Pressure from the chairman and restless Philadelphia Eagles fans may have finally driven head coach Andy Reid to deviate from the passing game to which he has so fervently adhered.
As it turns out, this kind of deviation works.
Reid has long relied on a pass-first, pass-often philosophy, a plan that led the Eagles to a frustrating 8-8 record in 2011 and to a subsequent preseason ultimatum issued by Philadelphia Eagles chairman Jeffrey Lurie: Improve the Eagles record “substantially” or else.
Then, this season, despite being 3-1, the Eagles’ precarious wins have seemed more like narrow escapes from defeat than sound victories.
After the Eagles' only turnover-free game of the season in Week 4 against the New York Giants, among the factors examined was the Eagles’ number of pass-run plays and the difference it produced. Yes, Philadelphia beat the Super Bowl champion Giants by only two points, but it was a solid win. No interceptions. No fumbles. No turnovers. One clean Philadelphia win.
So, what was the difference? Plenty.
Here’s a look at How to Play the Eagles' Running Game.
Balance. A team must exhibit a balance in its playmaking ability. Overall this season, the Eagles have passed for 65 percent of the offensive plays and rushed for 35 percent.
However, against New York, the Eagles gained 55 percent of their yardage passing and 45 percent of their yardage rushing. Philadelphia found their game balance.
In the only season loss, the Eagles captured significantly more yards passing than rushing, with 67 percent from passing and only 33 percent from rushing. The Eagles were visibly out of balance, and the disproportionate numbers illustrate it.
Likewise, even though Philadelphia beat Baltimore in Week 2, it was a sloppy one-point game that easily could have gone to the Ravens. In it, the Birds' pass-run ratio was 73 percent passing to 27 percent rushing.
Commitment. Reid clearly committed to the run against the Giants.
When LeSean McCoy gained just two yards on six carries in the first half, most people expected Reid to shut down the ground game. That was Reid seasons 1-13. This is Reid season 14, hoping for season 15.
In the second half of the Giants game, McCoy used his 17 carries to gain a valuable 121 yards for Philadelphia.
Error-free zone. The Eagles staff drilled the team prior to Game 4 to eliminate costly errors. Lesson learned, as evidenced by the game against the Giants.
Do not lose the game by turnovers. The Eagles had 12 turnovers in Week 1-3 but went cold turkey on turnovers in Week 4.
Do not lose the game by penalties. Philadelphia received 29 penalties in games 1-4.
Do not fumble away the team's chances for a win. With six fumbles, Eagles are No. 1 in the NFL in giveaway fumbles.
Galvanized by its winning record, improved team rhythm and the recent defeat of its northern adversary, Philadelphia will face the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday. The Eagles intend to handle their eastern rivals as they did New York, hoping the game skills they have acquired week-by-week will carry them forward into another Philly win.