Eagles’ rushing attack gains steam in L.A.: Philly’s new-found run game plays a big role in close win over Chargers

Evin Hartsock, Managing Editor

     The old saying goes that, “if it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it.” Last week the Philadelphia Eagles and head coach Doug Pederson switched from a pass-heavy offense to a more balanced scheme that featured a higher quantity of runs, a factor that largely contributed to their late-game win over the New York Giants. Pederson realized that a more run intensive scheme worked, that it wasn’t “broke” and decided to roll with a similar game plan that produced another late-game win against the Los Angeles Chargers by a score of 26-24 on Sunday evening.

     Last week against the Giants, Pederson dialed up 39 runs that accounted for 193 yards and two touchdowns. Against Los Angeles, Pederson upped that number to 42 runs that the rushing corps of LeGarrett Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement, and quarterback Carson Wentz, were able to turn into a whopping 214 yards and a touchdown.

     Since Pederson made the decision to sit left guard Isaac Seumalo for the combination of Chance Warmack and Stefen Wisniewski, the offensive line has played up to the top-five ranking it was given by many during the pre-season. The o-line has played well as a cohesive unit after getting some snaps as a whole, which they did not get the benefit of during the preseason, and has been able to open up huge holes for backs to find open field. Before Pederson’s adjustments to the line, the team had rushed for 165 yards in the first two games combined. After his adjustment, the Eagles have rushed for 407 yards in the last two games and awakened Blount, who was fairly quiet through his first two outings.

     The most impressive play of the match-up with the Chargers was by far Blount’s 68-yard romp up the middle of the field in the third quarter, in which he broke multiple tackles and delivered a punishing stiff-arm to a Los Angeles defender.

     “They opened up a pretty big hole,” Blount said in a post-game interview. “It wasn’t that hard to see. Obviously, you get in the secondary, you become an open-field runner. … In order to be a good back, you have to make some guys miss.”

     Blount’s break-out run set up fellow back Wendell Smallwood for a rushing touchdown which put the Eagles’ up 26-17. Blount finished the day with 136 yards on 16 rushes, while Smallwood finished with 34 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown.  

     The success of the run continues to help Carson Wentz in the passing game, opening up more holes in opposing secondary defenses. Wentz was able to complete over 50 percent of his passes against the Chargers, throwing for 242 yards, and a lone touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery which put the Eagles’ up early. The young quarterback was able to find receiver Nelson Agholor and tight end Zach Ertz on large chunk plays, moving the ball down the field efficiently. Wentz continued to put his ability to extend plays with his feet on display, which was crucial to the Eagles’ being able to possess the ball for long stretches.

     Possessing the ball was crucial to the Eagles’ win as the Chargers’ offense did a lot of damage to Philadelphia’s weakened secondary when they were on the field. Chargers’ quarterback Phillip Rivers was able to connect with receiver Tyrell Williams on a 75-yard touchdown pass that made the game close late, and found wide out Keenan Allen on large plays as well. The duo of Williams and Allen combined for 253 yards receiving, which contributed to Rivers’ 347-yard passing day.

     If it was not for Philadelphia being able to get possession back in the fourth quarter with just over six minutes left on the clock, and run the game out thanks to the success of the run, it could’ve been a very different outcome, as Rivers and the Chargers’ had the Eagles’ secondary on its heels. The Philadelphia secondary has given up over 300 yards passing in its last two outings but has been able to make plays when necessary, backed up by a strong defensive line.

     The defensive line should be back at full strength as injured defensive tackle Fletcher Cox could make his return this week. The secondary could get some help too, as cornerback Jaylen Watkins and safety Corey Coleman both returned to practice this week, and could get some playing time against the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday. Cornerback Ronald Darby is expected to make his return sometime during Week 7 as he is still rehabbing his fractured ankle. The Eagles will look to improve to 4-1 and maintain their spot at first place in the NFC East this week.