The Philadelphia Eagles lost their second game of the year, a highly anticipated NFC Championship Game grudge match vs. the San Francisco 49ers in Week 13 of the NFL season. 42-19 was the final score, which shows how much of a mismatch it was. Philadelphia was dominated in all three phases of the game.
There's plenty of blame to go around for the disappointing performance. Whether it's coaching, execution, offense, or defense, improvements have to be made.
One of those overlooked areas that the coaching staff seems to have forgotten about too often is the rushing attack. For the most part, before Week 13's game, its absence hasn't cost Philly any games. Still, the Birds' most recent loss highlights a potential issue.
We've had time to calm down. Now, it's time to work. Let's get into some of those specifics.
The Eagles' rushing attack helped carry the team last year, and to get back on the winning trail, Philly will need to get back to the basics.
Last year, the game plan was simple. Get a lead, and then use the running game, tailbacks and Jalen Hurts included, to eat up yardage and burn precious time off of the clock. Philly had and still has one of the best offensive lines in all of football, so this was, without question, a smart strategy.
In 2022, the Eagles finished the campaign averaging 147.6 yards per game. That was fifth-best in all of pro football. Lead back Miles Sanders did the bulk of the work with assistance from Kenneth Gainwell and Jalen Hurts.
This past offseason brought about change to the running back room. Miles Sanders left via free agency and joined the Carolina Panthers. That gave Kenneth Gainwell an opportunity to get more snaps.
Kenny G hasn't recorded more than 54 yards in any game this season. That was Week 1. Meanwhile, D'Andre Swift, acquired via a trade, has not done much in recent games either.
Swift, the former Detroit Lion, showed flashes of brilliance in Week 2 and Week 3, rushing for 175 and 130 yards in those two games. However, he hasn't rushed for more than 80 yards in any game since then.
Somehow, the Eagles are still producing a respectable 126 rushing yards per game this year, but this is just over 20 yards short of what they were averaging a year ago. They just don't seem to have a featured back they can run the offense through.
With the running game producing less than it once was, the offense is forced to rely on/put to much pressure on Jalen Hurts. Philadelphia's QB1 wasn't bad on Sunday in the loss to the 49ers. He threw for nearly 300 yards, a touchdown, and had no turnovers.
He threw a season-high 45 pass attempts as the coaching staff abandoned the run. That has a lot to do with the lack of a running game as Philly was forced to abandon it in an attempt to keep pace.
Philly produced a mere 46 rushing yards. Hurts contributed 20 of them. Swift was ignored, and fans weren't happy. He totaled 13 yards on six carries (an average of 2.2 yards per tote),
Gainwell added five yards on two carries. Boston Scott had just one carry for two yards. This production out of the running game won't help the offense get much done moving forward.
Philly's 6-0 lead evaporated quickly. We'll never know now, but quality runs could have been the difference between field goals and touchdowns.
This could have possibly helped Philly dominate time of possession and prevent the score from being so one-sided. Once the Birds were down multiple scores, they had no choice but to pass to keep pace.
This can't continue. Play-calling must be better. Execution must be as well. Philadelphia must find its running game again.
In conclusion, losing to the San Francisco 49ers hurts, but it is not the end of the world. The Eagles still hold the number one seed in the NFC by a game.
Their upcoming matchup against the Dallas Cowboys is critical. A win would give them a two-game lead in the division. A loss gives Philly and Dallas identical records. Hopefully, we'll see a more polished Eagles team.