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Eagles All-22 Film Review: Takeaways from the win over the Steelers

Closer look at how Philadelphia was able to comfortably beat Pittsburgh.

NFL: OCT 30 Steelers at Eagles Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

That might be the most comfortable Eagles game I’ve ever watched. This team is really, really good. This is a fun one to break down, especially the passing game on offense, so let’s just get straight into it.


Passing Offense

The Eagles have been extremely efficient in recent weeks but the passing game has felt limited. This game felt like a statement from Jalen Hurts and the offense to prove that they can still go downfield and be aggressive when they need to. This was my favorite game of the season from an offensive point of view and I wouldn’t say there was anything unique scheme-wise in the passing game (except for a few cool unbalanced looks and some designs building on the basic RPOs they normally use), but the Eagles took advantage of having elite players at multiple positions and being better than the opposition. This was much more a ‘traditional’ passing attack that featured a number of isolation routes on the outside down the field against a team that plays a lot of man coverage.

Let’s start by looking at each touchdown throw from Jalen Hurts. The Eagles line up in pistol with 2 tight ends which suggests a run but they run dagger (a deep dig with a vertical route) and the deep dig is wide open. Hurts for some reason decides to throw it deep to AJ Brown who bails out his quarterback with a contested catch. That’s what wide receiver 1’s do for you! I’m obviously happy with the result and I love the fact that Hurts was aggressive in this game but I would be shocked if the coaching staff are happy with this decision and I imagine the next time the Eagles run this concept, the throw will be to the deep dig!

Touchdown 2 is my favorite from the game (which you already know if you listened to the BGN Instant Reaction show!) because it showed the Eagles dealing with a blitz. Firstly, I was very glad to see the Eagles line up with the receivers outside and not in a reduced split because it was far easier to see where the blitz is coming from. The Steelers like to play a lot of man coverage and Hurts can clearly see that this looks like tight man coverage with a single-high safety due to the alignments of the cornerbacks. The Steelers can’t really shade a safety to AJ Brown’s side too much because that would leave DeVonta Smith completely alone on the left side of the field.

The Eagles decide not to have a hot route but rather than releasing all 5 receivers, they leave Kenneth Gainwell into block and also ask Dallas Goedert to chip before releasing. I know Goedert is an exceptional receiving option but the Eagles had to change what they were doing against the blitz and this is a suitable compromise. After picking up the blitz, it’s just one-on-one on the outside and AJ Brown and Hurts delivers an absolute dime of a throw to AJ Brown with perfect timing, touch, and ball placement. Hurts throws the ball exceptionally well outside the numbers which is why it was so pleasing to see the Eagles go down the field again.

The Eagles have really good players and sometimes as a coach, the best thing you can do is give your best players a chance to make a play. Football is really complicated, but sometimes it can be easy too. Just put your best players in positions where they can make a play. That’s what Nick Sirianni/Shane Steichen did here.

The next touchdown is another perfect deep shot to AJ Brown but it’s a totally different design. The Eagles line up with all 3 WRs on one side which suggests a bubble screen RPO which is exactly what the Eagles fake. The Steelers (having already been burned twice) have decided to play split-safety 2 deep coverage here but the safety still can’t get over. It’s excellent game-planning and the Eagles are taking advantage of how successful they are with the RPO game by forcing defenses to overcompensate. The Eagles do nothing complicated but they just do the basics extremely well and this put their elite offensive weapon, AJ Brown, in multiple situations where he could beat one-on-one coverage. This is another superb throw by Hurts who continues to impress.

This touchdown is also fantastic. Sirianni/Steichen do such a good job of using personnel to confuse the defense and this is another outstanding example. The Eagles have AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith lined up on the same side, which forces the safety over to that side. On the other side, they have Zach Pascal (who only ever runs short routes or blocks) and Dallas Goedert. They fake a screen to Goedert (which they love to throw) and both defensive backs just bite hard on the fake. Yes, it’s bad defense. But by using Pascal and by lining up AJ Brown and Smith on the other side you are making it really hard on the defense. It’s just outstanding game planning.

I don’t always start with the touchdowns, but I felt this week it made sense to look at them first. One thing I liked from a scheme point of view was how the Eagles set up the deep shots to AJ Brown on the first drive of the game. Although this play was dropped, this was one of a few comebacks they threw to the outside on the first drive and I imagine they wanted to force the Steelers cornerbacks to start playing more aggressively which enabled them to take some deep shots later on.

