‘Brotherly Shove’ Dividing NFL As Eagles Face Commanders – Barron’s

A perfectly legitimate piece of innovative tactical genius or an abomination that should be legislated out of existence?

As the NFL season approaches its halfway point, a nearly unbeatable Philadelphia Eagles offensive play nicknamed the “Brotherly Shove” or “Tush Push” continues to divide opinion across the sport.

On Sunday, the Washington Commanders will become the latest team to attempt what is arguably the most futile exercise in American football — stopping the Eagles from converting on short yardage situations.

For the uninitiated, the play goes something like this: the Eagles’ powerfully built rushing quarterback Jalen Hurts lines up behind All-Pro center Jason Kelce with two or three players behind him.

When the ball is snapped, Hurts surges forward behind Kelce, with team-mates driving him forward from behind. Hurts invariably comes up from the ensuing pile of bodies with a first down, or a touchdown.

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Critics have derided the play — which is within the rules — as being more akin to something from rugby, arguing that it carries an unacceptable risk of injury, and should be banned.

“The Tush Push is not a legitimate football play,” wrote NFL commentator Joe Schad. “It’s not how football was meant to be played … nobody except Eagles fans will miss it once it’s banned.”

The Eagles are, unsurprisingly, unapologetic about the play. Last Sunday, the team deployed it successfully four times in a 31-17 victory over Miami.

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The ‘shove’ has been so dominant that some analysts say it rewrites the sport’s fundamental dynamics. It effectively means Philadelphia need to gain only nine yards on their first three downs, rather than ten, because they know, if push comes to shove, they can gain the necessary tenth yard on fourth down.

“There are very few things you can take to the bank in the NFL — this is clearly one of them,” said Fox TV pundit Greg Olsen, a former Carolina Panthers tight end.

Washington defensive co-ordinator Jack Del Rio is on record as wanting the play banned.

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“I would personally like to see it eliminated,” Del Rio said earlier this season. “I don’t think that’s a football play. I think that’s a nice rugby play, and not what we’re looking for in football.”

Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni dismisses the criticism as sour grapes, maintaining that every other team in the league would copy the play if they had the personnel capable of running it so successfully.

“You’ve seen it across the league that people can’t do it like we can do it,” Sirianni said.

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“They can’t do it like we can do it. And so I’m making my plug right there: don’t ban this play.

“If everybody could do it, everybody would do it.”

The Eagles, beaten in last year’s Super Bowl, will no doubt use the play again if they have to on Sunday as they seek to tighten their grip on the NFC East with a win over Washington that would see them improve to 7-1.

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Elsewhere in week eight, the San Francisco 49ers (5-2) will host the Cincinnati Bengals (3-3) looking to bounce back from consecutive losses on the road to Cleveland and Minnesota.

The 49ers had looked to be building formidable momentum after a 42-10 demolition of Dallas in early October, but have faltered.

The Niners may face going into Sunday’s clash with the Bengals without quarterback Brock Purdy, who was placed in the concussion protocol this week following Monday’s 22-17 loss to the Vikings.

The Bengals meanwhile can ill afford to lose further ground in the AFC North. After reaching the AFC Championship game for the past two seasons. The Bengals are propping up the AFC North behind Baltimore (5-2), Pittsburgh (4-2) and Cleveland (4-2).

Baltimore could extend their lead at the top of the division on Sunday with a win over the Steelers at Pittsburgh.

In other games, the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs (6-1) will try to keep rolling in a divisional match-up against the Denver Broncos, who are bottom of the AFC West with a 2-5 record.


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