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Eagles, Murray running into a stone wall

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PHILADELPHIA — Coach Chip Kelly’s run-based spread offense has a tiny problem: it can’t run the ball.

After two games, the Eagles are dead last in the NFL in rushing yards per game (35.0) and yards per carry (2.1).

They fell to 0-2 on Sunday after rushing for only seven yards in a 20-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

DeMarco Murray, the ex-Cowboy running back who the Eagles lured to Philadelphia with a five-year, $40-million contract that includes $18- million in guaranteed money, has 11 yards on 21 carries in two games.

In Sunday’s loss to his old team, he had two yards on 13 carries. Five of those 13 carries went for losses.

The problem? A combination of poor play by the offensive line and opposing defenses getting wise to Kelly’s zone running scheme.

“We didn’t do a great job on our down blocks and sweep game,” Kelly said. “There was obviously too much penetration, whether it was from the defensive end or defensive tackle.”

Kelly traded away 2013 NFL rushing champion LeSean McCoy and signed Murray, the league’s 2014 rushing champion, because he preferred Murray’s downhill running style to McCoy’s Barry Sanders-esque jitterbugging.

But the Eagles’ first two opponents are taking away Murray’s downhill running lanes by getting penetration into the backfield and making him go east-west.

“The biggest thing is we didn’t stop the penetration all night long,” Kelly said.

But it was Kelly, who was given complete control over personnel decisions last January by owner Jeff Lurie, who released his veteran guards — Todd Herremans and All-Pro Evan Mathis — in the offseason and replaced them with journeymen Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner.

“I feel like it can be fixed,” Kelly said. “We’ve had a couple of games here since we’ve been here where we haven’t run the ball well. But we rectified that.”

REPORT CARD V. COWBOYS

RUSHING OFFENSE: F — Either opposing defenses have figured out coach Chip Kelly’s Zone-running scheme or his line isn’t executing worth a damn or, more than likely, both. DeMarco Murray, the Eagles’ $8-million-a-year running back, has rushed for 11 yards on 21 carries in the first two games.

PASSING OFFENSE: F — Two more interceptions and some uncharacteristic poor decisions by quarterback Sam Bradford. Receivers who can’t get open and can’t hang on to the ball when they do. Whatever it was they found in the second half of the Falcons game, they lost it Sunday.

RUN DEFENSE: A-minus — Even without inside linebackers Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks for much of the game, the defense did a good job of shutting down the Cowboys’ running game, particularly when you consider the Eagles’ defenders were on the field for 40 minutes. The Eagles held the Cowboys to 3.3 yards per carry.

PASS DEFENSE: C — The Eagles lost linebacker Kiko Alonso to a left knee injury in the first half, but still did a decent job on tight end Jason Witten, holding him to 56 yards on seven catches. Safety Malcolm Jenkins held slot receiver Cole Beasley to 14 yards on four catches. Cornerback Byron Maxwell didn’t struggle as badly as he did in Week 1, but still gave up a 42-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams late in the game.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D — The Eagles, who turned blocked punts into an art last season, got a taste of their own medicine early in the third quarter when the Cowboys blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown. Kyle Parkey converted a 46-yard field goal attempt. Coverage units were solid, but the punt block was a killer.

COACHING: D -– Chip Kelly appears to be at a loss to figure out what’s wrong with his run-based spread tempo offense. The Eagles had only seven rushing yards in the loss to the Cowboys. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis continues to leave $63-million cornerback Byron Maxwell out on an island in man coverage and Maxwell continues to get beat, giving up another long touchdown catch Sunday.


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