EAGLES TO NFL: DON'T TAKE OUR TUSH PUSH AWAY!
Imitation is supposed to be the sincerest form of flattery. If that’s the case, then Eagles coach Nick Sirianni should be very flattered by the growing number of teams that are using the Tush Push.
Pushing a runner to advance him forward has been legal in the NFL since 2005. Yet, until the Eagles began doing their choreographed version of the Tush Push early last season, no team really took advantage of the rule change. Oh, there was a push here and a push there to help a runner. But nobody practiced the play and took it to the advanced level that the Eagles have. Even now, the Tush Push may be imitated, but it’s not been duplicated.
Last year, the Eagles converted 29 of 33 quarterback sneaks with the Tush Push. Jalen Hurts was 28-for-31 and his backup, Gardner Minshew, was 1-for-2 in the two games he started for Hurts. This year, it’s impossible to overstate the significance of the Tush Push to the Eagles’ offense. Consider: --Through nine games, they have converted 21 of 23 quarterback sneaks with the Tush Push. That doesn’t include a seven-yard touchdown run by running back D’Andre Swift on a pitch from Jalen Hurts out of the Tush Push formation in their 38-31 Week 8 win over Washington. The only two times they’ve failed to convert a first down with the Tush Push was in Week 3 against Tampa Bay on a third-and-1 at the Bucs one-yard line when Hurts was stopped for no gain (the Eagles went for it on fourth-and-one and Hurts scored with the Tush Push), and in that
Week 8 win over the Commanders when Hurts fumbled the snap on a Tush Push play at the Washington one-yard line. They are 8-for-8 with the Tush Push on fourth-and-1, 9-for-10 on third-and-1, 2-for-2 on second-and-1 and 2-for-3 on first-and-1. --Six of Hurts’ seven rushing touchdowns have come on Tush Pushes. --Thirteen of the Eagles’ 16 Tush Push sneaks that haven’t resulted in touchdowns have gained two or more yards. “We’re very confident in the play,’’ Sirianni said. “We trust it and we believe in it. The whole organization has confidence in this play. “It’s (like it’s) first-and-9 every down. Knowing that if you get to fourth and one, shoot, (we have) a lot of faith in the play.’’ That’s been pretty clear by Sirianni’s willingness to use the Tush Push anywhere on the field in any circumstance.
In the fourth quarter of the Eagles’ 31-17 Week 7 win over Miami, Sirianni went for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 26 with a seven-point lead. Four plays later, he went for it again on fourth-and-1 from his own 37. Both times, Hurts picked up two yards and a first down with the Tush Push.
The Eagles eventually scored on the drive to take a 14-point lead. The Eagles have the best third-down success rate in the league, converting 50 percent of their third-down opportunities. They also have the best fourth-down success rate (76.5%), converting 13 of 17 fourth-down tries, including 8-for-8 with the Tush Push. Twenty-one of the Eagles’ 83 rushing first downs, or 25.3 percent, have been with the Tush Push. Hurts is second in the league in rushing first downs with 39, just five behind 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey. All but 18 of those first downs by Hurts have been on Tush Pushes. “It’s not easy to get to third-and-one or fourth-and-one,’’ Sirianni said. “But we’re there quite a bit. It’s because our guys have done a good job of putting themselves in that position on first and second down and sometimes third down.’’ The reason the Eagles have been so successful with the Tush Push is the people involved.
Center Jason Kelce and left guard Landon Dickerson execute it brilliantly. Hurts, a 600-plus-pound deadlifter, has the lower body strength of a Buick. And the tight ends, running backs and wide receivers that have been responsible for pushing Hurts have done their part well. “I’m making my plug (to the league) right here,’’ Sirianni said after the Eagles went 4-for-4 on Tush Pushes against the Dolphins. “Don’t ban this play. Like, if everyone could do it, everyone would do it.’’ The Eagles have started to run offshoots of the Tush Push to prevent teams from stacking the middle.
Earlier this season, Hurts faked a sneak and slid to his left and ran behind left tackle Jordan Mailata for a three-yard gain. Against Washington, he pitched the ball to Swift who took it around the left side for a score. They’ve shifted offensive linemen, moving right tackle Lane Johnson to the left side a couple of times. It’s only a matter of time before they take the sneak and throw from the Tush Push formation. Many people thought the league might ban the Tush Push after the 2022 season. Rich McKay, the chairman of the NFL’s competition committee, said there was some discussion about banning it, but no rule was ultimately proposed. The key will be whether the competition committee thinks the play is dangerous. The Eagles haven’t gotten anybody hurt doing it. But the New York Giants had two players – center John Michael Schmitz and tight end Daniel Bellinger – injured on a fourth-and-one Tush Push in a game earlier this season against Seattle. “There will be more data (gathered), whether there’s injuries or not,’’ McKay said. “There will be teams that will have an opinion. Last year, we did talk about it a lot. There were enough teams to say it’s one year. Let’s leave it alone and see what happens. So we did, and I’m sure it’ll be back again.’’ Given how important a weapon it’s become to their offense, the Eagles aren’t going to stand idly by and let the league ban it. *
Paul Domowitch has a podcast called "Birds Report" that can be seen and heard on YouTube at A2D Radio, or on Facebook.