Ea­gles need ground game to make play-ac­tion pack­ages ef­fec­tive

The Morning Call (Sunday) - - SPORTS - By Nick Fierro Of The Morn­ing Call DAVID BANKS/AP

PHILADEL­PHIA — There will be times on to­day when Ea­gles quar­ter­back Nick Foles can sense a sec­ond or two be­fore the snap that the run­ning play he’s been set­ting up with his sig­nal-call­ing won’t work.

Foles also has to know that it might not be the worst thing in the world to go ahead with it any­way.

Be­cause the Ea­gles don’t nec­es­sar­ily have to have great suc­cess on the ground, but they have to stay com­mit­ted to the run at least enough to make their play-ac­tion pack­ages ef­fec­tive and give their re­ceivers bet­ter chances to get open down the field.

Oth­er­wise this NFC di­vi­sional round play­off game on the road against the New Or­leans Saints (4:40 p.m., FOX) is likely to un­fold much like the first meet­ing be­tween these teams in Novem­ber, when the Saints em­bar­rassed them, 48-7.

The Saints claimed after that game that their de­fen­sive game plan was sim­ply to put the ball in quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz’s hands, which they did by first shut­ting down the run and then build­ing such a big lead that the Ea­gles had to aban­don it.

The Ea­gles have achieved much bet­ter bal­ance since that low point, win­ning six of seven.

But even against teams that lim­ited them, such as the Hous­ton Tex­ans, who held them to 2.6 yards per at­tempt, or the Chicago Bears, who last week com­pletely sti­fled them (42 rush­ing yards, 1.8 yards per at­tempt), the Ea­gles never gave up run­ning en­tirely, which might have been the dif­fer­ence in pulling out those cru­cial vic­to­ries.

“We’ve talked all sea­son long about want­ing to stay com­mit­ted to the run,” of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike Groh said, “and we were go­ing to do that. We feel

The Ea­gles’ coaches say they must present at least the threat of an ef­fec­tive run­ning game from the teams’ backs, in­clud­ing Dar­ren Spro­les (43), if they are to have a chance against the Saints. New Or­leans has made no se­cret of the fact that they would like the Ea­gles to have to re­sort to the pass in cru­cial sit­u­a­tions.

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