Despite the disappointing result, this was a really positive performance from the Eagles’ offense and it was an excellent game to watch. After this one, I feel so optimistic about this coaching staff and the Eagles’ offensive talent. Let’s get into it!
The EPA numbers are pretty much what you expect. The Eagles really could not run the ball well but they threw the ball extremely well and I’ll explain why later. The late down numbers are particularly impressive when you consider this is an area you expect a backup quarterback to struggle with. In a weird way, I’m not overly concerned about the lack of a running game because the run game still had an impact on the passing game. Remember when looking at numbers like this, it is important to never separate the run/pass game because they are usually connected in some way.
The Eagles came up with a perfect opening script to take advantage of the Cowboys' aggressiveness on defense. The Cowboys played a ton of single-high in order to stop the run which meant the cornerbacks were one-on-one on the outside. The Eagles ran ‘RPO slant’ to AJ Brown and then followed it up with ‘RPO sluggo’ and Trevon Diggs bit on the inside move. It was a fantastic start, I just wish the throw was slightly better as I think Brown could score here.
Eagles offense all22 thread v. Cowboys. #1 RPO w/ sluggo from Brown. Diggs takes the cheese. Stoll in over Goedert and Pascal over Quez suggests a run play or slant/flat. Cowboys were incredibly aggressive all day and this play takes advantage of it! Great gameplanning. pic.twitter.com/S9Ov5rfmnW— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 27, 2022
Sadly, the drive didn't end in a touchdown and Gardner Minshew missed one here. Minshew was excellent, especially for a backup, but he can’t create outside of structure like Jalen Hurts can. It is also worth pointing out here just how good the Micah Parsons vs. Jordan Mailata matchup was. Parsons basically never lined up against Lane Johnson and the Eagles, surprisingly, gave Mailata very little help. Mailata won some reps, as did Parsons. It was a great matchup but Parsons is a game-changing talent on defense who caused the Eagles problems all game. I read some stats about how the Cowboys had no QB hits or sacks but a lot of that was due to the design of the offense and the play of Minshew. The pass rush did have an impact.
#2 Minshew was excellent, but he missed one here. Parsons causes him to panic and he misses DeVonta Smith open in the end zone. I've seen some stats about the lack of Cowboys sacks/hits but the pass rush (mainly Parsons) absolutely caused the Eagles offense problems at times. pic.twitter.com/CxkRD3SmlP— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 27, 2022
Last week. the Eagles ran a beautiful Hi-Lo concept that I posted which result in a big play to DeVonta Smith. This week, the same concept led to an interception because the Cowboys had the perfect defense to take away the deep dig and Minshew was late on the throw. It’s a poor play by Quez Watkins at the catch point but you have to also credit the Cowboys’ defensive back for making a fantastic play on the ball. I’m an Eagles fan, but there’s no point analyzing the game without accepting that sometimes the opponents will make fantastic plays too (even the Cowboys).
#4 Same Hi-Lo play (different formation) that led to a huge play to Smith last week. Cowboys Tampa 2 is perfect against this play and Minshew is far too late to check it down. Quez doesn't come back to the ball and gets bullied at the catch point. Good defense, bad offense. pic.twitter.com/k96jMyOThb— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 27, 2022
For all you scheme nerds out there like me, I actually drew this play up after last week’s game. You can see it’s the same design but from a different formation and personnel group.
Started drawing up plays recently (to help me remember them) and this was the long catch to DeVonta Smith last week. You can see the similar concept but from a different look! https://t.co/3UtNgVhBV5 pic.twitter.com/ahMarqR4M6— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 27, 2022
You could see the Eagles’ offense immediately adjust to the return of Dallas Goedert as they ran a lot more of these 3-level stretch plays because Goedert is fantastic at these intermediate routes. This is such a good route. Minshew is excellent at reading the defense pre-snap and getting the ball out on time on these concepts too. I mentioned at the start the impact the run game has on the passing game and this is another good example. I hate running from 13 personnel, but it allows you to take shots like this. You can’t judge an offense on individual plays all the time and need to look at the overall design.
