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Eagles-Cardinals Film Review: Good performance marred by a bad ending

Arizona Cardinals v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The defensive version of this article was probably the most negative thing I have ever written about the Eagles. However, I was impressed with several different elements of the offense this week and it’s important to remember that the offense did play well. Let’s get to the film!

Offense

You guys know by now that I love watching the run game. The Eagles’ run game has been a lot more varied in recent weeks and I’m enjoying watching it right now. The Eagles are running outside zone well right now, so adding in a toss from under center is a nice change-up. What I would love to see now, is the Eagles build off of this, by faking the toss or even getting Kenny Gainwell to throw a pass if you want to get really creative. The Eagles ran the ball very well in this game, and I think the Eagles should feel very good about the amount of different ways they can run the ball in the playoffs.

This is the Eagles' best play outside of the brotherly shove. There are not many defenses that can stop it in short-yardage situations, especially when the Eagles get to it in lots of different ways. The Eagles rarely use 13 personnel, and normally on this play DeVonta Smith or AJ Brown runs the intermediate route, so it’s a nice change up to use a tight end in this role instead.

I love this play. In my opinion, the Eagles don’t run enough crossing routes or concepts that include crossing routes (such as mesh, drive, etc). So this was nice to see. The Eagles motion the running back out to horizontally stretch the defense. Then they have two shorter routes (Goedert and AJ Brown) that could work against zone coverage. Jalen Hurts is reading the safety and when he sees him come downhill to help out against AJ Brown, he knows he has the deeper crossing route wide open against a cornerback with outside leverage. It’s a great throw and I like the concept. It’s a pretty simple read for Hurts too, as he has essentially 4 receiving options in his field of vision.

This is fun! The Eagles should run a crazy variation of the brotherly shove every single time it is 3rd and 1. Defenses are desperately trying to clog up the middle, and even though we know the play will still work, why not try and create something more explosive instead? This is also going to give defenses something to think about moving forward. If Gainwell can throw the ball well enough, I have no problem trying to get creative with plays like this. The Eagles are finding it difficult to create explosive plays right now, so there is nothing wrong with a little bit of trickery and deception to create some big plays!

One of the most positive things about the offense in this game was Hurt's play out of structure. I have spoken before about how Hurts isn’t that good as a passer out of structure. Hurts often scrambles when the play breaks down, and drops his eyes, rather than step up and out of the pocket and throw it down the field. I think he gets a little lucky here as the ball deflects off the defensive back, but he moves really in the pocket and Julio Jones does a fantastic job getting open against zone coverage. Hurts was good at extending plays in this one.

This is a pretty insane play. For a normal offense, I would say 4-verts against a cover-0 blitz is a terrible answer to pressure. For this offense, I kinda like it...

Hear me out. This is not a high % play and there are absolutely better answers out there. But considering this offense refuses to install a hot and doesn’t seem to have a plan for pressure, I would much rather this play than Hurts running out and getting hit. The Eagles have two elite wide receivers, so throwing a vertical shot to a receiver who is one-on-one honestly isn’t the worst answer in the world. I’ve seen a lot of complaints about this throw, and whilst I agree it isn’t a perfect ball, DeVonta Smith needs to complete this throw. The Eagles struggle to be consistent against the blitz anyway, so why not try and complete a down-the-field shot? I don’t hate it.

One of the issues with shotgun runs is that it’s quite predictable in terms of where the running back is going to go. Pistol is a nice changeup, but there are also issues with pistol otherwise everyone would run it, so I like this outside zone toss where you end up running to the same side the ball carrier is lined up over. I thought the Eagles continued to run well from 12 personnel in this game, and Jack Stoll and Dallas Goedert continued to impress as run blockers.

