PHILADELPHIA -- The debate about the Philadelphia Eagles' running game is likely to continue. Chip Kelly’s public position is that its success or failure is a result of his players’ execution.
That has made it a parlor game for the media to seek other reasons: blocking schemes, having the quarterback under center rather than in the shotgun, other schematic adjustments.
There is no doubt that Sam Bradford lined up under center more Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Of the Eagles' 33 running plays, Bradford was under center on 17. Kelly said that resulted from "just what New Orleans was doing in terms of where the back was offset."
But there is some support for Kelly’s contention that execution is a major factor in the Eagles’ uneven performance so far this season.
Pro Football Focus, which grades every player based on a review of game tape, had high marks for two of the Eagles’ offensive linemen Sunday. Center Jason Kelce and left tackle Jason Peters each received their highest grades of the season.
"Kelce had his best game of the year, recording a team-high +3.2 run blocking grade," wrote PFF’s John Breitenbach. "Peters finished with the best offensive grade (+4.6), recording a shutout in pass protection and the second-best run blocking grade."
In other words, the offensive line’s execution was exceptionally good against the Saints.
Kelce said there was a change in the line’s overall approach. For four weeks, the Eagles had been trying too hard to be perfect. Kelce himself was trying to account for possible miscues by the new guards on either side of him.
Against the Saints, the linemen agreed to get back to basics.
"The whole mindset that we talked about today was 'Just not my man,'" Kelce said after the game. "Just make sure you do your job and the guy that you’re supposed to block doesn’t make the play. As long as you do that, we firmly felt that we were going to have success."
Murray, especially, seems more comfortable running out of the "I" formation. Mathews looked more aggressive than Murray, just as he has all season. But Murray was able to get into more of a rhythm thanks to his increased workload.
There were certainly several reasons the Eagles were able to run the ball more effectively. But one of those reasons was clearly better execution.