#5 Oh how I've missed Dallas Goedert. Eagles ran a lot of 3 level stretch plays because Goedert is fantastic at these intermediate routes. I hate running from 13 personnel, but one reason they do it is that it sets up play-action like this. Goedert's route is so clean. pic.twitter.com/gvoLG0L9HM— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 27, 2022
This is my favorite design from a schematic standpoint of the game. I think this play has so many answers against different coverages and Minshew does a good job trusting his projection and waiting for Gainwell to come open underneath. It was impressive how often the Eagles left only 5 men in protection and trusted the offensive line to handle a really good pass-rushing unit.
#6 I love this design, especially against a heavy man MOFC defense like the Cowboys. 3 level stretch with a mesh crossover between Pascal and Gainwell at running back.Big 3rd down conversion! pic.twitter.com/Fe0tHYS7VI— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 27, 2022
Once again, this is a great example of how the Cowboys emphasized stopping the run game and this led to opportunities in the passing game. The Eagles ran the exact same RPO slant last year and it had the exact same result. AJ Brown lining up in the slot is perfect for these slants and this is a very tough play to stop for a defense. Minshew is really good in the RPO game as he gets the ball out quickly and he is an excellent fit as a backup quarterback for this offense. The passing game didn’t change much at all from a schematic standpoint.
#7 I'm not hugely concerned about the running performance because the Cowboys really aggressively tried to stop it and it opened up lanes in the passing game. Simple RPO w/ a slant from AJ Brown and the linebackers movement towards Sanders creates a huge space for this ball. pic.twitter.com/gsV3rguneG— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 27, 2022
This play is perfect game planning once again from the Eagles. They took advantage of Diggs’ aggressiveness on a couple of occasions and this was another fantastic example. Diggs is convinced (because the Eagles love running this play on crucial downs) that this ball is going to Goedert in the flat and he tries to jump the route. He can’t help himself! He leaves DeVonta Smith totally wide open and it’s an easy throw. Look how aggressively the Cowboys are playing the run on this 4th and short as well. There are no defenders deep at all.
#9 However, the run game was important because the Cowboys sold out to stop it. It allowed a lot of one-on-one matchups. Diggs couldn't help but bite again on this one as he suspects the ball is going to Goedert in the flat. I thought the Eagles gameplan was really effective. pic.twitter.com/PRQU1fG984— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 27, 2022
I was really impressed by Minshew overall and by the second half, once he had settled down, he was really slinging it. This is a beauty to AJ Brown.
#11 Minshew was slinging it by the end of the game. He can Fantastic read and ball here. Great hi-lo design again with the flat route creating space in behind for AJ Brown. pic.twitter.com/DpB34YnqOv— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 27, 2022
The Cowboys’ defense was so aggressive all game and Minshew was really good against the blitz. The Eagles’ offense has really improved against the blitz throughout the season and this game was another example of this. This is just simple for DeVonta Smith who is playing so well right now. It’s an easy pitch and catch. The Eagles love this play when it looks like a clear blitz and Smith is as good as anyone at these quick outs on the goal line.
#12 If you live by the blitz, you can die by it too. Just an easy pitch and catch as DeVonta Smith is almost impossible to cover on these out routes when the CB has inside leverage. pic.twitter.com/ezFLGtCW2u— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 27, 2022
This was probably Minshew’s best play of the game and it’s an absolutely absurd catch by DeVonta Smith. Minshew has clear limitations and is not going to be an elite quarterback, but he should absolutely be starting for someone next year with plays like this. He reads the late safety rotation perfectly from MOFC to MOFO and delivers an excellent hole shot. Look at Minshew hold the safety with his eyes too. This is good quarterback play!
#13 Minshew's gonna be a starting bridge QB for someone with plays like this. He reads the late safety rotation to cover 2 and hits the hole shot. Ridiculous catch along the sideline from DeVonta Smith too. Hell of a play. pic.twitter.com/EEQHEceZNY— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 27, 2022
This play is frustrating. You have to credit the Cowboys’ defensive back for making an excellent play, but Quez Watkins simply has to be better at the catch point. This ball cannot get picked off. I like Quez as a vertical receiver but he cannot be getting these short targets anymore. The only criticism I have of this coaching staff from this game is the short targets to Quez. They have to stop now.
