Eagles’ unstoppable run game destroys Giants

When Shane Steichen smells blood, he’ll kill you.

The more successful the Eagles were at getting the ball down the Giants’ throats Saturday night, the more the Eagles’ offensive coordinator could mobilize the run offense.

When the smoke cleared, the Eagles rushed for 268 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-7 win over the Giants in the NFC semifinals in Linc.

They keep doing it, and the Giants can’t stop it. In the middle of the night, the Giants didn’t even try.

“The running back was hitting the hole and going downhill hard,” Dallas Goldett said. “It was fun being there.”

In the first half, it was all Miles Sanders. He carried 13 carries for 75 yards before halftime. In the second half, it was all Kenny Gainewell. After halftime, he carried nine carries for 90 yards.

Gainwell recorded his first career 100-yard performance with 112 yards on just 12 carries — the first time a running back has rushed for 12 or fewer in the playoffs 4 yards — Sanders went 17 for 90 with just four carries for the second half. Boston Scott went 6-for-32 with a touchdown.

Talk about a three-headed monster.

“It was a 1-2-3 shot,” Gainwell said. “Just going out and handling business. We worked really hard in practice and it all paid off.”

Gainwell is the fifth Eagles running back to rush for 100 yards in the playoffs, joining Steve Van Buren, Wilbert Montgomery, Heath Sherman and Brian Westbrook.

The Eagles’ 268 rushing yards are the second-best in Eagles playoff history. They ran for 274 runs against the Rams when they won the 1949 NFL title at the Los Angeles Coliseum. It’s also the 16th-best among all teams in playoff history.

It was also the most rushing yards in a playoff game against the Giants, breaking the previous record of 246 yards set by the Lions in the 1935 NFL championship game at Detroit University Stadium.

There’s nothing like breaking an 87-year record.

In the Eagles’ first 89 years against the Giants, the Eagles ran for 250 yards five times against the Giants. They’ve done it twice in the past seven weeks. In December’s 48-22 win, the Eagles rushed for 253 yards and four touchdowns.

Overall, the Eagles have rushed for 656 yards and eight touchdowns in three wins over the Giants this year, and they’ve had a different lead rusher in each game — Dec. Sanders in the 48-22 win, Scott two weeks ago and Gainwell on Saturday night.

Ask any running back the key to success in the running game and they’ll give you the same answer.

“(o-line), first and foremost,” Sanders said. “I’ve come here to say the same thing, but I’ve been amazed by what they’ve done all week and what they’ve prepared with Coach Stott. … When we know we’re going to have a chance to run the ball, ( line) and the running back makes a statement on his own every time.

Eagles become the eighth team in NFL history to have two players rush for 90 or more yards in the playoffs and average 5.0 yards per carry, and the fourth team with three players to average 5.0 yards per carry The team with the ball for 5.0 yards and 6 or more carries.

Gainwell’s 35-yard touchdown with two minutes left was the fourth-longest in Eagles playoff history, trailing only Wilbert Montgomery’s 42 yards in the 1980 NFC Championship Game win over the Cowboys, and Brian Westbrook hit two consecutive six-day touchdowns in 2006 — 49 yards against the Giants at the Linc and 62 against the Saints at the Superdome.

“Everyone knows I’m the third-best defender, but I’m grateful for every opportunity to help the team,” Gainwell said. “I know my role and I play my part to the best of my ability.”

Gainwell is just the sixth fifth-round pick in history to rush for 112 yards in a playoff game, and is the only one since Packers eagle Dorsey Livings in a 1999 Western Conference semifinal loss to the Candlesticks. First since rushing for 116 yards against the 49ers.

Thanks in large part to the running offense, the Hawks have an 11.5-minute possession advantage. Their three rushing TDs tied the franchise record set in the 1980 win over the Vikings.

Their 6.1 scoring average ranks fifth in postseason history among teams with at least 44 passes and is the highest in 25 years.

The Eagles earned their seventh chance at the NFC Championship Game since 2001. They will host the winner of the Cowboys-49ers game in Santa Clara on Sunday.

“It’s a win-or-go-home mentality,” Sanders said. “Everybody knows what’s at stake in this type of game. We have to play our best ball, and that’s what we’ve tried to preach and do every single game all season.

“We still don’t think we hit our best ball. Nice to get this ‘W’. Still hungry, we’re not done yet.”

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