Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was peppered with questions this week about the run-pass ratio and whether or not they should run the ball more in the first half.
After looking at his answers, and then going through the numbers myself, there is a little discrepancy there.
First, here is what he was asked, followed by his answers (courtesy of Eagles press releases):
On whether he feels that they should run the ball more in the first half:
“I’ve been back through that several times. We went 11 plays there in the first half in the two-minute. We only had nine plays in the first quarter. I think somewhere in there it was like eight passes to three runs, and that’s not unusual for us. I did want to go after them down the field and we did have some opportunities there.
All of the sudden, it’s 17 and 24 to nothing. We just didn’t have very many plays, and all of those passes were in the two-minute at the end of the quarter and that’s typical there. We just didn’t have many plays. Then, we got behind so much that we had to throw the football a little bit.”
On whether he anticipates any kind of changes coming:
“It’s not out of whack. I think it was eight to three, and then we had a run called that we didn’t get off because of a penalty. It was kind of a different game there. You do get into those if you don’t have many plays, that’s first.
Then, many of your plays were in a two-minute situation. The numbers get out of whack just a little bit. We’re right where we kind of like to be overall. We’re 62% pass overall and somewhere around 52 percent or 50 percent run-pass on first-down.
Overall, it’s pretty good. On paper, that’s the first thing I did was, ‘Holy smokes!’ On paper, it looks really odd, but if you go through the situational part of it, it balances out just a little bit. If I had that game to play over again, which you don’t, in hindsight I would’ve done it just a little bit differently.
We certainly thought that going in we had a heck of a game plan. I still think it was what we talked about with the communication part. We certainly could have slowed it down a little bit and made sure that we got the communication part down and run the ball a little more certainly, absolutely. I’m not trying not to get sensitive or anything like that.”
First of all, the question about running the ball more in the first half was an “in general” question, but Marty answered it based on only the Arizona game. Then, he says they got behind 24-0 so they had to pass the ball a little bit.
Well, if we’re talking just about the Arizona game, he actually ran the ball more in the 2nd half than he did in the first. The Eagles had just 5 called run-plays in the first half against 12 in the second.
They threw the ball 25 times in the first versus 21 times in the second. So, I’m not quite sure what he’s talking about there. They ran the ball more because the Arizona defense started playing to defend against the big play.
Then he says they’re at 62% pass overall and somewhere around 50-52% run-pass on first-down.
Well, what I did is manually go back through the play-by-play (courtesy of ESPN) and count up all of the called-runs vs. passes. However, let me clarify how I counted…
I counted all plays that were called. This means that I also counted plays that never made it into the stat books due to penalties. For example, if they called a pass play on first down, but it was negated by a penalty, then passed again the next play, that was 2-called pass plays.
I did the same for run plays to keep it even. I also did not count what I perceived as a called-run for Michael Vick. I only counted end-arounds and hand-offs to running backs. Any time Vick scrambled, I counted that as a called-pass play.
When considering a run-pass ratio, you should not count scrambles by the QB as true “rushing” play (even though stat-keepers do) because most times it was actually a called-pass play.
With all that said, here are the numbers I came up with through 3 games:
Game 1 vs. Cleveland: 65 pass plays vs. 24 run plays for a ratio of 73% pass and 27% run. Broken down by halves: 1st half had 35 passes and 9 runs, 2nd half had 30 passes and 15 runs.
Game 2 vs. Baltimore: 41 pass plays vs. 33 run plays for a ratio of 55% pass and 45% run. By halves: 1st half had 19 passes and 18 runs, 2nd half had 22 passes and 15 runs.
Game 3 vs. Arizona: 46 pass plays vs. 17 run plays for a ratio of 73% pass and 27% run. By halves: 1st half had 25 passes and 5 runs, 2nd half had 21 passes and 12 runs.
Total pass-to-run ratio: 67% called passes vs. 33% called runs
Total broken down by half:
1st half: 71% passes, 29% runs — 2nd half: 63% passes, 37% runs
Furthermore, Marty said that they’re at 50-52% runs on first downs? Well, I checked that too…
Overall, they’ve had 101 first-down plays. They’ve passed it 58 times and ran it 43 times. That equates to about 57% passing and 43% rushing on first downs.
So, not quite Marty.
Furthermore, if you take out the Baltimore game, because that is their lone well-balanced game, here are what the numbers look like:
1st downs: 65% passes, 35% runs
Pass-run ratio overall: 73% pass, 27% rush
1st half: 81% pass, 19% rush. 2nd half: 65% pass, 35% rush
Okay, so what does all of this mean?
I just took the long way to prove what we have all known forever: the Eagles need to call a more balanced game.
The proof is in the pudding. The only game so far this year that the Eagles have looked good on offense was the Baltimore game. Why? Because they mixed in the run very well, and did so in the first half (19 passes and 18 runs).
It’s no coincidence that when the Eagles consistently run the ball, the offense looks better as a whole. And specifically, they need to run more in the first half so it sets the tone.
In the struggle against Cleveland and loss to Arizona, that first-half ratio is alarming. 81% passing? If you were a defensive coordinator, how would you game plan for the Eagles?
“Hey guys, just rush the passer on every single play and hit the crap out of Vick.” That’s it.
It’s ridiculous, really. The Eagles have one of the best running backs in the NFL but they fail to utilize him correctly because Andy and Marty are so hung-up on passing the ball.
If Andy and Mary were poker players, they’d play every hand trying to get 4 aces instead of working with what they have in their hand already. Maybe they should brush up on their poker news over at pokerblog.com and learn a thing or two.
Obviously, this isn’t earth-shattering news here. But damn, come on guys!
Sometimes when I watch the play-calling, I feel like David Byrne of the Talking Heads singing “Same as it ever was”…
So, to summarize this season so far, the Eagles offense looked its best in Week 2 when they mixed in the run in the first half and ended up with a 55/45 pass-run ratio. In the 2 games the offense crapped the bed, they had a 73/27 ratio including 81/19 in the first half.
Therefore, the answer is obvious. Mix in the run more consistently every week. Stop being predictable and stop trying to out-smart everybody when everybody knows what you’re going to do every friggin week!
This is especially important when you’re having trouble on the offensive line. Run-blocking is easier than pass-blocking. If you have 2 new linemen, wouldn’t it be common sense to ease them in a little bit and run the ball more?
Particularly when you have an injury and turnover-prone QB? I guess common sense goes out the window when you have 2 mad scientists drawing up the next clever pass play.
Hey Andy and Marty, for the millionth time — run the ball more, would ya?