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Eagles Film Review: Explosive plays from 2022, Part 2

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

The modern NFL is all about explosive teams. The best offenses create a lot of explosive plays, the best defenses don’t give up many explosive plays. In preparation for the new season, I will go back and break down some of the Eagles’ most explosive plays from this past season to see if there are any themes and also to look at some of their passing concepts.

Previously: Play #1.

Play #2 - 54 Yard Gain Week 1 vs. Detroit Lions

The Situation

2nd quarter, Eagles up 21-14, 3rd and 4 on the Eagles' 42-yard line. This is very interesting, as the 1st play I looked at was a very similar situation. The Eagles obviously like to take their shots on 3rd and medium when they know there is a high chance that they get single-high. It’s a risky strategy because if the pass is incomplete you probably need to punt, but I love the aggressiveness.


The Eagles are in shotgun with the running back lined up on the weak side of the formation. They are in a 3x1 formation, with DeVonta Smith as the lone ‘X’ receiver, and Dallas Goedert on the inside of trips. This means AJ Brown is the Z receiver (same as the 1st play I looked at) which makes it harder to press him. This is where having 2 elite receivers is really useful, as DeVonta Smith is absolutely good enough to be the X and beat press coverage.

The Lions’ defense is showing blitz with 7 defenders in the box, which almost certainly guarantees MOFC (single-high) coverage. The Lions are in nickel to match the Eagles' 11 personnel. The Lions rotate their safeties post-snap and the deep safety is actually in man coverage with Goedert, and the other safety drops back as the single-high safety. Hurts knows pre-snap if the deep safety doesn’t drop into a 2-high, that he is going to have AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith in one-on-one coverage.

The Concept

The Eagles are running the classic ‘4 verticals’ concept that you have seen hundreds of times, especially if you’ve ever played Madden! There’s no motion or disguise here, this is just a simple case of winning your matchup. ‘4 verticals’ actually rarely has 4 straight go routes, but the play aims to stress the defense vertically and also horizontally. Dallas Goedert’s route is the ‘safe’ option, especially considering it’s 3rd and 4. But the Lions recognize this, and they are all over the shorter route. This leaves the Eagles' top 3 receivers all with one-on-one matchups.

As I say every week, sometimes football sometimes isn’t that complicated! This is a simple play call. But, the Eagles are being aggressive by calling it on 3rd and 4, and the way they align their receivers makes it very hard for the defense to feel comfortable. AJ Brown as the Z running a go route is a tough cover for any cornerback in the league.

The Play

This is a simple one to break down. Just watch Hurts’ eyes. All he has to do is read the deep safety and the second he comes forward to cover Dallas Goedert he hits his back foot and lets it fly. Hurts’ really sped up his process this year and he doesn’t need an extra beat to read the defense. It is a perfect throw and AJ Brown does brilliantly to track the ball and catch it despite not creating that much separation. Hurts throws this from the left hash mark and it is dropped perfectly in the bucket. This is just beautiful.

The Protection

The Eagles do such a good job here picking up the Lions' 4-man rush. The Lions could potentially bring 7 rushers, and the Eagles are taking a chance by not leaving 7-men in to protect. This is something fans got annoyed by last year, but if you can pick up the rush you have a great chance of creating an explosive play. Here is the pre-snap look. The Lions have 3 linemen over the Eagles' right side and 34 behind them, so Kelce has to ignore the interior lineman and shift to his right. Dickerson still picks up 79 perfectly, and 49 doesn’t blitz because he is in man coverage with the running back. They pick up the Lions stunt really well too which requires good communication.

Something else that really stood out to me is 34. I am pretty sure that 34 is spying Hurts here and he is effectively irrelevant on this play. This is another huge benefit of being a mobile quarterback. The Eagles will commonly run Hurts on 3rd and short and the Lions have to commit another resource to preventing Hurts from running for the 1st down. Football is all about maths, and taking a player out of the play just because the quarterback is mobile is a huge win for the offense.


I find it fascinating how similar this play is to the 1st play I looked at. When watching this current season, I will be very interested in watching how aggressive the Eagles are on 3rd and short and whether they continue to take these deep shots. NFL defenses will know this now, and I wonder if teams will start playing more 2-high in these situations and forcing the Eagles to move slowly down the field, rather than allowing them these one-on-one matchups on the outside. This play is another example of the Eagles being really aggressive with their playcalling, as running 4 verticals is not something all teams would do on 3rd and 4.

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