It’s been awhile since I’ve had time to sit down and put together a film review, but fortunately I had some time to go over the offense’s effort in the win. I chose to do the offense because it was the biggest question coming into the playoffs, and heading into the the NFC Championship Game, it will remain the biggest question.
Before getting started, I want to point out that Doug Pederson and the rest of the offensive staff put together an outstanding gameplan, not just with schematics, but how they set plays up throughout the game. Below, I’ll take a look at how he did so.
On the first play of the game, the Eagles sent Nelson Agholor in jet-motion pre-snap. What this does is two things: it helps indicate what coverage the defense is playing and it can also get a defense flowing from side-to-side, setting up misdirection. The throw itself wasn’t optimal, as Torrey Smith actually had a step on his man, but the wind at the Linc on Saturday hindered both teams’ ability to throw deep down the field. The play resulted in a pass interference and showed early that the Eagles were going to be aggressive.
The Eagles again used jet-motion in the play above to set up their play-action screen. The Falcons were in man coverage, but the window dressing forced their speedy linebackers to hold on the play while the offensive linemen were able to slip out and block for Jay Ajayi. Again, the point of the motions and window dressings are to get a defense flowing one way or to take their eyes off their read keys that tell them what to do.
The play above is why you stick with the window dressing. This was a fantastic play call that epitomizes what it really means for a coach to gameplan and call an excellent game. Coming into the game, Doug Pederson knew that the Falcons had an aggressive, fast defense and that he could play to their tendencies. An example of this was on display earlier this season when the Eagles played the Broncos. Doug Pederson and the offensive coaching staff noticed that Aqib Talib had a tendency to peak in the backfield, so they drew up a play that exposed that tendency, resulting in a touchdown.
The previous plays I’ve shown were setting the Falcons up, because eventually they’re going to react to what they think they see, losing discipline. This defense has a tendency to flow in the wrong direction, and Pederson game planned for that.
Above, the Falcons fall for the fake toss — specifically linebacker Deion Jones — which vacates the left side for the Eagles. Lane Johnson pulls across on the tackle power — more on that in a moment — which paves the way for Nelson Agholor’s big run that puts the Eagles offense inside the five yard line.
This was similar to what the Chiefs were doing on offense this year, running plays throughout the game to set up a big play that preyed on a tendency or lack of discipline. Kareem Hunt’s touchdown run against the Eagles in Week 2 was an example of this, as was Travis Kelce’s. When you consistently show a defense different things, you can set them up and manipulate them.
This is another example of setting an offense up with motion. Whenever you don’t hand off on sweeps, or you burn a team with motions, they’ll likely tighten up. With the offensive line flowing left, Agholor comes across and gets the handoff — technically a pass — from Nick Foles. As he’s coming across you’ll notice his man hesitates as the offensive line starts blocking left. Agholor takes advantage of the hesitation and gets the edge just enough to pick up a first down.
Another point of emphasis for the Eagles offense was their size advantage. The Falcons possessed speed on their defense, but that came with the tradeoff of size. The Eagles exploited the Falcons a year ago by getting their offensive linemen up to the second level on the linebackers to spring free some running lanes.
On Saturday they did just that on a concept they’ve ran all year long, tackle power. In this concept, they pull the offensive tackle across the formation to use as a lead blocker. Most team typically pull a guard, but the Eagles have the athleticism at the tackle positions to pull either tackle across and use them to lead the way. They did that on the play above, but unfortunately Jay Ajayi fumbled the ball.
Above, the Eagles run tackle power again, pulling Lane Johnson across the formation to block the edge linebacker in the Falcons “Bear” front.
One player who I thought had a phenomenal game despite the box score was Trey Burton. In the play above he is the end man on the left side of the clip (#88). He comes down and blocks the Falcons’ run stuffing behemoth Dontari Poe and holds his own, taking him out of the play.
On the Eagles’ only touchdown of the game, Trey Burton made a key block. On the play above, the Eagles lined Burton up as a fullback and ran with Brandon Brooks on the guard lead. Burton makes fantastic block on 4th down that gives LeGarrette Blount enough space to get into the end zone.
The final Burton play I want to show is a play that he never had a chance to make. This was just Nick Foles missing Burton, but he gave Keanu Neal a nice move to break back to the corner, becoming a wide-open target.
In all likelihood Burton will be leaving Philadelphia when the season ends. His contract is up and when the Eagles have needed him in Zach Ertz’s absence, he’s been stellar. As I mentioned, his impact doesn’t alway show up in the boxscore, but he makes winning plays.
The Eagles didn’t force the ball down field on Saturday, but justifiably so. The elements were a factor and Nick Foles doesn’t have the arm to hit tight windows on a consistent basis against a defense with as much speed as Atlanta’s. To counter that, the Eagles factored in more screens and short throws in well designed concepts that isolated their skill position players in space. The Falcons’ defensive philosophy is single-high, which usually means cover 1 or cover 3. The weakness in cover 3 is the underneath zones. In a two deep look, you’ll typically have five underneath defenders, but in a three-deep look, that is cut down to four, making tackling in space important.
In the play above, the Falcons came out in a two deep shell, but rolled into cover 3 post-snap. The Eagles, out of empty, run their patented slot-fade to the right side of the formation with the inside receiver running a whip route. On the left side of the formation the receiver to the boundaries running a go route, clearing out the cornerback, leaving Zach Ertz one-on-one with his defender in a zone. Ertz is able to sell his route — aided by the defender slipping — picking up a few yards after the missed tackle.
The play above is another example of forcing the Falcons to make a tackle in space. Initially the Eagles have two eligible receiver to the left —a tight end and the running back — but Nick Foles motions a receiver from the right side of the formation, snapping the ball quickly. What this does is does is force the defense into a 2-on-3 situation and they have to worry about the receivers going deep. This allows the running back — Corey Clement — to leak out into the flat and gain yards after the catch in a vacated zone.
This play doesn’t feature the pre-snap motion or quick snap, but it does cause a numbers and spacing dilemma for the Falcons. The routes from the two receivers on the line of scrimmage drive the defenders away from Clement who catches another pass out of the backfield.
The Eagles’ offense was more dink and dunk in the passing game than what it has been throughout the year, but that was out of necessity. Doug Pederson and the offensive staff did an excellent job game planning for the Falcon over the bye week. Despite three fumbles — one that took the Eagles out of field goal range and another that was recovered by the Falcons in field goal range —the Eagles executed an efficient gameplan that could’ve easily netted them a double digit win.
With the Vikings on the horizon, the task doesn't get any easier. Minnesota has a much better, more disciplined defense, but this season has been one test of adversity after another for the Eagles. If Saturday was any indication, they’ll be ready for the Vikings on Sunday.
If you enjoyed this breakdown, you can find more of my work attached below
This week I broke down various staples of the Eagles’ offense— Tyler Jackson (@TjackRH) November 17, 2017
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