I watched the Eagles-Bears game last night on NFL replay and there were two things that stood out to me.
First, after a running play, the Bears pinned their ears back and rushed the passer because EVERYONE, including my dead grandma, knows that they are going to run the play-action pass after they run the ball.
Not only a play-action pass, but the same one where Vick takes two hard steps to his right, extends the ball to fake the hand off, then loops around to his left looking to pass. Julius Peppers was standing there waiting for him every time. If the Bears had any fear of a consistent and diversified running game, Peppers would not have been able to set up shop and wait for Vick to sprint out to his left.
Second, I have read that many Philly fans are disenchanted with the play of the Eagles offensive line. It's hard to pass block when the defensive coordinator, the fans, the TV analysts AND my dead grandma knows what you are going to do.
I think the Eagles get their first-round bye, but who cares? Been there, done that! We have seen over and over again that it is not the inability to run the ball that keeps the Eagles from the ultimate prize. It is being unwilling to run the ball that saddles them with the championship 0-fer and the "Can't win the big one" moniker of shame.
The Eagles need to mix in three or four draw or delay plays where LeSean McCoy lines up on Vick's left, not his right. Then, Vick can drop back, holding the ball like he is going to pass, before handing it off. The right side defensive end must move to that contain position because everyone with a television knows it's a bad thing for opposing defenses when Vick sprints to his left.
When the end moves to contain Vick, the running lane in the left side B gap will open up naturally. Pull the right guard through there and they're in business. Run that a few time and the play-action fake is feared, not ignored on the way to the quarterback.
What is missing from the Eagles' offense is the fear that the Eagles will hand it off twice or three times in a row, something they rarely, if ever do. The way they call plays tells defenses that the Eagles are going to pass the ball after a successful running play.
I know Andy Reid is all about the passing game, but the Eagles have proved time and time again that you can't get to and win a Super Bowl with a token running game.
Every offensive lineman that ever lived will tell you that running the ball helps with pass protection.