Rich Hofmann: Playcalling not the problem with Eagles' running game
ANDY, MARTY: Run the ball. Do it even if it doesn't work. Do it even if it means beating your head against a brick wall. Do it even if it results in fewer points being scored.
ANDY, MARTY: Run the ball.
Do it even if it doesn't work. Do it even if it means beating your head against a brick wall. Do it even if it results in fewer points being scored.
Do it just to shut everybody up.
When your team is in a position where it pretty much has to run the table to have any chance of making the playoffs, it might not be the best time for a coach to try to prove a point. OK, maybe it's a lousy idea.
But heading into Giants Stadium, with their season one loss away from its likely end, it would be great if Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg would just give the ball to Brian Westbrook, Kyle Eckel and/or Lorenzo Booker about 20 times in the first half, whether it resulted in a gain of 20 yards or 120 yards.
Just do it, so that people will stop talking about the playcalling and start talking about the players.
That conversation does not let Reid off the hook for this 6-5-1 season, because he picks the players. But it focuses the discussion on what matters (an inadequately equipped roster) and moves it away from this canard about playcalling, which is really a very small percentage of what is going on here.
The Eagles run the ball 25 times a game. The average NFL team runs it 27.4 times a game. That's it. That's the difference between Reid and typical - two play calls a game. People say that if they would just stick with it, they would be better at it - as if they never try. It isn't true. Yes, Reid likes to throw the ball a lot - but deal with reality.
Other people say it's situational. But that isn't it, either - the Eagles are running the ball more on first down this year, for instance, than they did in the Super Bowl year of 2004.
The truth is that they have been bad at it this year, which has to do with talent and with health.
People laughed at Reid the other day when he talked about "effective balance," and when he acknowledged that the run game has to work for him to stick with it. He is treated as the village
idiot when he talks this way. It's funny.
Did anybody watch the Giants and the Redskins last week? They both want to run it a lot, the Giants especially. It is almost freakish how much the G-men run the ball considering how much they score. Their reputation, well deserved, is to stick with the ground game. As Tom Coughlin said Wednesday in a conference call, "We really preach balance," adding later, "When you talk about the NFC East, when you talk about this time of the year, I've always believed you have to run the ball."
But last week, on a lousy weather day, the Giants called a game in the first half that Reid could have called. The run game didn't work and the Giants abandoned it. The running backs got 28 yards on their first 12 carries and the Giants totally flipped their philosophy - based upon production, just like Andy/Marty. Even as the third quarter began, they continued to abandon it. After one drive in the third period, the Giants had 28 called passing plays, 13 runs and one kneel-down.
(Oh, and the running Redskins did the same thing when they couldn't run. They did not beat their heads against the wall. In the first half, they called 17 pass plays and only nine runs.)
Anyway, after going pass-happy, the Giants popped a 23-yard run, stuck with it a little more after that success, scored a touchdown that put them way ahead and then just ran the ball to the end - which is exactly what
Reid does when he has a real lead in the fourth quarter.
The point: Even the Giants stick with what is working and go away from what isn't working.
This year, when you look at the five winningest teams in the NFL (Giants, Tennessee, Carolina, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay), all of them are pretty runnerish (which is different than some years). When you look at the five highest-scoring offenses (Giants, Jets, Arizona, New Orleans, Green Bay), they are mostly high-passing teams.
The Eagles are still sixth in scoring, even after quarterback Donovan McNabb's play fell through the floor against Cincinnati and Baltimore. They are catching the Giants at about the best time you could hope to catch an 11-1 team, what with the Plaxico Burress business and all. The Eagles did score 31 points against them the last time. McNabb is coming off of a fine game against Arizona, and seems relieved since his wife delivered twins on Tuesday.
They have a shot. But now comes word that Westbrook missed practice yesterday with lingering ankle and knee problems. It's probably just precautionary. You wonder how much they will lean on him Sunday. With everything on the line, you wonder how much Andy and Marty dare. *
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