yards per carry).

Cincinnati, 23-23 T: 36 rushing attempts, 47 passes, (4.9 yards per carry).

San Francisco, 25-20 W: 28 rushing attempts, 28 passes (3.3 yards per carry).

Is it any coincidence that the Eagles had their two highest rushing attempts in the win and the tie?

And while Carson Wentz’s injury history is a reason that he shouldn’t get too many carries, the Eagles this season have been more effective when he runs the ball. Wentz gained 2 yards on one carry against Washington. He gained 7 yards on two carries with a touchdown against the Rams. The last two games, Wentz has been a bigger part of the running game. Against Cincinnati, he gained 65 yards on nine carries (7.22 avg.) and scored a touchdown. He rushed for 37 yards on seven carries (5.3 avg.) and scored on an impressive 11-yard run against the 49ers.

“Carson does a great job of taking off when he needs to and making plays with his legs, and some of it is by design. Some of it is obviously part of the run game, where he can keep it,” Pederson said. “We’ve just got to make sure we’re doing the right thing as far as kind of protecting him as well.”

Pederson said the Eagles have to be smart in how much Wentz is used as a runner.

“We don’t want to put him in those situations where he’s always taken a beating that way or being hit,” Pederson said. “He was smart tonight. We encourage him to use his legs when he can, and we continue to scheme plays, when they’re there for him.”

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Jeff McLane writes that Carson Wentz wasn’t great, or even good, but considering all the injuries, and how poorly he fared in the first three games, he played within himself and that was enough to leave Santa Clara with a “W.”

  2. Paul Domowitch handed out his grades for the game, and special teams could go to the head of the class.

  3. Pederson on the win: “First place sounds really good.”

  4. Mike Sielski writes that the Eagles get a break each week — by being in the woeful NFC East.

  5. Even in victory, the Eagles' depleted wide-receiving corps is inexcusable, David Murphy writes.

  6. Domowitch provides his five takeaways from the win., with the no-names earning special attention.

  7. Les Bowen’s Eagles notes begin with cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, who along with his teammates had trouble staying with tight end George Kittle, but he forced a key fourth-quarter turnover.

  8. EJ Smith writes about one of the most improbable heroes, Travis Fulgham, the wide receiver up from the practice squad whose 42-yard touchdown reception sparked the win.

  9. Smith chronicled the game’s key plays as they happened, including many key video highlights.

  10. For the first time this season, the Eagles received favorable comments on Twitter after Sunday’s win. As usual, there are a number of creative tweets and also some video highlights.

  11. The no-name Eagles players are highlighted in McLane’s Up-Down drill.

From the mailbag

Time to resign Bradham? — Andrew Goldstein, @AngeGold on Twitter

Thanks for the question, Andrew. It appears Nigel Bradham will be signed Monday to the Denver Broncos’ practice squad, according to Mike Klis, a top reporter in Denver. Even if he weren’t signing there, I wouldn’t bring him back.

Bradham was a key member of the Eagles' Super Bowl team in the 2017 season. He finished with seven tackles in the 41-33 Super Bowl win over New England. During his time with the Eagles, Bradham started in six playoff games.

Bradham signed in the offseason with New Orleans but was cut in August. During his time there, he criticized the Eagles organization, so even though the Eagles have a glaring need at linebacker, don’t look for the 31-year-old to come back anytime soon.