Sunday eagles v. Bears preview
In methodically destroying the Buffalo Bills, whose only loss was 16-10 to defending Super Bowl champion New England coming in, the Philadelphia Eagles didn’t just stumble on a blueprint for success last Sunday, they defined it.
Instead of putting the game in the hands of quarterback Carson Wentz (17-for-24, 172 yards) and relying on him to win it for them, they allowed him to operate as efficiently as possible by staying committed to the run in a game that has fit the pattern of most of his career wins and only two of his career losses.
Since he entered the NFL in 2016, Wentz is 15-2 in games when he attempts 31 or fewer passes, 12-19 in all the others. And while the winning percentage of most, if not all NFL quarterbacks, also is inversely proportional to pass attempts, it’s much more pronounced with Wentz when compared the league’s other top quarterbacks.
The Dallas Cowboys Dak Prescott, who entered the league at the same time Wentz did, is 23-7 when releasing 31 or fewer passes but 14-14 in all the others, including playoffs.
Jared Goff, drafted by the Rams with the No. 1 overall pick in 2016, just ahead of Wentz, hasn’t won as consistently as Wentz when throwing less than 32 passes (13-7) but has a winning record (19-12) in all the others he’s started.
Here are the corresponding numbers of many other of the league’s franchise quarterbacks since Wentz arrived in Philadelphia from North Dakota State. Only games started and finished are counted:
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs: 5-1 and 14-6.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: 22-9 and 14-13-1.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots: 9-1 and 42-11.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: 13-3 and 22-16.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: 11-3 and 18-16-1.
DeShaun Watson, Houston Texans: 11-3 and 8-10.
Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions: 11-3 and 16-25-1.
Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers: 16-5 and 14-23.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: 18-4 and 14-24.
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings: 17-2 and 12-24-1.
Only Cousins and Brady have higher winning percentages when throwing less than 32 passes.
Only Cousins (.324), Ryan (.368) and Stafford (.380) have lower winning percentages than Wentz (.387) when throwing more than 31 passes. And only Cousins has a greater disparity between winning percentages than Wentz by comparison.
These statistics don’t necessarily mean that Wentz isn’t capable of hoisting the team on his shoulders, throwing 50 passes and leading it to a victory. Rather, they just suggest that Wentz benefits more from a balanced attack than just about any of his peers.
Fifteen and two, 12 and 19.
The numbers also don’t necessarily mean that simply limiting Wentz’s pitch count would automatically guarantee he and the Eagles continue to win 15 of every 17 games in which he simply follows the formula. After all, the statistics and the wins are byproducts of how games unfold and rarely the result of conscious decisions to run the ball a certain amount of times going in.
Nor are the statistics necessarily an indictment of his passing skills or ability to lead. Remember, the Eagles’ 11 drops X are tied for tops in the league. And they don’t include the ones that struggling wide receiver Nelson Agholor doesn’t even see in the first place. So the shortcomings of his targets have a lot to do with this dynamic as well.
Still, regardless of the reasons, 15-2 and 12-19 stand out.
And the most reasonable conclusion is that the Eagles continue to lean on their rebuilt running back corps as this 2019 season wears on.
Jordan Howard, the veteran newcomer acquired from the Chicago Bears, has 443 yards and five touchdowns on 100 carries. Rookie Miles Sanders has 294 yards that include a 65-yard TD burst against the Bills.
Almost all of this has come with Darren Sproles, who is injured again, out of the picture and with the injured Corey Clement (no touches on offense before landing on the injured reserve list earlier this month) never really in it in the first place.
The more they go, the more they remind coach Doug Pederson of the winning combination of LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi in 2017.
“I think you can use them both in a game plan situation where you get kind of the downhill, powerful guy and then you can get the shifty, sort of one-cut runner and a speed guy, let’s say with Miles, what he showed Sunday,” Pederson said. "You never know how the running game is going to go during the course of the game, and so that’s why we have runs in for each guy and different types of runs and schemes.
“I like having two types.”
He should like what they do for Carson Wentz even more.
Wentz in 2017 was 7-0 when he threw it less than 32 times and 4-2 when he didn’t. Halfway through X, he’s 3-1 and 1-3 in the same situations.
If anything, the numbers scream louder now. Running more and throwing less is the only way to go.