ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The more they did it, the better it worked.
So they just kept doing it.
The Eagles haven’t been a great running team this year. At times pretty good. Other times pretty bad.
“Splotchy,” is how Lane Johnson put it. “There’ve been times where we’re hitting it and times we haven’t.”
On Sunday, on a cold, windy, blustery day that made passing the ball difficult, Doug Pederson leaned heavily on the running game, and the line and the backs responded in a huge way.
The Eagles ran early and often in their 31-13 win at New Era Stadium, pounding the Bills for 218 yards, the most ever under Pederson and their most since they had 256 yards against the Cowboys back in 2014.
Whenever we kind of start half-assed we can’t kind of do what we want on offense,” Johnson said. “Those are situations you don’t want to be in. … We knew we wanted to run it today. Miles started it all with that big gash and momentum got going. Conditions weren’t ideal for throwing it, but we stuck to it and we went gash for gash. Better day than we had in a long time.
In the second half, the Eagles ran 26 times and threw seven times and controlled the clock for 18 1/2 minutes.
That's unheard of around here.
“We were able to wear the defense down,” Jordan Howard said. “You could tell at the end of the game they really didn’t want to tackle us.”
Howard ran 23 times for 96 yards, Miles Sanders added a 65-yard TD and 74 rushing yards on just three carries before leaving with a shoulder injury that he said isn’t serious, and Carson Wentz scrambled for 35 yards, his most since a game against the Redskins two years ago.
This was only the second game this year the Eagles have run for 130 yards. The other one was the win in Green Bay.
Similar games. Tough opponent. Road game. And the running game was there in a big way.
Kept grinding, man,” Sanders said. “We come to work every day and get better. Be patient with it. It’s a long season so eventually, it’s going to start working for us. We leaned on the running game today. We had high winds and tough weather so we knew it was going to be a run-the-ball type of game.
So often this year, the Eagles have fallen behind early, and Pederson has had to scrap his gameplan.
That didn't happen Sunday, and it allowed Pederson and the offense to really dictate to the Bills instead of the other way around.
“We feel like we can do that vs. anybody,” Brandon Brooks said. “The key was that guys executed across the board. we weren’t shooting ourselves in the foot, and we started off a little bit faster than we usually do.”
The Bills came in 5-1 and were allowing just 91 rushing yards per game.
The Eagles ran OK early — 15-for-62 before halftime. In the second half, they ran 26 times for 156 yards.
It all came together on a massive drive to open the fourth quarter. With the Eagles up 24-13, they drove 83 yards in 14 plays, with 11 runs and just three passes.
“It’s great because we knew we had them at that point,” Howard said. “They couldn’t get us off the field.”
Wentz had a couple of third-down scramble conversions on that drive, and Howard capped it with his seventh touchdown in eight games.
That’s the type of drive we want to have and seal the deal,” Wentz said. “The big guys up front that we have, that’s one of their biggest strengths, establishing the line of scrimmage. And I think everything else that we do from the play actions, from the bootlegs, the nakeds, all of that stems from those guys controlling the line of scrimmage. So to be able to come in here and control it the way we did was huge for us.
It’s been a while since the Eagles ran the ball like this.
Last time they ran for this many yards their tailback was LeSean McCoy.
You could just see yard by yard, chunk by chunk,” Johnson said. “That’s more demoralizing than a big play because they know it’s coming and they still can’t stop it.
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