There were a bevy of standout performances from the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles in their upset win over the Los Angeles Rams. None of those were bigger or stood taller than day put together by the 5’9 1/8”, 184-pound Avonte Maddox. While Fletcher Cox’s dominance should be considered, no one for either team played better than the fourth-round rookie.
What Maddox has been asked to do is no easy task. He battled for a spot at nickel in training camp and preseason, was forced to switch to a starting safety role in mid-season, and coming back from a knee injury suffered in Week 11, he was asked to start at outside corner. With how well he held up, it’s no wonder Jim Schwartz has praised Maddox in the past for being mature beyond his years.
At his size, it doesn’t make sense that he would be as dynamic as he’s been. Forget covering a 6’3” receiver like Josh Reynolds or corralling a 224-pound Todd Gurley, his 1st percentile 29 1/2” arms make you wonder if he has issues folding sheets. Still, the determined Maddox finds a way to get the job done time-in time-out.
From the outset Maddox assuaged any concerns over his ability to make plays from the outside. On the third play of the game on 3rd & 11, he announced that he was not going to be picked on in a difficult coverage assignment that many have bungled this year.
Looks like Cover 3 Cloud; Avonte Maddox does a wonderful job leveraging his zone. In a position to come down but also gets great depth to tip this ball (oh Michael Bennett is really good) - pic.twitter.com/o1IPO3mR4F— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) December 17, 2018
That’s a textbook play from his flat responsibility. There’s no need for Maddox to run deep early or to take the cheese in the flats. He has the short area explosion to make either play and puts himself in a position to do so.
The Eagles would go down early by a score of 6-7 and with the Rams threatening around midfield, Maddox would shut the door on another drive. Before the snap, you could hear quarterback Jared Goff saying to Josh Reynolds, “blaze out, blaze out”. This is a vertical route that threatens the post and snaps back to the sideline. It’s a high difficulty route to cover that has made many a corner look foolish, but Maddox has safety help and cat-like quickness.
Reynolds widens his initial stem before flattening, trying to turn the hips of Maddox. Knowing he has deep safety help inside, Maddox stays disciplined in his technique and is there step-for-step with him. He’s also quick to close and comes up with a fantastic concentration catch for the interception.
Maddox had three tackles on Todd Gurley for the day, but none was more important than the one that came during the Rams’ last gasp. With 0:20 on the clock in the fourth and the Eagles clinging to a one-score lead, he came up big again.
That’s a 40-pound weight advantage nullified and a crucial play that would force the Rams to spike the ball with only 0:05 remaining.
On the next play Jim Schwartz would troll the world by running cover 0 “picket fence”, leaving Maddox one-on-one with Reynolds again. Maddox was sticky in coverage again and the ball from Goff would sail over their heads. Game over.
Per Pro Football Focus, Maddox played 57 snaps in coverage, was targeted 6 times, and allowed 1 catch for 8 yards while grabbing an interception. His QB Rating when targeted was zero. For that reason and the reasons stated above, my Game Ball goes to Avonte Maddox.