When all else failed, the game never let the Eagles down

When all else fails, the running game never lets the Eagles down appeared originally on NBC Sports Philadelphia

You shouldn’t be able to play football like this anymore.

You definitely shouldn’t be able to earn this way.

Maybe if you’re the Dolphins with Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris and Jim Keek. Maybe if you’re the Steelers with Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier and John Fuqua. Maybe if you’re the Bengals, with Icky Woods, James Brooks and Stanley Wilson.

But today? In this modern era of powerful passing attacks?

The Eagles turned back the clock in their two playoff wins, becoming the first team in 33 years to rush 44 times in consecutive postseason games.

The last team to do so was the 1989 49ers, with Roger Craig and Tom Rathman beating the Rams in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XXIV over the Broncos in New Orleans.

The Eagles rushed 44 times for 268 yards and three touchdowns last week against the Giants, and that was no surprise since they rushed 253 times against the same team earlier in the season and were statistically one of the worst defenses in the league.

But the Niners came away allowing just 78 rushing yards per game – 2n.d– least in the league. No one runs against them. Few even try.

It didn’t matter.

After going 11 of 17 in the first quarter, the Eagles went 38 of 52 the rest of the way.

Four of those were touchdowns of 6 and 13 yards by Myles Sanders, 10 yards by Boston Scott and 1 yard by Jalen Hurts.

The four rushing touchdowns are a franchise postseason record for the Eagles and also the most ever against the 49ers in a playoff game. In fact, they hadn’t allowed three in a playoff game since 1957.

More: Super Bowl-bound Eagles are the gold standard

The Eagles hadn’t rushed 44 times twice in any game — regular season, postseason — in more than 40 years — 45 against the Cards and 49 against the Colts in 1981.

And consider this: The Eagles are the only team to rush 44 times in a playoff game over the last four years, and they did it twice in nine days.

The Eagles were eating up the Giants from start to finish, but you don’t so much beat the 49ers as you just try to chip away. And the Eagles were able to do that.

In both playoff games, the passing game has been pretty quiet, and in large part that’s because the Eagles jumped ahead quickly and didn’t need to throw, but also because Jalen Hurts is clearly not 100 percent and the running game is clicking.

The Eagles’ formidable offensive line prides itself on being able to take on anyone anywhere, anytime, no matter who it is or what the situation is, and Sunday proved that.

Take away a couple of late knee drops and the Eagles had 150 rushing yards, or nearly twice what the 49ers allow each game.

On a day where the wide receivers had 64 total yards, Sanders ran 11 times for 42 yards and two TDs on one catch, Kenny Gainwell had 16 touches for a whopping 74 scrimmage yards and Boston Scott added 21 rushing yards.

So the receivers had 64 yards and the running backs had 137.

Last week, receivers had 87 and running backs 243.

For all the talk about AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith and Ques Watkins, the running backs have carried the offense the past two weeks, generating nearly three times as many yards as the receivers.

A little by necessity and a little by coincidence. Shane Steichen’s philosophy is that if the play is working, just keep running until they prove they can stop you.

Running 88 times in two weeks also means you’re working the clock, wearing down the other defense and keeping your defense off the field.

The Eagles held the ball 35:43 against the Giants and 37:26 against the 49ers. That means they were on the field 26 minutes more than their opponents in the first two playoff games.

Their seven rushing TDs are now 9th-most in history by any team in any postseason.

Prior to this year, they had totaled seven rushing TDs in their previous 13 playoff games.

They are just the fourth team in history with three or more rushing TDs in consecutive playoff games, joining the 1973 Dolphins, 2013 49ers and 2018 Patriots.

Can they keep hitting the Super Bowl? If they do, they will be awfully hard to beat.

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