When the Eagles were struggling to run the ball a few weeks ago, Nick Sirianni scoffed at questions about the declining rushing stats.
At that point, the Eagles had averaged just 3.4 yards per carry and 102 yards over their last six games after starting out averaging 4.9 and 186 their first three games.
During that six-game stretch, the Eagles were 30th in the league in yards per attempt and 21stin yards per game.
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Not where anybody is used to seeing the Eagles' rushing attack.
“I know you’re just asking the question, I don’t agree with it,” Sirianni said on Nov. 6, a day after the Eagles averaged just 3.3 yards per carry in their win over the Cowboys. “Because there’s more to the run game than just what the stats say. … That’s how we see it.”
Safe to say Sirianni has changed his tune.
After seemingly figuring some things out in the running game the previous two weeks – 114 yards and 4.2 per carry in the win over the Chiefs and 5.8 yards per carry and 185 yards against the Bills – the Eagles sputtered again Sunday, averaging just 2.6 yards per carry on just 18 rushing attempts in the 42-19 loss to the 49ers.
Seven of those carries were Jalen Hurts runs, which leaves just 11 carries for the running backs. D’Andre Swift, who came into the game on pace for nearly 1,200 rushing yards and 1,500 scrimmage yards, was a complete non-factor. He had just seven carries and didn’t have a touch from the end of the first quarter until the start of the third.
Now, nobody is going to run the ball down 23 points in the fourth quarter. But this was a one-possession game until the final few minutes of the third quarter.
There were opportunities. The Eagles just didn’t try. Once again.
“We know we have to establish the run game and we have to be better in the run game,” Sirianni said Monday, after the Eagles dropped to 10-2. “We just have things where … there were a couple times where we got behind the sticks. Doesn't mean you still can't run in that situation.
“But we have to be better as coaches devoting ourselves to the run game to take pressure off everybody. So, yeah, as we looked at it yesterday, there is no doubt that we have to do that.”
This sure sounded like Sirianni questioning offensive coordinator and play caller Brian Johnson, who has done a lot of good things this year but does seem to have a tendency to drift away from the ground attack if the first few carries don’t produce big yards.
Swift ranks seventh in the NFL with 4.7 yards per carry but has just 30 carries in the Eagles’ last three games and now has three games this year with 10 or fewer rushing attempts.
On Sunday, Kenny Gainwell played nine more snaps than Swift (39 to 30) and had more scrimmage yards (47 to 27). Gainwell has done some good things at times this year, but Swift is ninth among running backs in scrimmage yards. Gainwell is 55th.
Sirianni said the reason for the disparity is because the Eagles like Gainwell in two-minute and the Eagles ran their last couple drives in two-minute.
“Kenny has been our two-minute back, third-down back in certain situations,” he said. “I think where Kenny has more plays than D’Andre is when it turns into those situations. So we had a lot of those situations at the end which lead to those numbers being like that.”