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Ajayi key to Eagles running the ball

Sports Xchange
11 Jan 2018, 11:54 GMT+10

PHILADELPHIA -- Without Carson Wentz, the Philadelphia Eagles know they must be able to run the ball Saturday in their divisional-round playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons.

The good news is they have the one and only running back to rush for 100-plus yards against the Falcons defense this season -- Jay Ajayi.

Ajayi wasn't with the Eagles at the time. He still was with the Miami Dolphins in Week 5 when he put up 130 yards on 26 carries in a 20-17 win over the Falcons. The Eagles acquired him at the trade deadline in late October for a conditional fourth-round draft pick.

Ajayi said Wednesday that his success against the Falcons earlier this season should be an advantage for him Saturday.

"It's good that we're playing them because I've seen the defense before," he said. "I'm familiar with it. I've been using the experience of having played them earlier this year, just remembering some of the things that worked and other things that we can fix."

The Falcons used a lot of eight-men-in the-box against the Dolphins that day, and likely will do the same thing Saturday against the Eagles.

"You have to have a plan for that extra defender in the box," Ajayi said. "At the same time, it's like, if you can get through that wave of defenders in the box, then there's going to be a lot of space. It's kind of pick your poison for the defense."

The Eagles finished third in the league in rushing this season, averaging 132.2 yards a game. During their nine-game win streak from Week 3 to 11, they averaged 161.9 rushing yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry.

But they weren't nearly as productive in their final five regular-season games. They averaged 98.4 rushing yards per game and 4.0 yards per carry in those games.

The Eagles had just 19 rushing first downs in their final four games and didn't have a rushing touchdown in their last six games.

Ajayi averaged 7.0 yards per carry in his first five games with the Eagles, but only 3.9 in his last two.

He had 10 rushing first downs and nine double-digit-yard runs on 44 carries in those first five games, and just two rushing first downs and three double-digit-yard runs in 26 carries in his last two games.

Ajayi has arthritic knees, which likely will shorten his career. The Eagles kept him out of their meaningless Week 17 game against Dallas and rested him the first couple of days of practice during the playoff bye week.

But he said Wednesday he's feeling fine and will not be limited Saturday against the Falcons.

"I feel good," he said. "I've been working diligently with the training staff and doing my usual routine of making sure I'm fresh for the games. It's been a long season, but I hope it gets longer."

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