“The NFL has become a passing league” would have been an accurate statement in, say, 1985. Today's NFL just is a passing league, has been for some time now, and becomes more so with every season. Teams that have successful passing attacks are the teams that are most successful, pretty much as a rule.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie very much likes when his teams pass. A story in The Athletic earlier this year detailed how, after a thrilling Eagles 34-27 win over the Packers in 2019, Lurie was upset because he thought the Eagles ran the ball too often. In Monday night’s 41-21 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles gave their owner exactly what he wanted.
Eagles running backs carried the ball just three times in last night’s game. QB Jalen Hurts had another nine carries, some of which came on option plays. But in a game in which they trailed pretty much throughout, the Eagles threw and threw and threw the ball all night with a QB making his seventh career start.
The Eagles ended the game with just 12 rushing attempts, nine of them for Hurts. That’s the smallest number of rushing attempts in the league this year through three weeks. Last year’s Buccaneers have the record low since the merger, with just five rushing attempts, but that team also has Tom Brady at QB.
It’s easy to see how it happened. Dallas scored a touchdown on its opening drive. Hurts completed two passes to get into Cowboys territory on the Eagles first possession, and then threw an interception. The Eagles scored a defensive TD two plays later, and the Cowboys drove down the field before being stopped on fourth-and-goal.
This gave the Eagles the ball at their own 1. Surely this was time to hand the ball off, even in the 2021 version of football. Nope! Jalen Hurts threw three passes from his own end zone, the Eagles punted, and Dallas came down the field for an easy touchdown. (Despite losing this game 41-21, I think the Eagles had a better game from their defense than their offense.)
Finally, then, we’d get a run, right? Well, kind of. The Eagles ran an option on the second play of their third drive of the game; Hurts kept the ball and lost a yard. (It didn’t seem like Miles Sanders would have gotten any yards anyway, but at least he would’ve gotten a carry.)
The Eagles punted again, and Dallas scored another touchdown. It was only then that Miles Sanders finally got the ball. Holy cow!
That was a 24-yard run for Sanders, who got 15 and 13 carries in the Eagles’ first two games this season. It was a great play! Look how many YouTube highlight videos there are of it! Hopefully, there would be more of this.
The Eagles went back to Sanders again on second-and-8, and he got three yards. Apparently that wasn’t enough for Sirianni; Sanders did not get a handoff again all night. He finished with an average of 13.5 yards a carry. The Eagles punted for the first of two times in Cowboys territory at the end of this drive.
And that was basically it! Kenneth Gainwell, the Eagles rookie RB with a great name, got a handoff with the Eagles down 27 in garbage time late in the fourth quarter. Every other play in the game was either a Hurts pass or a Hurts run. At least Sirianni didn’t attempt the Philly Special this week.