We all know how the RPO stuff works by now so I won’t break down many, but I thought this one was cool as the Eagles continue to add wrinkles to their RPO game. Firstly, I love how we all just knew Sirianni would go for it on 4th and 2. Give me an aggressive coach all day long, especially on a team that excels in short-yardage. Normally, the Eagles run these plays to the right as Hurts throws better on the move to his right, but they run this one to the left and it’s just so hard to stop for a defense. Goedert fakes the block and releases to the flat and number 34 just bites ever so slightly on the fake from Hurts and that’s all it takes. The Steelers actually play this pretty well with the safety coming up from deep to take Hurts (which leaves absolutely no one deep) but 34 hesitates a second and that’s all it takes!

The Eagles also picked up the blitz really well on 2nd down late in the 1st quarter and Hurts biggest improvement from last year to this year is his ability to make these throws on time. I think having confidence in an elite receiver has really helped him make the step to the next level. The pass protection here is really strong and even Sanders does a great job! Hurts doesn’t drop his eyes and just gets rid of the ball on time to AJ Brown who wins (again) on the outside. If teams want to blitz the Eagles, it is very likely they will have to play single-high coverage behind the blitz which means the Eagles receivers will get one-on-one matchups on the outside. The Eagles plan for this game against the blitz seemed to be to leave an extra man or two in pass protection and then throw it outside the numbers and it worked!

I also LOVE the design of this play to Goedert. I love watching the game back as you see stuff you miss live - such as the unbalanced line here! I expected the Eagles to QB sneak when I saw the tight end line up behind Hurts and the personnel on this play screams ‘run’ to the defense. The Eagles are in 13 personnel and have Pascal as their only receiver on the play. They also have Lane Johnson on the left-hand side of the line inside Mailata which means Dallas Goedert looks like the right tackle on this play. Goedert starts out as if he is going to run block as a right tackle would… and he then sneaks out the other way and is wide open! Everything about this play pre-snap is made to look like a running play so it’s no surprise Goedert is able to sneak out. The eagles constantly challenge defense rules (I wonder how much the Steelers have practiced covering a tight end lining up at right tackle this year) and it’s why it just looks so easy all of the time.

I feel like he hasn’t gotten much of a mention in recent weeks but DeVonta Smith can still absolutely ball. Look at this release and route against man coverage in the second half!

The game wasn’t perfect from a passing perspective though. I thought Hurts was exceptional in this game but if you wanted to look at an area he can improve, it’s still pocket navigation when he has to hold the ball in the pocket. The offensive lineman do really well here (I would not count this as a pressure against Lane Johnson) and there is a huge pocket for Hurts to step up into before delivering this pass. I am sure this is a play he would want back.

I also thought he dropped his eyes far too quickly here and this resulted in him getting sacked. I know a lot of mobile QBs don’t like checking it down as they prefer to try and escape but Hurts could certainly check this ball down to the running back and it’s still an area of weakness.

Overall though, it was pretty clearly a dominant passing performance.

Running Game

The Eagles didn’t actually run a great deal in this game but when they did, they were very effective. I immediately enjoyed this play on 3rd and 1 as it’s not something we’ve seen the Eagles do that often. I don’t like going horizontal when you only need a yard but it’s good to mix it up every so often. It’s also another unbalanced line and the double team by Pascal/Smith is awesome too and it’s another great short-yardage play.

I know I point it out every week but you just cannot overstate the importance of Hurts in the running game and the attention he gets from the defense. This is a lovely split-zone play and Jack Stoll does a good job coming across the formation whilst the EDGE defender is stuck watching Hurts. Sanders reads it really well too and makes a nice cut to get into the open field.

I say it every week but some of the run blocking at times this year has been dominant. As I mentioned earlier, the Steelers played more single-high in the first half and then played more two-high in the second box which meant the Eagles could run into light boxes. The fake bubble screen look takes away 3 defenders and then Mailata and Dickerson do an incredible job sealing the lane for Sanders. Look at the size of the hole!

The touchdown in the 4th quarter was also an outstanding play. Hurts does a great job faking the run to the right which obviously holds the EDGE defender. Steelers linebacker 55 also just hesitates for half a second as he is not sure who has the ball and that also allows Goedert to block him. It’s a well-blocked pin/pull concept with Stoll and Seuamlo as the pullers and Sanders has enough speed to get the edge. Sanders has really had a nice year overall.


