Eagles Allowing the Fewest Runs of Any Team Ever

The Eagles are making history this year. More accurately, their opponents are making history.

By running the football less than any team's opponents in NFL history.

This is what happens when you have two specific things: 1) One of the best run defenses in the NFL, and 2) Frequent large early leads.

It's a lethal combination.

Nobody wants to run the ball against the Eagles. Lately, they're not even trying.

Opposing teams are running the football 18.4 times per game against the Eagles. That's not only the lowest such figure in NFL history, it's also 2½ runs per game fewer than any team in NFL history has ever faced.

Diving deeper into this using the Pro-Football-Reference game play tracker, some remarkable trends can be discovered.

• In the second half, teams are running the ball only 7.8 times per game against the Eagles. And in the fourth quarter, that number drops to an astonishing 3.2 times per game. That's just 29 running plays against the Eagles all year in the fourth quarter.

• For the sake of comparison, the league average is 13.4 rushes per game faced in the second half and 7.1 in the fourth quarter.

• Remove quarterback runs and these numbers drop even more. Considering only called running plays, the Eagles' nine opponents have run the ball a total of 144 times all year, or 16.0 per game, 6.4 per second half and 2.7 per fourth quarter. That's just 58 called runs in the second half and just 24 in the fourth quarter.

• Here are percentages of called passes vs. called running back runs against the Eagles this year: For the season, it's 74 percent pass, 26 percent run. In the second half, it goes to 81 percent pass, 19 percent run. And in the fourth quarter, it's 85 percent pass, 15 percent run.

Talk about predictable!

Why is this so important? Because it's fundamental football that if you can get a team to play one-dimensional, you have an enormous advantage.

When teams are throwing the ball at a near-record high pace and running it at a record-low pace, it plays right into the hands of the Eagles' defensive line. They know what's coming, so they can just tee off on opposing quarterbacks.

Which they've been doing.

There are a lot of reasons the Eagles are 8-1. Carson Wentz has been magical. The running game has been outstanding. The cornerbacks are dramatically improved. The offensive line has been for the most part very good.

But it all starts with run defense.

By stuffing the run early and outscoring their opponents by 16.3 points per game in the first quarter during their current seven-game winning streak, the Eagles are taking command of games early and forcing their opponents to abandon the running game before halftime.

The combination of ball control on offense and run stuffing on defense has made the Eagles incredibly difficult to beat.

They go into Dallas having reeled off seven straight games gaining more than 100 rushing yards and allowing fewer than 100 rushing yards. If they do it again Sunday night in Dallas, they'll own the fourth-longest such streak in NFL history.

They've allowed only three runs all year over 16 yards - none in their last five games.

Only one opposing running back - Kansas City's Kareem Hunt back in Week 2 - has rushed for more than 40 yards.

This is record-breaking stuff.
It's pretty clear that the less a team runs against you, the more success you're going to have.

The 10 teams who've allowed the fewest opposing rushing attempts in NFL history won an average of 12½ games and all but the 1990 Eagles reached the playoffs.

This is all nothing new for Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

"In 2003, with the Titans, we were the same way," he said. "Check that to make sure, but I think it was 2003. We were the No. 1 run defense in the NFL. Beat the Ravens in the playoffs, they were the No. 1 rush offense in the league, we held Jamaal Lewis I think to 37 yards (actually 35).

"It was a combination of a couple things. We had some big monsters up front and a good tackling secondary and we were a good team and we had pretty big leads."

That Titans team allowed 21.4 runs per game, the eighth-lowest figure in NFL history. They also held the Patriots to 17 points in the conference semifinals but lost 17-14.

But the bottom line is the Titans won by forcing teams to throw. And 14 years later, with the same guy at the helm, the pattern is repeating itself.

Here are the teams that have faced the fewest runs per game in NFL history and their season results:

18.44 … 2017 Eagles            8-1

20.81 … 2010 Steelers         12-4, lost Super Bowl

20.88 … 1991 Saints             11-5, lost wild card

21.06 … 1990 Eagles             10-6, didn't make playoffs

21.13 … 1999 Rams               13-3, won Super Bowl

21.19 … 2001 Steelers           13-3, lost AFC Championship

21.29 … 1964 Bills                  12-2, won AFL Championship

21.25 … 2016 Cowboys         13-3, lost conference semifinals

21.38 … 2003 Titans               12-4, lost conference semifinals

21.50 … 2015 Bengals            12-4, lost wild card

21.50 ... 1963 Bills                   7-6-1, lost conference semifinals

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