Well, that was fun. The Philadelphia Eagles’ NFC Championship Game win over the San Francisco 49ers was an excellent offensive performance against a really, really good defense. But it wasn't perfect. Let’s get into what I saw.
No surprises at all from the EPA. The Eagles ran the ball exceptionally well against a defense that was giving up -0.174 EPA per rush (2nd best in the league) going into the playoffs. This running game is so, so good and I will talk about it a lot in this one.
The Eagles’ passing game was very up and down in this game. The problems started early, with a blown protection call on this 3rd down. I am pretty sure Isaac Seumalo is at fault here but I cannot be 100% certain for obvious reasons. As a basic principle, you never ever want to allow free rushers up the A/B gap. If you have to allow a free rusher, you want them to come from wide where they take longer to get to the quarterback. Luckily, Jalen Hurts made a ridiculous throw here and completed this ball under pressure.
Eagles offense all22 thread vs. 49ers. #1 This is a ridiculous throw. Eagles blow the protection (I think Seumalo) and a free rusher comes straight up the middle. Hurts drifts back and somehow gets this to AJ Brown whose running an in route. He makes this look way too easy pic.twitter.com/Fy1T4wx4Z4— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 31, 2023
Hurts is definitely playing a little quicker in the pocket since coming back from his injury. In this game, it felt like he was desperate not to sit in the pocket and it is easy to see why against an outstanding 49ers’ pass rush. I understand not wanting to take sacks and create negative plays, which is a huge strength of Hurts. However, there were definitely moments when he bailed from clean pockets. There wasn’t a lot open downfield in this game but he missed a few receivers (like AJ Brown here on the deep in). Throwing to the middle of the field against this 49ers’ defense is extremely difficult but this throw is there and Hurts was a little too quick to get out of the pocket in this one.
#2 This play sort of highlighted the passing game. It's not an easy throw to make but AJ Brown is open. Hurts seemed to make a point of not sitting in the pocket and escaping even when there wasn't a lot of pressure. He seemed a bit on edge when in the pocket all game. pic.twitter.com/5dxzOOSoJc— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 31, 2023
However... you can’t complain about bailing from the pocket all the time when he can make plays like this outside of structure! Fred Warner does a fantastic job coming underneath the pick route and stopping the easy throw to the flat. Hurts could possibly reset his feet and attempt to hit DeVonta Smith on the quick out but that’s tough considering he has to wait to see if his first read is open to the right. He escapes the pocket and makes a ridiculous throw to DeVonta Smith who does really well to make it look like a catch and get the offense to run the next play quickly.
#3 This is a hell of a throw. Fred Warner does a fantastic job on the Eagles pick play and manages to take away the obvious throw. Hurts extends the play to his left and produces a beautiful ball. It's lucky they don't challenge it but... sometimes you make your own luck! pic.twitter.com/uPmERNj1eh— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 31, 2023
The Eagles' pass game didn’t run a lot of great concepts in this one, but it rarely does. The offense is built on elite wide receivers winning down the field against single-high coverage. In this game, Hurts had 4 downfield opportunities and missed all 4. Sometimes, the defensive back made a play and sometimes he just flat-out missed. I don’t know if it was the weather or his shoulder or he just missed them, but he would definitely like this throw back. When he’s not connecting on these downfield throws the Eagles’ passing game will look average because they are built on winning vertically outside the numbers. I’m not concerned because Hurts has proved he is an excellent deep ball thrower, I just hope he connects on these in the Super Bowl!
#5 Eagles passing game is pretty reliant on hitting these one-on-one throws outside the numbers. Hurts was just slightly off and he had a couple of misses. This ball looked like it came out too flat and I think the CB slows down AJ Brown too. It's a lovely route and he's open! pic.twitter.com/pHlyyiNrW1— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 31, 2023
The other thing that was obvious from the game was the number of checkdowns Hurts was throwing. As I mentioned earlier, he did miss a few open receivers, but a lot of the time he smartly took the checkdown because the 49ers were playing really soft coverage and rallying to the football. Warner and Greenlaw are about as athletic as they come at linebacker, so the 49ers are happy to force a defense to checkdown and rally to the football quickly. I don’t think they expected Kenny Gainwell to make them both miss, though!
#6 Hurts threw a lot of checkdowns because the 49ers were happy with deep drops and rallying to the football. That's the way they play a lot because of the speed of their linebackers. I'm OK with that! Gainwell making 2 of the best LBs in football miss on this one too... pic.twitter.com/VJyahHXHok— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 31, 2023
I mentioned earlier on that Hurts does bail from pockets occasionally, but he also doesn’t take a lot of sacks or have many negative plays. It’s a big reason why the Eagles are so hard to beat with him at quarterback. Dak Prescott could take a few notes...
