PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles' ground game finally found its footing. That spelled bad news for the now 0-3 New York Giants on Sunday, and bodes well for quarterback Carson Wentz and the Eagles' offense moving forward.
Entering this week's action, coach Doug Pederson had his team throwing the ball at an unsustainable clip. Wentz dropped back 99 times through the first two games, more than any quarterback in the league with the exception of Aaron Rodgers (103), per ESPN Stats & Information. Following a road loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, in which he dialed up 56 passes to 13 runs, Pederson conceded the approach was not a recipe for success. He responded by calling 39 run plays compared with 34 passes, and the backs incentivized him by racking up 193 yards on the ground.
"That was our goal this week," said right tackle Lane Johnson. "We got tired of not running the ball, especially last week when we really needed it, so it was big."
LeGarrette Blount helped lead the resurgent running attack, gaining 67 yards on 12 carries (5.6 average) with a touchdown in Sunday's 27-24 victory. He acknowledged this week it was difficult not being involved in the run game against the Chiefs -- he did not log a single carry in Kansas City -- but maintained he and Pederson were on the same page. The 30-year-old veteran was largely written off after a quiet summer and slow start to the season but showed he has a little something left in the tank.
Blount let his emotions come out following a punishing 17-yard run in the first quarter that ignited the crowd and a 90-yard scoring drive.
"It's the mentality. You have to get everybody on board and you have to get everybody in the game," he said. "It's not like you get a 10- [to] 15-yard run every time you get the ball. They come few and far between, so whenever you do that, emotions come running and [you have to] fire your offense up. It can fire up the defense. It can fire your whole team up.
"I take pride in running the football well. I take pride in getting big plays. That's something that I love to do."
Multiple players stepped up when veteran Darren Sproles left with a wrist injury. Wendell Smallwood led all rushers with 71 yards, while undrafted rookie Corey Clement stormed for a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and finished with 22 yards in his first action running the ball at the pro level.
The Eagles made a change to the offensive line heading into this game, opting for a rotation at left guard between Chance Warmack and Stefen Wisniewski after going with Isaac Seumalo the first two weeks. That seemed to factor into the improvement in the ground game.
The commitment to the run helped the Eagles nearly double up the Giants in time of possession. Clock control was crucial considering the Eagles' defense lost tackle Fletcher Cox (calf) and middle linebacker Jordan Hicks (ankle) in the first half and already was operating without cornerback Ronald Darby and safety Rodney McLeod.
The ground-and-pound approach allowed a banged-up squad to squeak past the Giants and will be crucial for the Eagles -- and more specifically, Wentz -- moving forward. Wentz entered Week 3 trailing just Andrew Luck for most passes through 18 games to start a career and was tops in the league in 2017 in quarterback hits. Balance is needed if the young QB is to stay upright and develop. Sunday was an encouraging sign Pederson may be cognizant of that. And he'll be all the more inclined to stick with the running game if it's working as well as it did against New York.