Super Bowl LVII Comparisons: Running Backs

Bill Streicher, USA Today Sports

Leading up to the Philadelphia Eagles match-up with the Kansas City Chiefs in Arizona, Sports Talk Philly and Eagledelphia will compare the personnel of the two teams each day until gameday is here.

In this edition of our week-long comparison, we will look at the running backs that the Eagles and Chiefs will field for the big game.

Philadelphia RBs | Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, Trey Sermon

Former Penn State running back Miles Sanders, in his fourth season in the league, has been the Eagles “workhorse” back this season. Although there are times where the run game is seemingly non-existent because the team will go entire halves without calling a play to their running backs, Sanders still carried the ball 259 times this season and became the Birds’ first 1000-yard rusher since 2014 by throwing up 1269 yards this season – good for a 4.9 yards per carry average. He added 11 touchdowns despite being rotated more often than a back used like a workhorse normally is and playing with a quarterback who had 13 rushing touchdowns of his own.

Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott have both spelled Sanders throughout games this season with each making over 50 rushing attempts on the year. Gainwell (53 carries, 240 yards, four touchdowns) is the player that adds the most out of the backfield, with 23 receptions for 169 yards. Boston Scott has been the least efficient of the Eagles running backs on the ground this year, but his 54 carries for 217 yards is still over four yards per carry.

In the Divisional Round, Gainwell essentially took over the game when the Eagles began pulling back in order to stay healthy for the Conference Championship game. The back put up 112 yards on just 12 carries (9.3 yards per carry) and a touchdown. He made the Giants defenders look foolish by not only running by them but then stacking up multiple defenders at a time and continuing to push forward through them.

The final back, Trey Sermon, was claimed off waivers at the start of the season and has been a regular on the game day inactive list unless the Eagles have an injury at the position. He has just two rushes for 19 yards this season.

Kansas City RBs | Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, Ronald Jones

A seventh-round pick out of Rutgers, Pacheco became the Chiefs starter after week six when Clyde Edwards-Helaire went down with injury. He has accumulated 802 rushing yards in the 13 games he’s started (including the playoffs). It is notable that with Patrick Mahomes on a bum ankle in the AFC Championship game, Pacheco serves as an outlet in the passing game, as well, making five catches for 59 yards.

McKinnon became the second back after the injury but he has not been as heavily utilized as many other backs. In 19 games he has had only 87 rushes for 317 yards. He was utilized heavily in the divisional round when he received 11 carries, but he gained only 25 yards with that workload.

Pacheco and McKinnon have combined for six touchdowns on the season.

Jones is just two years removed from being the Week 1 starter for a team that went on to win the Super Bowl, but he is an afterthought for the Chiefs. He has appeared in just six games over the course of the season and has only 17 rushing attempts on the year.


Pacheco would be on pace to just break 1000 yards in a season had he played the entire year as the starter. He has served his role well, but the Chiefs have favored their passing game. Similarly, Miles Sanders has been on a team that has favored the pass heavily at times until such a point as they can pull Sanders and the other starters and just run out the clock with Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell. Of course, Sanders had the clear lead in touchdowns at 13 including his performance in the Championship game. The two are fairly close, but Sanders has been the more effective player who his team has relied on at critical moments far more.

Gainwell provides elusiveness and the type of attack in the passing game that none of the Chiefs backs have really show while Scott provides them with a third runner they can have confidence in. For the Chiefs, Jones is a player they’ve avoided using, leaving only McKinnon as their lone backup. He’s fairly comparable to Gainwell and Scott just without the same receiving ability. The additional depth also gives the Eagles an advantage.

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