Eagles coach Nick Sirianni began his press conference Monday by saying he's "hopeful" that running back Miles Sanders will be able to play this Sunday in the first round of the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Health wasn't Sanders' issue the first time the two teams played this season, back on Oct. 14.
Sanders had just 1 carry for 1 yard in the first half. He didn't get his third carry until 4:19 remained in the third quarter. Sanders gained 5 yards on that carry. The Eagles got a sarcastic standing ovation from the Lincoln Financial Field crowd.
By that point, the Eagles trailed 28-7 on their way to a 28-22 loss.
It was a far cry from the run-based offense the Eagles evolved into. Since then, the Eagles committed to establishing the running game, to the point where they averaged 189.6 yards per game on the ground over the final 10 games.
The Eagles ended up setting the franchise rushing record for a season, with 2,715 yards in 17 games, breaking the previous record of 2,607 yards in 1949 during a 12-game season.
The Eagles led the NFL in rushing with an average of 159.7 yards per game.
There was little sign of that back in Week 6.
The Eagles had just 100 yards rushing that night. It was the fourth straight game that they had 103 yards or fewer. Quarterback Jalen Hurts was throwing 65% of the time through the first six games.
"We’re both different teams than what we were in Week 6, there’s no doubt about that," Sirianni said.
Then he added: "We’re really excited about where our backfield is. I think a lot of teams in this league would like the depth that we have at this position."
That's because the Eagles have used just about everybody. Sanders, in fact, went on injured reserve after spraining his ankle in the next game, against the Las Vegas Raiders, on Oct. 24. He missed the next three games, when the Eagles' running attack started taking off.
By that point, neither Jordan Howard nor Boston Scott had a single carry all season – Scott was used exclusively on special teams and Howard was on the practice squad. Rookie Kenny Gainwell was getting an occasional carry through the early part of the season.
Still, Howard missed two games with a neck injury and was limited when he returned. Then he and Scott were on the COVID list and missed the regular-season finale against Dallas on Saturday night.
In that finale, with Sanders, Howard and Scott out, Gainwell had 78 yards rushing and practice-squad callup Jason Huntley had 51 yards – against most of the Cowboys starters.
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Sanders, of course, was a big part of the running game's dominance until he broke his hand against the Washington Football Team on Dec. 19.
Sanders finished with 754 yards in 12 games, second only to Hurts, who had 784 yards. Howard finished with 406 yards and Scott had 373.
But Sirianni said the running game's resurgence had a lot to do with Hurts' development as a quarterback.
"We understand that one reason that we’re a really good running team is not only all the yards that Jalen contributes to the run game, but also the respect that he demands all over the field as a runner," Sirianni said. "We’ve been an explosive pass team and an explosive run team. So you have to pick your poison there."
No doubt, the Bucs will focus on stopping the run and force Hurts to beat them with the passing game. Tampa Bay has one of the best run stoppers in the NFL in 347-pound nose tackle Vita Vea.
The Bucs led the NFL in rush defense in both 2019 and 2020. They finished third in 2021, allowing an average of 92.5 yards rushing per game.
Against the Bucs, the Eagles began a streak of 11 straight games with at least 100 yards on the ground. It's the longest for the Eagles since a 19-game stretch spanning the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
But many of those yards came late, after the Bucs took that three-touchdown lead.
It might have seen pointless at the time. Then again, that helped the Eagles pull to within six points when they scored with 5:54 left. Sanders had a 23-yard run on that drive, and finished with a respectable 56 yards on 9 carries.
Fittingly, the Bucs ran out the rest of the clock, mostly behind the running of Leonard Fournette, who had 81 yards and 2 TDs.
That, of course, has been the Eagles' strategy over their 7-3 finish to the season – get the lead, then turn it over to the running game.
The Eagles are hoping that Sanders, Howard and Scott will be the ones to do it against the Bucs on Sunday.
But if one or more of them can't play, then Gainwell will be ready, too. He showed that against the Cowboys, when he easily set a career mark both in yards and in carries.
"This is what I’ve been waiting on," Gainwell said after the game. "To get the chance to show a lot of things, and just be myself, and go out there and attack everything I’ve learned during the week.”
Arcega-Whiteside, 2 others on IR
The Eagles placed WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, TE Tyree Jackson and T/G Brett Toth on injured reserve, and signed RB Jason Huntley from the practice squad to the active roster.
It's possible that Arcega-Whiteside, the Eagles' second-round pick in 2019, played his last game as an Eagle on Saturday night.
If so, it would be a disappointing end to his Eagles' career. Arcega-Whiteside, who is having finger surgery, dropped a pass in the end zone against the Cowboys. He had just 2 receptions for 36 yards this season, and just 16 catches for 290 yards in three seasons.
Jackson, who served as the third tight end over the second half of the season, especially in "13 personnel," had 3 catches for 22 yards and a touchdown against Dallas. Those were the first catches of Jackson's NFL career.
Sirianni said veteran Richard Rodgers, who has spent most of the season on the practice squad, will likely replace him. Rodgers has played for the Eagles since 2018.This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.Update your settings here to see it.
All 11 players off COVID-19 list
The Eagles activated the remaining 11 players from the COVID-19 list on Monday, one week after 12 were placed on the list. Center Jason Kelce came off the list on Friday.
The others were LB Genard Avery, DT Fletcher Cox, S Marcus Epps, TE Dallas Goedert, G Nate Herbig, RB Jordan Howard, CB Avonte Maddox, S Rodney McLeod, RB Boston Scott, LB Alex Singleton and TE Jack Stoll.
Contact Martin Frank at [email protected] Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Eagles set rushing records after barely running vs. Buccaneers in Week 6
Source : https://news.yahoo.com/eagles-set-rushing-records-miles-203238608.html1516