Josh Adams averaged 4.5 carries for 25.9 rushing yards in the eight Eagles games he played before Sunday. Against the New York Giants, Adams took the ball from Carson Wentz a 22 times, a season-high for the team, for 84 yards and the fourth-quarter touchdown that gave the home team its first lead.
"I don't know if I knew he had that in him, but it was great to see, something that we desperately needed," tight end Zach Ertz said of Adams, an undrafted rookie from Central Bucks South and Notre Dame. "I'm really excited to see him going forward."
The Eagles added 45 rushing yards on five carries from Corey Clement, for 129 on 27 attempts overall, if you don't count Wentz's two carries for minus-2. Their offense found continuity and flow it has rarely seen this season, while keeping a terribly battered, suspect defense off the field for much of the second half. The 25-22 victory kept the defending Super Bowl champions' season alive.
"We wanted it bad," said Adams, who said the Eagles, now 5-6, a game behind Dallas and Washington, told themselves in the pregame locker room that they had to focus on these 60 minutes and "worry about the rest after."
Adams said that stumbling to a 19-3 second quarter deficit didn't faze anyone.
"We just stayed focused as an offense. We knew that we were going to go out there and put the ball in the end zone," Adams said. They did, a 15-yard Wentz-to-Ertz touchdown pass plus two-point conversion and a subsequent Malcolm Jenkins red zone interception allowing them to go in at halftime down just 19-11. "We had a lot of confidence in what we were doing, we just needed that extra step."
It was the team's first win since Oct. 28 in London, when the Eagles ran for 133 yards on 28 carries. In two losses since then, they averaged 14 carries and 64.5 rushing yards. Careful observers might discern a pattern.
The fourth-quarter touchdown drive that gave the Eagles their first lead, covered 61 yards on seven plays, with the focus entirely on the running backs — six runs for 38 yards, and a 23-yard screen to Clement. Adams and Clement were the only Eagles who touched the ball. The last four plays of the drive were Adams runs, ending in his blast up the middle for the touchdown from a yard out.
"Just hard-nosed football, cramming it up in there," Adams said. "Those guys on the offensive line put their trust in me, and I wanted to make it pay off."
Right tackle Lane Johnson said the emphasis was more on inside zone than outside zone running, more like what the Eagles did with LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi en route to the Super Bowl.
"This was a game where we needed to run the ball and get things going," Johnson said. "I wish it had started maybe Week 1, but, you know, it is what it is."
Right guard Brandon Brooks said the run game worked against the Giants because "we just kind of really leaned on it. We didn't get away from it. We came back to it."
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Wentz, who avoided turning the ball over for the first time this season, called the running game "the best friend of the quarterback," and added that it was "huge to just lean on those guys."
Brooks said there was a halftime lobbying effort to convince Eagles coach Doug Pederson of the need to stick with the run.
"As an offensive line, not just me but a couple of guys, we were going up to Doug, like, 'Doug, man, put it on us, we got it,' " Brooks said.
Brooks said he wouldn't necessarily call this a breakout game for Adams, 6-feet-2, 225, because Adams has shown flashes before, he just hasn't gotten enough carries to really show his skills.
"The best thing about Josh is his vision. His vision is crazy," Brooks said. "He sets stuff up well, he cuts well, he's a lot faster than people give him credit for."
Though Giants running back Saquon Barkley ran 51 yards for a touchdown, Adams broke loose for a 52-yard TD run – but Adams' score was called back by a Jason Kelce hold, which might not have affected the play.
Clement said he knows from last season that carrying the load Adams carried Sunday "as a rookie, is definitely not easy."
On the 10-play, 50-yard drive for the game-winning 43-yard Jake Elliott field goal, the Eagles ran seven times.
"We ran the ball behind Lane and Brandon," Ertz said. "When those two guys are rolling – Lane's feeling a lot better right now, probably the healthiest he's been [after ankle and MCL injuries] … I thought the run game was very dynamic today and efficient."
The offensive line has not played to last year's standard, partly because someone always seems to be coming out with an injury – even on Sunday, Brooks missed several plays after someone fell across his ankle. But the o-line is one of very few position groupings that hasn't suffered a significant season-ending mishap. To carve out enough wins to make the playoffs, the Eagles are probably going to need to control the ball the way they did in the second half against the Giants, who ran just 21 plays after halftime, vs. 36 in the first two quarters.
"We're gonna ride those five big guys," Ertz said. "In my opinion, regardless of what they've put on tape, they're the best offensive line in the league."
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