Eagles on pace to break NFL’s all-time rushing mark

Eagles on pace to break NFL’s all-time rushing mark

Is LeSean McCoy the best running back in the NFL today?

We actually asked that very question back in 2011, when Shady was en route to a league-high 20 touchdowns and wound up finishing fifth in yards from scrimmage with 1,624 in 15 games. There were backs who wound up with better totals, but for the volume he was getting, one could reasonably make the case he had no peer.

Fast forward back to 2013, and now the numbers back it up as well. Through three games, McCoy is the NFL’s leader in rushing (395) and all-purpose yards (514)—and he’s got about 100 yards on second place. The only back with a better average per carry is Ben Tate, a change-of-pace back for the Texans.

You’ve probably heard this nugget already, but it’s worth repeating: heading into Week 4, LeSean McCoy has more rushing yards by himself than 24 teams.

Statistically speaking, McCoy is clearly the best. The only other player you could probably make an argument for at this moment in time is Adrian Peterson coming off of an MVP season in which the five-time All-Pro ran for 2,000 yards. Okay, he might be the best.

Regardless, as great as Shady has been, what the Eagles are doing on the ground as a team is even more incredible. We mustn’t forget the exploits of one Michael Vick, who has 187 yards of his own, putting the quarterback on the NFL leaderboard at 14th.

All told, Philadelphia’s 209.0 yards per game leads the next-best club by 58.0. Their 6.6 average per carry is a full 1.3 yards ahead of second place.

It’s not even close. The Eagles have been light years better everybody else.

It’s early yet, but at this rate they would have a realistic chance at making history. The Birds are on pace to rack up 3,344 yards on the ground this season. The record for most rushing yards in a single season is currently held by the New England Patriots with 3,165, set way back in 1978.

The Patriots didn’t have a Barry Sanders-esque workhorse—although they did get 539 yards from quarterback Steve Grogan. On top of that contribution, four backs gained at least 391 to help set a mark that’s stood for 35 years. Up to this point, Philly is doing it with two guys.

Just an FYI, New England went 11-5 that season, and was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.

Whether the Eagles can sustain such a pace over 13 more games is certainly questionable—there certainly won't be much room for error.

They face their toughest test to date this Sunday in the Denver, which touts the NFL’s leading run defense so far. The Broncos are holding opponents to 43.3 yards per game—23.0 fewer than the next-best unit—and it’s not just a matter of high scores forcing teams to throw either. The 2.3 average per attempt is the league’s lowest by half a yard as well.

Of course, the Kansas City Chiefs thought they had a stout run defense too. The Birds ripped them for 260 yards in the loss last week.

I’m not sure there’s any stopping the Eagles from running the football, only containing. Maybe. That is, maybe they can be contained.

They still have a ways to go before their assault on the record books becomes serious, but what they have accomplished on the ground three games into the Chip Kelly era was previously unfathomable. That we’re even discussing a team possibly setting the all-time rushing record during a period when passing records are set every season, if not every week, really says something about this entire offense. It's different to say the least.

Gunn's Bullet Points: Flags could fly in secondary for Eagles-Cowboys

Gunn's Bullet Points: Flags could fly in secondary for Eagles-Cowboys

Some notes and keys ahead of Sunday night's Eagles-Cowboys game:

• Since throwing for 301 yards against Pittsburgh in Week 3, Carson Wentz's aerial numbers have declined — 238 yards in Detroit, 179 in Washington and 138 vs. Minnesota.

• Even though he missed two games with an injury, I still can't understand how Zach Ertz has been targeted only 16 times in four games this season.

• Dallas WR Cole Beasley is arguably the best slot receiver in the game right now. Last November against the Eagles, he had nine receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns. With the Eagles' best slot cornerback, Ron Brooks, out for the year with a ruptured quad tendon, Malcolm Jenkins will have his hands full trying to keep up with Beasley in the slot.

• Eagles and Cowboys defensive backs beware: Jerome Boger's crew is officiating this game. This season, Boger's crew has called 36 penalties for defensive pass interference, illegal contact or defensive holding.

• The Eagles' 20 sacks ties them for third-most in the league. Dallas has allowed just nine, second-fewest in the NFL.

• Does Doug Pederson still have faith in RB Ryan Mathews late in games? Mathews has fumbled with less than five minutes left in two of the last three games. The head coach says he has not lost faith in Mathews, and Mathews says he'll stop fighting for more yards late in games. Time will tell.

After 2 fumbles, Mathews says he must fight urge to fight for more yards

After 2 fumbles, Mathews says he must fight urge to fight for more yards

Doug Pederson said this week he’s so concerned about Ryan Mathews’ late-game fumbling problem that he’ll consider using a different running back in crucial late-game situations (see story).

If Mathews is concerned about it, he’s not letting on.

“I don’t worry about stuff like that,” he said at his locker on Thursday. “Worrying about stuff like that just causes more stress.

“I can’t control any of that. The only thing I can control is trying to give him 100 percent every time I touch the ball and trying to get better.”

Mathews likely cost the Eagles a win over the Lions with his late fumble in Detroit three weeks ago. Last week, he lost another fumble in the final minutes of the Eagles’ win over the Vikings.

He’s the first back with two fumbles in the final five minutes of two games in the same season since Ahmad Bradshaw of the Giants in 2010.

He has single-handedly accounted for two of the three fumbles by NFL running backs in the last five minutes of games this year.

Pederson on Wednesday said, “By no means am I down on Ryan,” but also said he would consider using Wendell Smallwood or Darren Sproles in late-game situations moving forward.

Mathews is averaging 3.9 yards per carry on a team-high 11 carries per game.

He said Thursday he has to learn not to fight for extra yards when the situation calls mainly for ball protection.

“You can’t fight for more yards, you’ve just got to go down,” he said. “Don’t put the ball on the ground.

“There’s no secret cure or anything like that. You’ve just got to get what you can get and get down. You can’t really fight for more yards like that.”

Mathews said it’s difficult for him to ramp down his natural aggressiveness in situations that call for him to be more conservative and protect the ball instead of trying to fight for extra yards.

“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “I’m not the one to really shy away from not going down on first contact. But situations like that, you’ve just got to be more aware.”

Sproles (4.6 average on 31 carries), Smallwood (4.1 average on 28 carries) and Kenjon Barner (5.8 average on 16 carries) all have higher rushing averages than Mathews.

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said he’s not concerned about Mathews and said his confidence in the 29-year-old former Pro Bowler hasn’t waned.

“I love our guys,” Reich said. “I wouldn't trade our guys for anybody. We use a word around here a lot, and I know sometimes it gets thrown around, but it's family.

“You know, not every family's perfect, and we all make mistakes, but when we put guys out on the field (we’re confident in them). I can't play like that. I can't coach like that. You've got to have confidence.

“Now with coaches, it’s a business and coaches make decisions based on things. And when those decisions get made, they get made. But when a guy is in the game, we have to play with confidence and we have to coach with confidence and I don't see any other way to do it.”