PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles running back Jay Ajayi was puzzled by the decision to not lean on the ground game, particularly early, in Sunday's 23-21 loss to the Minnesota Vikings which dropped the defending champs to 2-3 on the season.
"Obviously we want to be able to run the ball early and start that rhythm early in the beginning of the game. If I remember correctly, we had maybe three carries at the end of the first quarter," he told reporters afterwards.
"With the offensive line we have on this team, running the ball like that, that doesn't make sense to me."
Ajayi, who is playing with a transverse fracture in his back, didn't receive his first carry until the second quarter, and the Eagles called just four meaningful runs over the first half while falling behind 17-3.
Coach Doug Pederson ended up calling 35 pass plays to 17 runs despite the backs averaging close to five yards per carry on the ground.
It was a similar story last week, with the Eagles dialing up 50 passes to 22 rushes (5.3 yards per attempt) in a 26-23 loss to the Titans. The Eagles have been short-handed at the running back position with both Darren Sproles (hamstring) and Corey Clement (quad) hampered by injuries.
Quarterback Carson Wentz has been averaging 41 dropbacks per game since returning from multi-ligament knee surgery in Week 3 and has taken his share of punishment. He has been sacked 12 times and absorbed 27 QB hits in three games of work this season.
The offensive line has not been as reliable as expected in pass protection, and there are times when Wentz is holding the ball too long.
"Obviously, you want to eliminate as many as you can, reduce the number of hits," Pederson said. "Active quarterback, you know he's going to move and made some great plays [Sunday] with his legs and found some holes to run and to throw out of."
The Eagles went run-heavy to start the second half against Minnesota and found immediate success, but Ajayi fumbled at the Vikings' 5-yard line to squander the opportunity.
"I can't do that," Ajayi said. "I pride myself on being elite. I want to be elite. I want to be the best. You can't do that when your team is counting on you."