Just when it looked like the Eagles finally had the running game going again, this happens.
Another big step backwards.
“We left a lot of meat on the bone,” is how offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur put it Wednesday morning.
In other words, there were opportunities for plays on the ground, the Eagles just didn’t make them.
The running game, best in the NFL a year ago, continued its season-long inconsistency Monday night, when the Eagles struggled through one of their worst running performances in the last 20 years.
With 37 yards on 23 carries, the Eagles had their fewest yards on 20 or more carries since 1996, when they had a game with 27 runs for 30 yards, also against the Panthers.
Since 1970, the Eagles have had only one other game with 20 or more carries and fewer yards.
Shurmur said the issue Monday night was poor execution and a lot of Luke Kuechly.
“I do think they did a good job against the run, and there’s a guy named Luke Kuechly, who was all over the field,” Shurmur said. “I don’t know what his production numbers were, but he did a heck of a job of disrupting us in there.
“We had some creases in there. We left a lot of meat on the bone, but they did a good job defending us running the football. Credit to the players out there (but) we had some success throwing it.”
Thanks to Mark Sanchez’s efficiency and two return touchdowns, the Eagles had no trouble with the Panthers, shooting out to a 38-point fourth-quarter lead before winning 45-21.
But the Eagles know that for the offense to run efficiently against good teams, they have to get the running game going consistently.
That hasn’t happened.
The first four weeks, the Eagles were 26th in the NFL with 87 yards per game and 24th with 3.6 yards per carry.
The next four weeks, they were second in the league with 166 yards and fourth at 4.8.
And then Monday night, where LeSean McCoy, coming off four games with 80 or more yards for the first time in his career, was just 12-for-19 and Chris Polk 5-for-11.
Darren Sproles had the Eagles’ longest run of the game, an eight-yard touchdown, but mysteriously, it was his only carry.
The final numbers are skewed a bit by three kneeldowns from Matt Barkley.
The Panthers came into the game as one of the worst in the league in run defense, but they didn’t look like it Monday night.
“There were times they had one extra up there,” Shurmur said. “We’re going to try to be patient and run the football. Then there were times when we had some creases where all of a sudden Luke showed up.
“And then I just think generally speaking when you leave some meat on the bone in the running game, we can finish better. There are just little things each guy can do better and then you can have a game where you’re back we’re effective again.”
McCoy, last year’s NFL rushing leader, is having a strange year.
He is fifth in the NFL with 71 rushing yards per game and on pace for 1,121 yards this year.
But he’s now had three games with 10 or more carries and an average below 2.0.
He’s the first Eagle back with three such games in a season in 44 years, since Lee Bouggess in 1970.
Only one other NFL player has more than one such game this year –- Ben Tate of the Browns.
“Credit to their defense,” McCoy said. “Coming in, they really wanted to stop us and they did. But we made plays over the top which helped us win the game.”
Shurmur said he doesn’t sense any frustration from McCoy, even though he’s having statistically his worse season ever at just 3.7 yards per carry and he’s had three games with fewer than 25 yards and just two 100-yard games.
“McCoy’s a pro,” he said. “Much like receivers have production in bunches, he comes out here and he’s very steady in his approach. I don’t sense it.”