The Philly Special and Brandon Graham’s clutch strip-sack still stick out as two of the game’s most memorable plays. They always will. But it’s the play that actually gave the Eagles their final lead (after falling behind to the Patriots by a score of 33-32) that got The MMQB treatment this week.
On Saturday, Peter King sat down with Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, former Eagles offensive coordinator and now Colts head coach Frank Reich, and Eagles wide receivers coach Mike Groh for a deep dive on Zach Ertz’s Super Bowl-winning touchdown reception. It’s a pretty interesting read. Here’s a snippet to pique your interest:
“This is exactly why we keep a databank of plays,” Pederson said. “We took the Kansas City motion with Sproles, we took the Arizona bunch play against the Rams, and then we came back against the Falcons and moved Ertz out and left the back in the backfield, and then we get to this game, we added the motion, and we just put it all together for this specific defense. This play is a result of what we did all season, and what the coaches researched, taking different things from different plays.”
One more pre-game point: “We’re sitting here talking about this during the week,” said Reich, “and we say, if we shift [Corey Clement] out, and if they cover him in man coverage, and if we get Alshon [Jeffery], and Alshon comes out of the bunch like he’s supposed to, the guy who is covering that motion back might actually run into Alshon’s man.”
A few years ago, doing a Bill Belichick profile for Sports Illustrated, I saw Belichick’s football library. At the time, the library was in Belichick’s Massachusetts home; now it’s housed in the library at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, where Belichick grew up. One of the books, Sun Tsu’s “The Art of War,” seemed a curious inclusion. But Belichick was big on military metaphors. In this book, Sun Tsu wrote, “Every battle is won or lost before it’s ever fought.”
Those are the words I thought of watching Reich run the decisive play back and forth Saturday morning.
Said Groh: “Just like in basketball, right? When you isolate and put everybody on one side of the court and you send Kobe over to go do what he does. Same principle. We knew that they were going to overplay the bunch.”
Pederson, on why he picked this play: “I thought right away, down and distance, situation in the game, boom, that’s the one. I know Ertz is matched up one on one, I know we got that motion. Reppin’ it, and reppin’ it and reppin’ it, and knowing where it was at. And then you just pull the trigger in that situation and let our guys go execute.”
Groh to Reich. Reich and Pederson massaging the play. Play to the play sheet. Pederson to Foles. Foles to Ertz.
Definitely give the entire column a read. It sheds light on more than just a single play. The piece goes into detail about how the play originates and then makes it to game action. The people and processes involved.
A few of my takeaways after reading through:
- Part of what makes Doug Pederson great is his ability to be so open-minded. It’s not about ego or taking all the credit with him. He trusts in his players and his assistants to help him. That’s empowering and rewarding.
- Frank Reich had a key role in filtering information from offensive assistants to Pederson. The Eagles’ new offensive coordinator will need to have a strong relationship with Doug and a good feel for what’s worth bringing to the table.
- Mike Groh seems more involved in the Eagles’ offense than your average wide receivers coach. Considering he served as a passing game coordinator with the Rams in 2016, this isn’t a big surprise. This column also sheds light on why Groh is considered to be in line for a promotion to quarterbacks coach (or even offensive coordinator?) this offseason.
After reading King’s column, it’s no surprise why the Eagles had such a good offense in 2017. This was a well-oiled machine that was very prepared heading into nearly every game. The Eagles had strong game plans, a very good play-caller, and quality talent to execute it all.
The hope is that this process will continue to serve the Eagles well in the future. At the very least, it got them to one Super Bowl win. And that’s not too shabby.