Has Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid Finally Learned to Rely On the Run Game?

Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

One of the biggest stories involving the Philadelphia Eagles following their week one victory against the Cleveland Browns was the massive misuse of running back LeSean McCoy, who finished the game with 26 carries but went long stretches in the second and third quarters without carrying the ball at all.

The Eagles ran a total of 95 offensive plays against Cleveland, and just 33 were running plays. That’s a pass-run ratio that is extreme even for head coach Andy Reid, who is notorious for his high percentage of pass plays.

Throw in the fact that the Browns were terrible against the run in 2011, and Reid’s misuse of McCoy was unacceptable.

Many expected the same to occur against the Baltimore Ravens this week.

all, the Ravens are one of the top teams in the NFL and their run defense is so dominant that they haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since the 2010 season.

My prediction for the game was a 22-17 Ravens victory, with about 45 passes for Vick and 15 to 18 runs for McCoy. And yes, that would be drastically underusing McCoy, one of the game’s elite backs.

was wrong. We were all wrong.

The Eagles squeaked out a dramatic, last-minute victory against the Ravens, 24-23, despite four turnovers on offense. One of the keys to the victory for the Eagles was the impressive number of running plays called by Reid.

McCoy carried the ball 25 times. Vick ran 10 times. Rookie Bryce Brown carried three times. Fullback Stanley Havili carried twice. And wide receiver Damaris Johnson carried once.

That’s 41 running plays. I haven’t watched game film yet, so I don’t remember how many of Vick’s 10 runs were designed runs, but still, that’s an extremely impressive amount of running plays.

Compare that to 32 passing plays for Vick.

41 runs, 32 passes.

I absolutely love that ratio.

I love it even more because McCoy didn’t torch the Ravens’ defense at all. He carried 25 times for just 81 yards, an average of 3.24 yards per carry, but Reid kept giving him the ball throughout the game. He trusted him, even if McCoy lost his second fumble of the game. I think most would agree that was a fluke, by the way.

So many games last season were lost because Reid refused to give the ball to McCoy, who is probably the best offensive weapon on the Eagles.

The three games that stand out the most to me are the loss against the San Francisco 49ers, where McCoy carried just nine times all game, and the losses against the Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals, where McCoy carried just twice in the fourth quarter in each game. All three games were one-score losses, and all were likely lost because Reid refused to mix in the run when the Eagles trailed late in the game.

Last week against the Browns, Reid abandoned the run in the second and third quarters, but seemed to remember on the Eagles’ first drive of the fourth quarter.

This week, the Eagles’ coach consistently mixed in the run all game, despite the Eagles trailing by 10 at halftime.

The result?

A come-from-behind victory for the second straight win.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the Eagles would have lost if they didn’t mix in the run so well. Vick threw two interceptions on just 32 passes, and probably would have thrown a third if he had to pass 50 times.

Studies have shown that NFL teams don’t win because of the yards they average per carry. They win because of the number of times they run the ball.

The Eagles averaged just 3.1 yards per carry, but because they ran the ball 41 times, they were able to keep the Ravens’ defense honest and come from behind to improve to 2-0 on the season.

I never thought I would say this as an Eagles fan, but Reid actually has to be careful that he doesn’t overuse McCoy, who has carried the ball 46 times through two games now. That puts him on pace for 368 carries this season, which would be a single-season franchise record.

This article was written by Bryn Swartz, the top writer for the Philadelphia Eagles and a featured NFL columnist on Rant Sports. Bryn has written more than 1000 articles in less than two years as a member of Rant Sports. His blog, Eagles Central, was named the 2010 Ballhyped Sports Blog of the Year. You can follow Bryn on Twitter by clicking here and here. To read a portfolio of Bryn’s best work, click here.


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