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Dan Levy
Sports Media Guru

Dan Levy

The host of On the DL with new episodes every weekday.

It's All About Touches

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There are two simple truths in Philadelphia: Brian Westbrook is the Eagles best offensive player and Andy Reid hates to run the football. You'd think, with your best player being a running back, your team may focus on the ground game. Like Minnesota does.

But in Philly, Reid has convinced himself that the short passing game is equivalent to the run game, and as long as B-West gets "touches" it doesn't matter if they come via handoff, wildcat or screen.

The Eagles ran 1,056 offensive plays this season. Nearly 60% of those plays were pass attempts. In fact, the Eagles only rushed the ball 427 times all season. But Westbrook had the bulk of those carries, despite missing two games to injury (and being quite ineffective in another two because of the same injury). B-West accounted for 54.6% of the Eagles rushes (233 for 936 yards) and coupled with his 54 receptions (for 402 yards) Wesbrook was had the ball in his hands during 27.2% of the Eagles offensive plays, accounting for 1,338 total yards from scrimmage, or 23.9% of the offense.

That's a lot. But here's the odd thing. Westbrook's success had little effect on the Eagles success. He only eclipsed the 100-yard mark for total offense FIVE TIMES this year and in those games the Birds were 3-2. In games that Westbrook played and was held to under 100 yards, the team was 5-3-1.

People say that a benefit to Westbrook being on the field is that even when he doesn't have the ball, he provides a great decoy. For the Vikings, there is no decoy. Give the ball to AD...All Day.

Adrian Peterson rushed for a league-leading 1760 yards in an offense so run-oriented they aren't even sure who their quarterback is week to week. But it doesn't matter, as Peterson has remained the focus of the offense all year. His 363 carries account for 69.9% of the Vikings rush attempts and adding in his 21 receptions for 125 yards, he has the ball in his hands a remarkable 37.9% of the time. His 1885 total yards not only lead the league for non-quarterbacks but also account for 35.6% of total yards for the Vikings.

Thirty-five percent of a team's total offense. From a running back.

Peterson averaged over 117 yards per game. He was only held to less than 100 yards of total offense five times this season. The Vikings were 3-2 in those games. In games AD eclipsed the 100-yard mark, the Vikings are 7-4, including wins in four of their last five games.

Perception might be that Westbrook is the most valuable player in the game. But with Peterson getting nearly four more touches per game and accounting for so much more of his teams offense, no team's success is more closely tethered to one player. The Eagles can win this game without Westbrook. If Peterson doesn't get on track, it'll be a long day - All Day - for the Vikes.

By Dan Levy  |  December 30, 2008; 8:20 PM ET  | Category:  Minnesota Vikings , Philadelphia Eagles Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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