John Smallwood: Eagles' Reid maintains balance on offense in win

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Eagles head coach Andy Reid found a balance on offense in the win over the Giants. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

THIS WAS the test.

This response-drive midway through the fourth quarter after the New York Giants had taken a one-point lead over the Eagles.

This drive was going to show if Eagles coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg were as committed to the rushing attack as they had shown for most of Sunday night's game.

For more than three quarters, the Birds were in the unfamiliar position of being at about a 50-50 balance between pass and run plays.

But now the game was on the line.

The Eagles trailed and were starting on their 17-yard line with just over 6 minutes remaining.

No one in Lincoln Financial Field would have been surprised had Reid and Mornhinweg resorted to their comfort zone.

And when quarterback Michael Vick connected with DeSean Jackson on a 19-yard reception on the first play of the possession, it seemed like the dye had been cast.

On the next play, however, the call went to running back LeSean McCoy, who ripped off a 15-yard run.

Then McCoy went for 5 more.

There was going to be a mix.

On an 11-play drive, the Eagles called six definitive run plays. Two other plays were runs by Vick on pass calls.

The drive resulted in a field goal by Alex Henery that gave the Eagles a huge, 19-17 victory.

With McCoy carrying 23 times for 123 yards, the Eagles had 191 rushing yards.

Combined with 241 passing yards for Vick, it was the most balanced offensive production of the season.

Disregarding six runs by Vick, the Eagles were completely even with 30 pass attempts and 30 rushing attempts.

With Vicks rushes, it was one of the few times in the Reid era that the Eagles actually had more rushes than passes at the end of a game.

It just makes sense.

Everything about the Eagles' personnel said this should be a more traditional offense in terms of pass-to-run ratio.

When you have a runner as talented as McCoy, you can't just dismiss him after a few carries. You have to let him work, give him carries to find a rhythm.

Give McCoy enough carries and he's bound to eventually have some explosive runs, like the 15-yarder or the 34- and 22-yard gains he had on successive runs in the third quarter that resulted in another Henery field goal.

And honestly, having a running attack that has to be respected is good for Vick. He is not the type of quarterback who should be averaging 41 passes, as he did through the first three games.

Vick needs a run game to keep opposing rushers honest; otherwise they will just line up and tee off on him.

That's what the Giants came out doing, and after seeing the way Vick had been tossed around, why wouldn't they? Sure, they got their share of hits on Vick, but they had to pull out of their all-out assault mode because the Eagles were hurting them with the run.

Ultimately, they had to begin to account for that, which made Vick's job a bit more manageable.

I know what I was thinking. McCoy ran the first offensive play for the Eagles and got stuffed for no gain. Then it was two passes and a punt. I was pretty sure that signaled the end of the running game, and when Vick opened the second series with a pass, I had no doubt that the ground attack was going to again be treated as an afterthought.

Can you blame me?

Hasn't that been the way it's worked for the Birds during the Reid era? No matter how many times Reid would talk about the need to be a bit more balanced, he would almost invariably return to his comfort zone and have his quarterback start airing it out.

But this time would be different.

With the Eagles facing a second-and-10 on their own 10 after Vick's incomplete throw, he handed the ball off to rookie running back Bryce Brown for a 1-yard loss. Then, after Vick connected with DeSean Jackson for a 32-yard gain, McCoy got his second carry and ripped off a 14-yard run.

The running game would not be discarded.

The Eagles had to run the football. It was the only way to slow a New York pass rush that was hell bent on planting Vick in the Lincoln Financial Field turf.

It had to be a full commitment. The Giants' defense knows Reid too well to be thrown off its game plan by a few token carries early on.

At crunch time, when the game was on the line, Reid and Mornhinweg did the unthinkable for them and ran the ball to victory.

 

 


Contact John Smallwood at smallwj@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to philly.com/Smallwood.