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Eagles Film Analysis: All-22 defense takeaways from the 49ers game

San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Well, this 49ers game sucked. This was not a fun watch, so I apologize in advance. I always try to stay level-headed, but there are some consistent themes with this Eagles team that I am starting to find a little bit annoying. (Previously: Offense version.)

Defense

Before we get into anything, I just want to point out that I was so impressed by the 49ers’ offense and I think they are outstanding. The talent they have is exceptional, and some of the play designs and sequencing in this game by Kyle Shanahan were so good. I don’t expect the Eagles to stop the 49ers on every drive. But I do think they could have put up more of a fight.

The Eagles started well on the 49ers' early drives and managed to get some pressure on Brock Purdy and stop the runs on 1st down. It all looked so promising early on before it all went wrong. The Eagles came out and stopped the run on 1st down and managed to get the 49ers into obvious passing situations where they could get after the quarterback. It all looked so good!

I think the Eagles’ pass rush struggled after the first couple of drives because they just couldn’t get the 49ers into many obvious passing situations. However, I think you also have to consider at this point that the lack of rotation throughout the season, as well as the fact that the Eagles went to overtime last week, is impacting the quality of the pass rush currently. The main guys on the defensive line and consistently playing a lot of snaps.

I am stunned that Nolan Smith and Sydney Brown didn’t get more playing time in this game. They both looked really good when they played. I think people can forget that whilst there are major question marks about Nolan Smith as a pass rusher, he was a fantastic run defender in college. Similarly, Sydney Brown is a fantastic run defender. I would have loved to have seen Sydney Brown get some more reps from the slot when the 49ers were in heavy personnel, or even as a hybrid linebacker/safety in place of Christian Elliss. I found the Eagles' use of personnel odd in this game. I haven’t even got any clips of Eli Ricks in this one, but what on earth was that all about? He came in a handful of times and was asked to line up and play man coverage in the slot where he got badly beaten nearly every time he was on the field. I’m not a huge fan of the Eagles' use of personnel this year.

Ah, man. This play killed me. It happened at least 3 times. The 49ers would go 4-strong and isolate Brandon Aiyuk as the lone receiver against Darius Slay. Nearly every single time, Slay is playing with at least 10 yards of cushion and Aiyuk just had an easy 10 yards available to him. I understand this is cover 3 and that Roby is supposed to be the flat defender (he gets dragged inside by the motion) but why do the Eagles need 2 defenders over Aiyuk anyway? They should have a 4-strong call check built into the defense where Slay plays MEG coverage (man everywhere he goes) on Aiyuk and gets closer to him. This is just so easy, and the 49ers continued to run this exact same play with similar results throughout.

Since posting this thread, Christian Elliss has been cut by the Eagles and I feel bad for him. I hope he makes it back onto the practice squad (UPDATE: welp, he was claimed by the Patriots) because starting this game just felt unfair on him. Kyle Shanahan is the master of confusing linebackers, and both Elliss and Morrow had no idea what was going on in this game. All season long, the Eagles have struggled with communication in the secondary and this week was no different. It’s an issue they have got to sort out, but I’m becoming increasingly skeptical that they will be able to do it this season.

I think Nicholas Morrow blows this, but without being in the room I can’t be certain. Either way, it’s another play where the Eagles have a miscommunication and end up not covering someone. This looks like a type of fire zone pressure where Morrow thinks he will be over Christian McCaffrey, but because of George Kittle’s motion, he needs to take him. It’s good use of motion by the 49ers, but this isn’t rocket science or something the 49ers never do. The Eagles, and Morrow, should have been prepared for this.

So, I know I’m supposed to say this as an Eagles fan. I’m sorry. But I really enjoyed watching the 49ers’ offense in this game. It’s just so good. Compare this play to what you saw from the Eagles’ offense in this game. The Eagles play this well, but Blankenship just decides to stop running with Aiyuk so he’s wide open. This play is awesome though, and having the luxury of using both Deebo Samuel and CMC as a decoy is pretty absurd.

I feel so bad for Elliss. Cutting him after the game felt pretty harsh, but you can’t say he had a good game. The 49ers had both linebackers for the Eagles all over the place all game. They both had a nightmare and to be honest, I’m not sure Elliss was any worse than Morrow. Every team has a weakness, and the Eagles are clearly at linebacker. Out of every team in the NFL, I’m not sure there’s a worse matchup for the Eagles than the 49ers. Shanahan is the best at making your linebackers confused, and I’m not the Eagles' linebackers could have played much worse in pass coverage in this game. There were so many reps that were brutal.

Now, if you read my offensive article you would have seen me post this. I’m not going to start another discussion about the Eagles’ run game, but this is why the 49ers are so good on offense. It’s not just the motion, the shifts, the explosive plays. They can just line up under center and run it straight down the middle of your defense. I thought the 49ers physically overpowered the Eagles as the game went on. Jordan Davis had one of the best games of his career last week, but he really didn’t look great in this one. I’ve been saying this all year, but I think the lack of rotation on the defensive line is going to hurt this team down the stretch. There are too many players that are just playing too many snaps. The scheduling isn’t exactly doing us any favors either right now.

Every time the Eagles did something different, the 49ers had an answer. Here the Eagles are really focused on taking away the middle of the field because they were getting killed all game. But the 49ers have an answer, and a simple checkdown to Deebo picks up a solid gain. This is not an Eagles point, but I find some of the criticism of Purdy online quite odd after watching this game. Yes, he’s playing in an incredible system. But look at how effortlessly he gets through his progressions and gets to his checkdown here. This is excellent QB play.

Every time the Eagles played man coverage in this game, they got killed. But every time they went to zone, they played a bunch of cover 3 and got killed on the outside. I am really surprised we didn’t see more cover-4 match looks or cover 8/9. I think it’s easy to forget how good this team was in cover-4 match last year, and 3/4 of the starting secondary is still here! I struggle to watch the Eagles' secondary right now because it just feels badly coached and too easy to pick apart. I hate the way this Eagles team uses man coverage and the 49ers killed them with stacks and bunches, as every other good team has done all season. It’s so predictable, and good opposing teams seem to find it easy to pick apart the Eagles' weaknesses. And don’t even get me started on the Eagles' use of Eli Ricks in man coverage again!

I have been quite critical of Sean Desai throughout this one, so I think it’s only fair to remind everyone that players > scheme. I don’t care what defense you call, if your starting linebacker misses a tackle in the open field on a receiver who can create after the catch, there isn’t a defensive call in the world that can save you. I thought this game was the worst of both worlds which the Eagles called a bad game, but also executed the game plan terribly.

Well, that was depressing. As always, comments and feedback are always appreciated. Fingers crossed next week is a little more upbeat!


More Eagles-49ers analysis on this week’s episode of “On the Shane Page” for BGN Radio:

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