CONTRARY TO popular opinion, Andy Reid does not hate running the football more than anything else in the world. There are several other things he hates more - walking barefoot over hot coals and Monday afternoon news conferences, just to name a few.
Reid understands that you've got to mix in the run with the pass every now and then, particularly when you happen to have one of the two or three best ballcarriers in the NFL on your payroll.
The problem, though, is that he and his offensive copilot, Marty Mornhinweg, both have Run ADD. Which is to say it doesn't take much to make them lose interest in running the football. A pair of back-to-back 1-yard losses usually will do the trick.
Which brings us to Sunday night's interesting happenings at the Linc.
In the first half, Reid's Eagles averaged just 1.6 yards per carry. And that figure was artificially sweetened with quarterback Michael Vick's 19 rushing yards. Running backs LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown combined for 1 yard on eight carries.
That seemed more than enough to convince Reid and Mornhinweg to junk the run for the rest of the night and fill the air with footballs. But that's not what happened.
In a bit of a shock, the Eagles came out in the second half and ran the ball on 24 of 37 offensive plays. Not just ran it, but ran it effectively, gaining 172 yards on the ground in the final two quarters of their 19-17 win.
"Marty and Howard [Mudd, the offensive line coach] did a nice job of making adjustments coming out that second half," Reid said. "We had a number of runs that we have in our game plan sheet, and the early ones, for one reason or another, weren't working. They made the necessary adjustments to get different runs in or change the blocking assignments to get the other ones."
The biggest adjustment the Eagles made offensively in the second half was to use more two-back sets, either with two wide receivers and a tight end or three wideouts.
In the first half, the Eagles lined up in two-back sets on just six of 31 plays. In the second half, 19 of their 37 offensive plays were run out of two-back formations.
"We just felt [going to two-back sets] left them in base personnel," Reid said. "It allowed us to get some of the [blocking] angles we were trying to get as opposed to running against a nickel front.
"They made some adjustments as it went on and kind of got us. Then we went back and did some of the other things. But it kind of opened up our run game for us."
Indeed, it did. McCoy, held to 2 yards on six carries in the first half, rushed for 121 on 17 carries in the second half.
Twelve of those 17 carries and 88 of those 121 yards came out of two-back sets with fullback Stanley Havili.
The Eagles ordinarily don't run a lot of their offense out of two-back sets. In fact, there was even speculation in training camp that the Eagles might not even keep a fullback on their roster.
Last year, just 17.6 percent of their offensive plays were run out of two-back formations. In the first three games this season, that number increased slightly, to 21.2.
But in the second half Sunday, the 6-foot, 245-pound Havili was front and center and playing a pivotal role in helping the Eagles improve to 3-1.
"Stanley played very well," Reid said. "With the exception of the second play [of the game] when he had that drop, he did a nice job."
On the Eagles' nine-play scoring drive to open the second half, Havili was on the field for seven of the plays. He kicked out linebacker Michael Boley to help create an alley on the right side for McCoy on a 34-yard run. On the very next play, he had a nice downfield block on cornerback Prince Amukamara on a 22-yard run by McCoy.
The Eagles stalled at the 1-yard line, with McCoy unable to punch it in on three straight tries, and had to settle for the first of Alex Henery's four field goals. If he had followed Havili inside the tight end on second down, McCoy almost certainly would have scored. But he tried to take it outside and was stopped for no gain.
"LeSean was mad at himself [for not following Havili]," Reid said. "But the play was designed to go to the outside."
Havili got three touches on the Eagles' 11-play, 74-yard drive early in the fourth quarter that resulted in Henery's third field goal and a 16-10 Eagles lead. Lining up on the wing, he had 7- and 8-yard runs that set up short-yardage situations, and also had a 7-yard reception over the middle.
"We've done that [line up on the wing] a little bit with him," Reid said. "We've done a couple of things out of that wing look. We actually ran outside on it once. Not with him, but with him as a blocker. Then we ran back inside with him as a ballcarrier. Then we also threw it to him a couple of times."
Havili was a seventh-round pick out of USC in 2011, and spent last season on the practice squad. He was mainly used as a pass-catching fullback at USC and wasn't asked to block much. But he had to learn after the Eagles drafted him.
Havili had recurring shoulder problems in high school and college. He missed two games with a dislocated left shoulder his junior year at USC. He dislocated the same shoulder in camp before his senior year but still started all 13 games. He separated it again late in the season and wasn't able to work out at the scouting combine.
The personnel reports on him coming out of USC said he could be an asset as a receiver but didn't really have the body to be an NFL fullback and needed to improve his functional strength.
He has done both since joining the Eagles. He put on 10 pounds of muscle this past offseason and reported to training camp at about 248.
"They didn't ask him to do much blocking in college," Reid said. "I was impressed with his offseason. How he got himself bigger and stronger. And he's adjusted his mentality to where, in college he was a ballcarrier and receiver, to here, he knows what his role is and he's attacked that part of it.
"He gets [running and catching] opportunities. But it's got to start with blocking. If you're going to make this team as a fullback, you've got to start there, and then we'll add the rest of it."
Whether Sunday night's ample use of two-back sets was a sign of things to come or a two-quarter aberration, only time will tell. But Havili proved that the NFL's prime-time lights weren't too bright for him.