Les Bowen: Marty Mornhinweg says Eagles' offense will remain aggressive

Posted: September 28, 2012

MARTY Mornhinweg was just baiting us Thursday.

Reporters kept asking the Eagles' offensive coordinator about taking a more conservative approach, in light of a dozen turnovers in three games (one of them on a punt return, granted). Mornhinweg was defiant, resolute.

"We go after people, now," Mornhinweg said. "Look, look, look - I tell the players, we're going to be aggressive. You can be aggressive in the running game or the passing game, but we're going to be aggressive. I want them to be aggressive. I want them to play without the fear of mistakes. And if you make a mistake, we find the solution, we correct it, and we move on - fast. Once you get that thing motoring pretty good - and I think we're closer than it appears - then you're in pretty good shape, both run and pass."

Mornhinweg was deluged with questions about the running game, which disappeared, as it is wont to do in Andy Reid's offense, during the critical first half of last Sunday's loss at Arizona. As Mornhinweg refused to acknowledge he'd made a huge misclaculation - he pointed out that the Birds got only 30 snaps in the first half, and 11 of them came on the 2-minute-drill drive that ended with the Michael Vick fumble returned for a TD - you could sense questioners coming to the conclusion that nothing was going to change, that the Eagles would try to beat the Giants the way they tried to beat the Cards, with long passes behind a patchwork offensive line, into the teeth of a lethal pass rush.

Asked if turnovers would lead him to run the ball more, Mornhinweg said: "Sure, you can do that, unless you're down by 17 or 24 certainly."

Before we get too wound up here, Mornhinweg isn't going to tell us on Thursday what his plan for Sunday might be. And, more to the point, LeSean McCoy has run for more than 100 yards in three of the last four meetings between the Giants and Eagles. In fact, that's more 100-yard games than Shady has compiled against any other opponent.

Here is a passage from the Daily News game story Sept. 26, 2011, the day after the Eagles' 29-16 loss to the Giants at the Linc: "The Giants entered the day ranked 24th in the NFL against the pass, but Reid's strategy was to run at them, eight times in a row on one drive."

So, let's not assume another evening of Vick running for his life from the pass rush. The truth is, Reid extolled the benefits of balance this week. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo noted that the Giants' offense got back on track after its loss to Dallas (in which New York gained 23 first-half rushing yards) by running more effectively. And the Eagles historically have tried to put the brakes on the Giants' fierce front four pass rush by running at it.

The closest Mornhinweg came to contrition Thursday over the Arizona gameplan was in explaining about the limited first-half snaps and the 2-minute drill. Overall, he said, the Eagles' approach this season has not been unbalanced.

"It's not out of whack. I think it was eight to three  . . . We're 62 percent pass overall and somewhere around 52 percent or 50 percent run-pass on first down. Overall, it's pretty good," Mornhinweg said.

He acknowledged that like everyone else, he was unhappy to find the Eagles had attempted 25 passing plays and five called runs in the first half.

"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," Mornhinweg said. "Look, if I had that game to play over again - which you don't - in hindsight, yeah, I would have done it just a little bit differently. We certainly thought going in that we had a heckuva gameplan . . . We certainly could have slowed it down just a little bit and made sure we got the communication part done well, and run the ball a little bit more, certainly, absolutely."

What Mornhinweg didn't say, but could have said, is that people who contend you have to run to set up the pass are stuck in a time warp. The Giants won the Super Bowl last season. Their rank in NFL rushing for 2011? Last. The year before, the Packers won it all. They were 24th in the NFL in rushing.

The Super Bowl generally is won these days by the team that is throwing the ball the best, not by the team that is running it the best. But running probably will get more than a nod Sunday, because we aren't playing the Super Bowl this week. The Eagles are tied for last in the NFL in scoring. They need to take some pressure off Vick, build some consistency and rhythm in their offense. Yeah, they will take shots - the Giants' current corners are unproven, New York is tied for 22nd in pass defense - but it also seems very likely the Eagles will want to feed the Giants a pretty strong diet of McCoy.

McCoy brought some added focus to that situation this week when his remarks about Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora in a summer interview with "E:60" were publicized - McCoy calling Umenyiora "a ballerina in a Giants uniform." The remarks, which renewed a lingering feud, have been publicized this week as if McCoy had chosen the week of the Giants game to deliver them - which he did not - but of course, he still said what he said.

"That's kind of old," McCoy noted. "There's no excuses for it. I'm looking past that, man. They're a good defense. That's what I'm worried about. He's part of that defense, and they're talented up front. They've got some guys who can make plays.

"It's a big game. I don't think me and him havin' fun going back and forth is going to make it any bigger. We're fighting for first place. It's a division game. It's a Sunday night game, at that. It's going to be tons of fun."

Contact Les Bowen at bowenl@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LesBowen. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' blog at eagletarian.com.

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