Passing Defense

I spent quite a lot of time on the passing offense this week because, on defense, I do feel like it’s hard not to repeat the same things I’ve been saying all year! This was another game where the Eagles' cornerbacks absolutely dominated and the secondary as a whole played incredibly well. Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox were excellent and the Steelers decided to just repeatedly target James Bradberry despite getting barely any success.

A big talking point from this one was the Eagles use of stunts which we haven’t seen much of this year. The Eagles haven’t really struggled with pressure so it hasn’t been a talking point, but it was good to see the Eagles mix it up and show that this is something they can do. The Eagles got creative on the first 3rd down of the game and lined up Haason Reddick and Sweat on the same side with Fletcher Cox at EDGE and Graham inside on the other side. That is 5 seriously good pass rushers to have on the field at once. Graham and Sweat nearly get the sack with their rushes but Reddick gets there first on his stunt.

I wanted to show these 2 plays in a row because they highlight my point about the secondary playing well. In particular, Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox were outstanding in this game but the overall pass coverage is just so tight from everyone involved.

Pickens is a tough cover for a slot cornerback but Maddox plays this so well.

Someone I haven’t written much about this year is Javon Hargrave but I thought he had a really good game. He made a number of superb plays.

Hargrave also showed up against the run. He had a really good game which is good as the Eagles are going to need him without Jordan Davis! I think Hargrave may be vital to the Eagles over the next month but I will touch on that more later…

Run Defense

The Eagles run defense was exceptional at the start of the game and then got worse as the Eagles defense got more passive as the lead got bigger. The obvious talking point from this one was the loss of Jordan Davis and I’ll talk about that throughout. The Eagles started out with a 5 man front and Jordan Davis made a fantastic play that highlights what the Eagles will be missing over the next 4-6 weeks.

He made another fantastic play later on (technically this play didn’t count due to a Steelers penalty but I had to show it) that showed once again what the Eagles are going to miss. This is a ridiculously good play and one-on-one Davis has been nearly unblockable in the past couple of weeks.

Before Jordan Davis got hurt, we did see the first look of him in a 4 man front which was exciting! Although, the first snap he took with Cox didn’t end very well as both of them got moved. RB draws have actually caused the defense some issues in recent weeks. This particular play highlighted the issue with postsnap rotation as Epps actually has his back turned and is running away from the play. I highlight postsnap rotation as a good thing quite frequently so it’s only fair to highlight the weaknesses with it too!

The Eagles gave up another long run on a draw play in the 3rd quarter too so this is something to watch out for moving forward.

A couple of plays after Davis got Hurt, we saw the Eagles replace him with Marlon Tuipulotu and it’s a really interesting play to look at. If you just watch Tuipulotu, it’s a worrying sign because he gets moved easily by a double team. However, the very fact that he was still double-teamed meant that others could make the play. Losing Jordan Davis is not good but I would be really disappointed if the Eagles stopped playing 5 man fronts because it’s not just about Davis, the 5 man fronts have really helped the Eagles against the run and I do not want them to just go away.

We saw another 5 man front later and Tuipulotu again got moved badly but the run defense overall was good. I really hope they give Tuipulotu a chance (or add someone) because they can’t just stop playing the 5 man fronts because of 1 injury. It was concerning how easily Tuipulotu was moved as the nose tackle but the defense also stopped the run on those plays!

This is just an opinion with zero real evidence to back it up… but I think the Eagles should try Hargrave at nose tackle in the 5 man fronts. I think the Eagles absolutely have to keep running these 5 man fronts but Tuipulotu really did get moved as the nose in this game. I would like to see Hargrave attempt to play the nose tackle and then Milton Williams replace Hargrave (or maybe even Brandon Graham). I hope we see the Eagles try this against the Texans but whatever happens, I just do not think the Eagles can stop playing their 5 man fronts as they are really successful against the run,

Another thing I noticed from this game was that a lot of the big runs seemed to come when Milton Williams and Tuipulotu were playing together in a 4 man front. I wonder if moving forward the Eagles need to look at the balance of those 2 on the field at the same time.

Anyway, we will leave it there for this week, this was a long one. The Eagles are still undefeated!

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