#14 Double slants vs 2man. Quez doesn't win his route, gets bullied at the catch point and it results in an interception. The throw and decision are fine but Quez must do better. Credit the DB who makes a fantastic play on the ball. pic.twitter.com/kxFR0u5dXJ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 27, 2022
Let’s end with another ridiculous catch from DeVonta Smith because he is a superstar and the Eagles have two legitimate studs at wide receiver. This is also a hell of a throw from Minshew.
#15 Phew, this is a ball and a ridiculous catch from DeVonta Smith who was outstanding. Minshew was excellent and I am perfectly happy letting Minshew finish the season while Hurts rests up. He was really good in the 2nd half. pic.twitter.com/mKlAHqucrl— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 27, 2022
I didn’t really have time to get into this week (there were so many more clips I could have included) but as good as Minshew was, I did think the pressure at the end of the first and second half got to him. He threw too many balls out of bounds and was frantic in the pocket on the final play of the game. Overall, it’s impossible to know what would have happened with Hurts at quarterback, but I think
So, why did the Eagles run so badly on the day? There are a number of different reasons for this. We need to start by focusing on the Cowboys’ defense though. The Cowboys' defense was incredibly focused on stopping the run and they stacked the box on multiple occasions. Running the ball is all about space and angles and the Cowboys’ defense was excellent at making this really difficult for the Eagles’ offense. The offensive line could never get to the second level because the linebackers were shooting the gaps extremely quickly. It was a really good defensive performance from the Cowboys against the run, but their focus on stopping the run absolutely helped the Eagles throw the ball.
#3 Eagles struggled to run consistently, but the Cowboys played a huge role in that. They crowded the LOS, played heavy boxes and got downhill quickly. There were numerous reasons but I thought the Eagles OL were not at their best and Sanders didn't really make anyone miss. pic.twitter.com/YTq45P7LnE— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 27, 2022
I wouldn’t even bother running against this defensive look. It’s really hard to run on a team who were really committing to stopping the run. The Eagles’ offensive line couldn’t really get any push all day because the Cowboys were so quick at coming downhill. This is an excellent example. Watch Isaac Seumalo try and double the defensive tackle before trying to get to the linebacker. Because the linebacker is very quick to shoot the gap, Seuamlo doesn’t really have enough time to help Kelce move the defensive tackle and he also can’t get to the linebacker quickly enough to create a rushing lane. The Cowboys played really good run defense and the Eagles’ offensive line couldn’t really create much all game.
#8 Once again, the Cowboys aggressively played the run and the OL couldn't create any major holes. 96 does a good job on Kelce and the Eagles couldn't ever get to the 2nd level as the Cowboys linebackers got downhill quickly. They missed Hurts impact in the run game a lot. pic.twitter.com/SOcClnIEsE— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 27, 2022
And of course, another reason why the Eagles did not run the ball well was that they did not have Jalen Hurts. I absolutely love this offensive line and think Jeff Stoutland is a genius, but I think Hurts is the most important component of the running game. As I speak about weekly, having a really mobile quarterback essentially gives you an extra number when running the ball and this is vital because running the ball is all about numbers and angles. Hurts changes everything in the run game and the Eagles badly missed him in this one. Parsons is an elite run defender and the Eagles could basically take him out of the game last time they played because he had to account for Hurts on nearly every run play.
#10 By the end of the game, the Cowboys weren't respecting Minshew on read option plays. The edge was just crashing down on run plays which they can't do with Hurts at QB. The impact a mobile QB has on a run game cannot be overstated. Parsons was excellent against the run too. pic.twitter.com/8i7AbXmtSl— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 27, 2022
Overall, I haven’t included all the turnovers here because we all know what happened but the fumbles were absolutely crucial in this game. They were the 2nd and 3rd biggest plays in the game and cost the Eagles big time.
The Eagles had horrible turnover luck, their backup quarterback, and still played really well and score 27 offensive points. This offense is seriously good. As frustrating as this loss was, I feel so good about this offensive staff currently.