New year. Same ratio.
The Eagles won a football game Sunday without much of a commitment to the running game.
Their final pass-run ratio against the Redskins was 45 pass plays and 20 running plays, but following the first quarter it was 36 pass plays and 13 running plays, and we saw Sunday at FedEx Field what we saw a lot last year.
Doug Pederson wants to establish the run early, then just abandons it, regardless of the score.
The Eagles escaped with a win, thanks mainly to the front seven's domination of the Redskins' offense and Carson Wentz's improvising when things broke down. And any time you can open the season with a road win over a division opponent, it's a great day.
But at some point, if the Eagles are going to be an elite team, a playoff team, three things have to happen.
1. Pederson has to find a way to stick with the run.
2. The offensive line has to open up some holes for the backs.
3. The backs have to produce.
I understand that the NFL of 2017 is a passing league. You win games by chucking the ball up and down the field. I'm OK with that. And the Eagles certainly have the quarterback to do it. But even in this era of super-charged passing attacks, you also need some balance just to keep the opposing defense off your quarterback and to run out the clock when you have a late lead.
In the two middle quarters Sunday, the Eagles ran 33 plays — 27 passes, six runs. And then when Pederson tried to dial up the run with a late lead, there was nothing there.
The Eagles won Sunday, but let's be honest: The offense showed little rhythm.
Their two touchdown drives went 39 and 56 yards and both were the product of good field position and Wentz's improvisational wizardry. Those are both good things to have, but you sure can't count on them. Not over 16 games.
Take away Wentz's six rushing yards on four carries and the Eagles' backs averaged 2.6 yards per carry Sunday and 1.9 yards per carry in the second half.
The Eagles recorded just one rushing first down Sunday, making this the first time in 17 years they've won a game with just one rushing first down.
Let's look at the running game by quarter:
First quarter: LeGarrette Blount ran five times for 17 yards, including a couple six-yard gains. Decent start.
Second quarter: Blount had a seven-yard gain on a 1st-and-10 with 8:30 to go in the quarter, then didn't touch the ball again until the second half.
Third quarter: Blount went 13½ minutes between carries.
Fourth quarter: With the Eagles clinging to a two-point lead, Pederson finally tried to lean on the ground attack, but seven carries by Blount, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles produced only 12 yards.
I get that if the running game isn't producing, you need to try something else. But Pederson generally doesn't give it a fair chance before abandoning it.
And I also get that this isn't the world's greatest collection of running backs. There's no Westbrook here. No Shady. There's not even a Ryan Mathews.
But at one point from the start of the second quarter until late in the fourth quarter, the Eagles ran 33 pass plays to nine running plays, and you're just not going to win many football games with your ratio that out of whack.
Committing to the run does a lot of things. It allows the offensive linemen to dictate to the defense. It keeps defenses guessing, which gives the O-line the ability to do a better job protecting the quarterback. It generates rhythm. It wears down a defensive front. It runs the clock.
Sunday's win was a great way to start the season, but the opponents are going to get tougher and the defenses are going to be stronger.
Last year, the Eagles averaged 42 pass plays per game, and Sunday they finished with 45.
There's a lot to like about this team. That front seven is a machine. Special teams is always fantastic under Dave Fipp. Wentz is evolving into an elite young quarterback. The secondary looks improved — maybe dramatically improved.
But somehow, some way, Pederson has to balance this thing out just a little.
You can't win consistently playing football like this.