This is another change-up that I haven’t seen from the Eagles’ run game this season. We’ve seen a lot of pin/pull runs, and I speak about how effective the Eagles are at this every week, but we haven’t seen it with the running back as a lead blocker! I love this! I know some still have concerns about Hurts carrying the football, but I think if you are going to have him as your franchise quarterback then you have to let him run with it. He’s too good of an athlete and a runner to simply be a pocket quarterback. I don’t need him to carry the football 25 times, but I think he has to be a major part of the run game, especially down the stretch and during the playoffs.

I’m not sure I love running the same play twice in a row but I would put this on Hurts rather than the play call. Hurts is essentially a running back on this concept. If a running back was to turn around and cut it back rather than follow his blocks, we would be critical of him. This was 2nd and short, so if Hurts only gets a yard then it’s fine. I understand the frustration with Hurts running when he doesn’t want to take hits, but running the quarterback means you get an extra blocker in Gainwell. I’m fine with Hurts running the football, but he needs to get down quickly rather than run backward and lose 6 yards.

I have written a lot about this in the past, but plays that are ‘out of structure’ does not always mean that they are random. Offensive coaches should be coaching out-of-structure plays, and I think this is a great example here. I don’t think this is random. I think Hurts is reading the left side of the field, and is told to take off when nothing is open. Dallas Goedert runs a short curl, but immediately bails to his right when he knows that Hurts has left the pocket. Hurts gets his eyes up, and delivers a strike. I hope that the Eagles are spending time working with Hurts and the receivers on out-of-structure plays, and this game is a good sign that they might be working on it.

Right, it’s time. Let’s talk about the final drive. I always say what I think, and I know many are going to disagree with me here, but I am absolutely OK with running on 1st and 20. Just look at the pre-snap look the Eagles get. The Cardinals basically have 4 defenders around AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith, which means the Eagles have the numbers in the box to win. As I’ve said earlier, running Hurts also gets you an extra blocker in Gainwell, so I am OK with running Hurts in this situation. If I am being really nitpicky, I wouldn’t mind a QB Counter Bash concept here so you have the option to leave the EDGE defender unblocked and potentially hand it off to the running back too. However, this play could have been a big gain if executed properly. The Eagles have the numbers here for a big play. Unfortunately, Lane Johnson fails to sustain his block (which is rare) and Dickerson fails to get to the 2nd level. Another reason why I might like QB Counter Bash here is that the running back may have distracted the linebacker and given Dickerson more time to get to the 2nd level.

I wonder if the design of the play could be better too. Gainwell is a little slow to get out as a lead blocker and Hurts almost ends up pushing him forward. Also, I think that is a tough block for Dickerson based on the defense pre-snap, and I wonder if Kelce would be better getting to the 2nd level here and asking Dickerson to pull or double-team the defensive tackle. But, I am nitpicking here, and I do not think running the quarterback based on the pre-snap look is a bad decision.

However, I do agree with many others when it comes to the play calls on 2nd and 3rd down. I didn’t like this running play as much, and I thought the 3rd down screen was a conservative play call. On 2nd down, the Eagles do run QB Counter Bash this time, but I don’t like it because I think the Eagles had a real chance to throw this ball. Compare the pre-snap picture on this play, to the pre-snap picture on the play above. The Cardinals only have 2 defenders here on DeVonta Smith and AJ Brown. The Eagles had a chance to throw it here and instead, they run it into an aggressive Cardinals’ defense that looks like it is expecting a run play. I disagree with some of the criticism of the play on 1st down, but I agree that the 2nd and 3rd down calls were too conservative.

I understand that the final drive has left a bad taste in the mouth, but this was a good offensive performance overall. The offense only had the ball on 7 occasions and scored 24 points. The final drive is frustrating, and the Eagles’ offensive staff needs to improve their situational football, but I am relatively happy with the overall design of the offense heading into the final week. It’s not perfect, and the offense can (and should) be better with the level of talent that they have, but this is a week to complain about the defense and not the offense. I think this offense will score points in the playoffs, I just don’t know if they can score enough!

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