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Eagles on pace to break NFL’s all-time rushing mark

Sep 26, 2013, 1:30 PM EDT

vick-mccoy

Is LeSean McCoy the best running back in the NFL today?

We actually asked that very question back in 2011, when Shady was en route to a league-high 20 touchdowns and wound up finishing fifth in yards from scrimmage with 1,624 in 15 games. There were backs who wound up with better totals, but for the volume he was getting, one could reasonably make the case he had no peer.

Fast forward back to 2013, and now the numbers back it up as well. Through three games, McCoy is the NFL’s leader in rushing (395) and all-purpose yards (514)—and he’s got about 100 yards on second place. The only back with a better average per carry is Ben Tate, a change-of-pace back for the Texans.

You’ve probably heard this nugget already, but it’s worth repeating: heading into Week 4, LeSean McCoy has more rushing yards by himself than 24 teams.

Statistically speaking, McCoy is clearly the best. The only other player you could probably make an argument for at this moment in time is Adrian Peterson coming off of an MVP season in which the five-time All-Pro ran for 2,000 yards. Okay, he might be the best.

Regardless, as great as Shady has been, what the Eagles are doing on the ground as a team is even more incredible. We mustn’t forget the exploits of one Michael Vick, who has 187 yards of his own, putting the quarterback on the NFL leaderboard at 14th.

All told, Philadelphia’s 209.0 yards per game leads the next-best club by 58.0. Their 6.6 average per carry is a full 1.3 yards ahead of second place.

It’s not even close. The Eagles have been light years better everybody else.

It’s early yet, but at this rate they would have a realistic chance at making history. The Birds are on pace to rack up 3,344 yards on the ground this season. The record for most rushing yards in a single season is currently held by the New England Patriots with 3,165, set way back in 1978.

The Patriots didn’t have a Barry Sanders-esque workhorse—although they did get 539 yards from quarterback Steve Grogan. On top of that contribution, four backs gained at least 391 to help set a mark that’s stood for 35 years. Up to this point, Philly is doing it with two guys.

Just an FYI, New England went 11-5 that season, and was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.

Whether the Eagles can sustain such a pace over 13 more games is certainly questionable—there certainly won’t be much room for error.

They face their toughest test to date this Sunday in the Denver, which touts the NFL’s leading run defense so far. The Broncos are holding opponents to 43.3 yards per game—23.0 fewer than the next-best unit—and it’s not just a matter of high scores forcing teams to throw either. The 2.3 average per attempt is the league’s lowest by half a yard as well.

Of course, the Kansas City Chiefs thought they had a stout run defense too. The Birds ripped them for 260 yards in the loss last week.

I’m not sure there’s any stopping the Eagles from running the football, only containing. Maybe. That is, maybe they can be contained.

They still have a ways to go before their assault on the record books becomes serious, but what they have accomplished on the ground three games into the Chip Kelly era was previously unfathomable. That we’re even discussing a team possibly setting the all-time rushing record during a period when passing records are set every season, if not every week, really says something about this entire offense. It’s different to say the least.

  1. Jason R. - Sep 26, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    The Broncos are giving up so few yards on the ground because they’re up by 21 points 6 minutes into the game and everyone has to try to pass. Remember how “great” the Eagles D was week one? That’s what being up 26-7 at halftime does for you.

    Reply
    • Andrew Kulp - Sep 26, 2013 at 1:44 PM

      Changed a word just to clarify, but I covered that:

      “The Broncos are holding opponents to 43.3 yards per game—23.0 fewer than the next-best unit—and it’s not just a matter of high scores forcing teams to throw either. The 2.3 average per attempt is the league’s lowest by half a yard as well.”

      The yards per game can be deceiving, but they’re also flat-out shutting down the run.

      Reply
      • Jason R. - Sep 26, 2013 at 2:22 PM

        Sorry Kulp, only read half that sentence.

        Another thought, I have to think that lack of attempts leads to lack low YPC. For example, if you run 20 times there’s twice the chance you’ll break one off for 45 yards than if you run only 10 times. An elementary example, but you can see what I’m getting at.

        I think the birds shouldn’t get away from the ground game even if they get down early (specifically this week), you gotta throw your best punch no matter what the other guy is doing, no?

      • Andrew Kulp - Sep 26, 2013 at 2:32 PM

        No worries. I lean toward yards per carry usually being a pretty indicative stat–when you hold opponents to 2.3 yards per carry, there probably aren’t many opportunities to break a long one no matter the number of attempts. Then again, it’s just three games, and only Dallas has faced fewer running plays thus far, so it’s entirely possible there isn’t enough data there overall. Two of their opponents (NYG and BAL) rank 30th and 31st in YPC, so that could be a factor as well. In summary, they’re probably a decent run stopping unit, how good remains to be seen.

        Either way, definitely not suggesting the Eagles get away from the run as it’s their bread and butter these days. I do like the potential matchups through the air though if Champ Bailey/Tony Carter aren’t 100%/active and Lane Johnson can keep Shaun Phillips off Vick’s back.

  2. erzug - Sep 26, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    I’m hoping the Eagles leave their silver platter at home so they can’t give the game away on it like they did last week.

    Reply
  3. really? - Sep 26, 2013 at 10:17 PM

    It’s week 3.

    Reply
    • Andrew Kulp - Sep 26, 2013 at 11:43 PM

      Yes, I believe I covered that somewhere up there as well. Really.

      Reply
  4. Anders - Sep 27, 2013 at 6:12 AM

    Actually its the Niners in 48, not the Pats who have the all time leading rushing season with 3653 yards through 14 games
    (sorry for the long link)
    http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tgl_finder.cgi?request=1&match=single&year_min=1940&year_max=2013&game_type=R&playoff_round=&game_num_min=0&game_num_max=99&week_num_min=0&week_num_max=99&game_day_of_week=&game_time=&time_zone=&game_location=&surface=&roof=&game_result=&overtime=&league_id=&team_id=&opp_id=&team_off_scheme=&team_def_align=&opp_off_scheme=&opp_def_align=&conference_game=&division_game=&tm_is_playoff=&opp_is_playoff=&tm_is_winning=&opp_is_winning=&tm_scored_first=&tm_led=&tm_trailed=&c1stat=rush_yds&c1comp=gt&c1val=&c2stat=&c2comp=gt&c2val=&c3stat=&c3comp=gt&c3val=&c4stat=&c4comp=gt&c4val=&order_by=rush_yds

    Reply
    • Andrew Kulp - Sep 27, 2013 at 12:43 PM

      That’s not an NFL record, Anders, the 49ers were in the AAFC.

      Reply
  5. AJ - Sep 27, 2013 at 9:16 AM

    I think the Broncos rush defense has more to do with their competition. The Giants have the worst rushing attack in the league. The Ravens only average 2.6 ypc on the season. The Raiders have a decent rushing attack, but that’s only because Pryor is averaging just over 7 yards per rush. They were also down really early in their game.

    Reply

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