#10 Kenny Gainwell He's made people miss these past 2 weeks. Hurts does a good job checking it down under pressure. Underrated part of Hurts game is the lack of negative plays even when he's not having his best game. pic.twitter.com/4GOsdMy9DH— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 31, 2023
I cannot overstate the importance of Jalen Hurts in the run game this week. The offensive line was fantastic, but the 49ers were terrified of Hurts. I do not think I have seen a worse game from Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw in a long time. They did not trust their instincts at all in this game and were constantly slow to react or caught up staring into the backfield. This touchdown is just easy money. It’s just read-option. Nothing fancy. The 49ers end up with about 3 defenders just standing there unblocked watching Jalen Hurts while Sanders just walks into the end zone. I’m convinced Warner plays this wrong and he struggled to trust his instincts the rest of the game.
Ignore me looking like an idiot filming this play. I blame game pass for not seamlessly transitioning from play-to-play and myself for forgetting to edit the video
#4 Watch the impact Hurts has. Lol. This is mad. The 49ers have someone containing Hurts on the edge, a safety coming down to watch him AND Fred Warner is also delayed by watching Hurts. The 49ers were terrified of him keeping the ball in the run game and it showed up. pic.twitter.com/EELpSHDdGx— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 31, 2023
I wonder how Fred Warner felt watching this playback. You don’t see this very often. This is too easy. The Eagles game-planned for the 49ers so effectively. They kept running away from the safety Hufanga (who run blitzes here) and running away from trips (3 WRs to one side) in order to keep Fred Warner’s eyes on the backfield. This is just a simple RPO with a bubble screen to the strong side. Jason Kelce was fantastic in this game (as was every offensive lineman, to be honest), and look at him aggressively moving the defensive tackle before getting to the 2nd level. The running game is all about angles and I love the weakside run from the shotgun because the running back ends up perfectly behind Kelce. Numerically, you cannot be right against this Eagles’ offense due to the threat of Hurts running and you just have to hope as a defense you can limit the running game to short gains. The 49ers could not do that consistently.
#7 Rumor has it Fred Warner still hasn't moved... Eagles ran a lot of weakside runs away from trips early on. The 49ers often brought a safety from the strong side and the Eagles took advantage. I love the angles this play creates with Gainwell running right behind Kelce. pic.twitter.com/8LnyP1mmgC— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 31, 2023
This is also very similar. It’s a pin/pull concept to the weak side and the 49ers linebackers and safeties are just too slow to react. I really do not think Warner trusted his instincts at all and didn’t play very well. Mailata dominates the defensive end and Kelce gets straight to the second level again and seals the edge for Sanders. This feels too easy. The Eagles don’t even need to block Joey Bosa. Not bad at all.
#8 This is beautiful. Eagles run away from trips again. Warner hesitates as he did all game. Pin/pull concept with Bosa left completely unblock. Eagles score without blocking Fred Warner or Joey Bosa. That's... pretty good! pic.twitter.com/m8LRDjIvNB— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 31, 2023
This touchdown is a little different, but you still see Greenlaw and Warner hesitate for a split second before going for the running back. The 49ers' defense was constantly in limbo waiting to see whether the Eagles were going to hand it off, run with Hurts or throw the bubble screen. Jason Kelce sees Bosa in his vision and knocks him out of the play here with a fantastic block and Boston Scott has the speed to get to the edge after Greenlaw has hesitated ever so slightly. If you remember, I was laughing about people saying the Eagles’ offense was ‘figured out’ earlier because you can’t figure it out! It’s simple but the Eagles just have fantastic players and they can dominate the opposition on the ground or in the air.
#9 Kelce throws Bosa out of the club and the backfield run threat of Hurts does JUST enough to make 57 hesitate which Scott to get the edge. Fantastic block by DeVonta Smith and I always love how he celebrates a rushing TD! pic.twitter.com/Pt3jqDf0TP— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 31, 2023
Even when the 49ers’ defense plays the run well, Kenny Gainwell does this! Gainwell had a great game and I have a feeling he is going to have a big role in the Super Bowl.
#11 Kenny Gainwell showed some juice in the run game too. He's playing really well. Nothing happening here so he bounces it outside and shows some pretty nice acceleration to get around the edge. pic.twitter.com/G7dlj5GFeO— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 31, 2023
This was a simple gameplan against the best defense in the NFL and the Eagles still scored 31 points. Even before the 49ers had all their quarterbacks injured, the Eagles had scored 21 points at half-time against this elite defense. I don’t even think the Eagles played near their potential in this game either. This offense has another level to go to in the passing game and I hope we see it in the Super Bowl...
Thanks for reading as always! We have one more offensive review this year let’s hope it’s breaking down a win!