Eagles deep run game fuels Super Bowl run

Feb 9, 2023, 12:29 AM | Updated: 2:35 pm
FILE — Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts scores a touchdown against the Tennessee Titan...

FILE — Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts scores a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans during an NFL football game Dec. 4, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

              Philadelphia Eagles running back Kenneth Gainwell runs during the first half of the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
              Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders celebrates after scoring during the first half of the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

PHOENIX (AP) — While the fight song for the Philadelphia Eagles may be “Fly, Eagles Fly,” the offensive formula that carried the team to the Super Bowl was more grounded.

With a trio of capable running backs, one of the best running quarterbacks and a dominating offensive line, the Eagles eschewed the pass-happy approach that has taken over the league in recent years to rely more on the ground game to overwhelm opponents physically.

“It’s like a boxing match,” running backs coach Jemal Singleton said. “Hopefully we’re getting enough body blows in the first and second quarter that when it comes to the third and fourth quarter, those body blows get a little bit heavier and you start to diminish your opponent a little bit. That’s part of what we try to do is just stay physical throughout the game.”

Few teams have done that as well as the Eagles, who have run the ball on half their offensive plays and averaged 153.9 yards rushing per game, including the playoffs — which would be the highest mark for a Super Bowl champion since the 1998 Denver Broncos. Philadelphia’s 39 TD runs are the most ever in a season.

The Eagles have a variety of options to fuel the running game with Miles Sanders leading the way with a career-high 1,269 yards and 11 TDs in a contract year.

“This year was kind of one of those years where I just wanted to make everybody feel me,” Sanders said. “So I just took it upon myself to just control what I could control and just go out there and ball out every game, every time I touch the ball and make everybody pay for it.”

He has done that and gotten plenty of help from Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell, as well as quarterback Jalen Hurts. Gainwell leads the team with 160 yards rushing this postseason, with Scott adding two TD runs.

“It’s a really cool situation because we are all able to do pretty much everything you want,” Scott said. “Whatever is asked of us, whether it’s pass-block, running routes, running in between the tackles, outside speed, we can all do it. It’s not really a situation where defense is going to be like, OK, this guy’s in and he’s doing this and that. It kind of helps us be unpredictable.”

While some teams try to fool defenses with motion, the Eagles prefer a more static approach, believing a line led by All-Pro center Jason Kelce and right tackle Lane Johnson can control the trenches without using deception.

Philadelphia used motion on just 34% of running plays — about 10 percentage points lower than the next-lowest team.

“You might know what’s coming, but the NFL is all about matchups,” Johnson said. “So they’re going to put matchups on and create matchup problems for the D-line, for linebackers with our schemes and what we do.”

While the backs get the majority of the yards on the ground, the threat of Hurts running fuels the run game for the Eagles. They were held to 154 yards rushing in the two games he missed with a shoulder injury — about half their season average.

Hurts has rushed for 833 yards in his 17 starts with his 15 touchdown runs the most ever for a quarterback in the regular season and playoffs combined.

But just his presence is what makes the run game so successful.

“Even if he’s handed the ball off, he may hold a guy for one step that allows us to hit a crease and gain 10 more yards we wouldn’t have gotten had he not been a threat as a runner,” Singleton said. “He’s a big part of our run game, a big part of what we do. I wouldn’t say honorary member, he might be the president of the entire deal.”

The Chiefs use a different philosophy offensively, leaving the ball in Patrick Mahomes’ hands to win by the pass.

Kansas City threw the ball on nearly 62% of offensive plays in the regular season, which would be the second-highest mark ever by a team to win the Super Bowl, behind only Tampa Bay in 2020.

They know slowing the Eagles run game down and forcing Hurts to pass will be key to their success on Sunday. But that won’t come easily.

“The talent is in the players No. 1, the scheme No. 2, and then you put a quarterback in there that can do the things he can do, that makes them really difficult to defend,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. “You have to be on point with scheme. Players have to be on point with responsibility. You can see when that doesn’t happen with people they’ve played, they expose them.”


AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this report.


AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]
26 days ago
Joe Jarzynka...
Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]
26 days ago
FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...
Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]
26 days ago
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...
Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]
26 days ago
FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...
Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]
26 days ago
FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...
Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]
26 days ago
Eagles deep run game fuels Super Bowl run