Eagles' run defense slams door in second half

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Eagles' run defense slams door in second half

Barwin turning into the Eagles' 'jack' of all trades

December 4, 2013, 8:00 am
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Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry and the Eagles are holding teams to 3.7 yards per carry after halftime. (AP)

Packers tailback Eddie Lacy blasts his way for 11 yards on his first carry vs. the Eagles and six more yards on his second. By halftime, he’s got 52 rushing yards, seemingly on his way to a huge game.

Second half? 10 for 21.

Alfred Morris explodes for 86 rushing yards before halftime and is averaging nearly five yards a pop against the Eagles.

Second half? 4 for 5.

Rashard Mendenhall goes off for 61 rushing yards before halftime on just 12 carries on Sunday against the Eagles.

Second half? 6 for 15.

That’s just the last three weeks. The scenario has played out week after week this year for the Eagles, who are not very good against the run early in games but get stronger.

Opposing teams are averaging 4.5 yards per carry so far this year against the Eagles before halftime, and that average ranks 22nd in the NFL.

Those very same teams are averaging 3.7 yards per carry so far after halftime, and that ranks 11th.

The deeper into a game we go, the stronger the Eagles’ run defense gets. And that’s a great sign, since it generally forces teams to throw more than they want to. Which leads to sacks and turnovers. Which the Eagles have been very good at.

“Most times, guys get something on us in the running game, they hit something on us early, and we kind of settle down and start playing really well toward the end of games,” middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans said.

“Our coaches on the sidelines are always making adjustments -- knowing what [the other team] is trying to do, where they’re trying to attack us and guys making those corrections and doing them, and then we start stuffing people.

“And the other thing is, we’re so deep on the defensive line, and everyone’s just being sound with our guys up front. Even when we’re rotating, those guys are coming in and they’re fresh and sound in what they’re doing. There’s no crack in the walls.”

Let’s take a look at some of the other tailbacks the Eagles have faced and how they’ve fared before and after halftime:

Ryan Matthews was 11 for 61 (5.5 average) before halftime and then 5 for 12 (2.4) in the second half.

Doug Martin ran eight times for 48 yards before halftime (6.0 per carry) and was 8 for 19 after halftime (2.4).

Peyton Hillis was 8 for 35 (4.4 average) in the first half and 12 for 35 (2.9) in the second.

In two games, Morris gashed the Eagles 25 times for 112 yards in the first and second quarters (4.5 average) but was a combined 9 for 26 (2.9) the rest of the way.

The only backs to have second-half success against the Eagles this year were Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs (14 for 78, 5.8 second half) and Rashad Jennings of the Raiders (9 for 63, 7.0 second half). Charles did it the third week of the season and Jennings in a blowout.

The Eagles have won six of their last eight games, including four straight going into their crucial showdown against the 7-5 Lions Sunday at the Linc.

“People show you run game and about midway through the second quarter you start to maybe get a feel for it,” defensive coordinator Billy Davis said.

“And then we settle in and [defensive line] coach [Jerry] Azzinaro and [linebacker coaches] Rick Minter and Bill McGovern, we all get together and, ‘OK, what are the calls that are going to stop this run?’ The position coaches do a phenomenal job on the sideline making all the corrections. And then boom.”

The Eagles have allowed only two runs of 10-plus yards after halftime to an opposing tailback since Week 4 in Denver. They were both by the Raiders’ Jennings after the Eagles already led by 36 points.

Bottom line: The Eagles are really tough to run on once they get warmed up. And that’s a tremendous advantage

“I just think we’ve had slow starts, just trying to get a feel for who we’re playing,” said run-stuffing specialist Cedric Thornton.

“If we go out there and attack the way we do in the second half in the first half, I think we can play the same way. Once we get that tempo going and get everybody at that tempo, we’ll be as effective in the first half as we are in the second half.

“I guess Mike Tyson is the one said it: ‘Everybody has a plan till you hit ‘em in the mouth.’ I’m definitely sure Green Bay had a plan. Eddie Lacy and all the other running backs had plans, and we kept hitting them in the mouth, hitting them in the mouth.”