Film Room: Eagles Offense

Film Room: Eagles Offense
Film Room: Eagles Offense
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Charles McDonald

After losing Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Wentz, the Philadelphia Eagles' Super Bowl chances looked bleak. Wentz did a masterful job of bailing the Eagles out of third-and-long situations throughout the entire season; it was fair to wonder if Nick Foles could manage to fill the gaping hole in the production that left with Wentz's departure.

Foles has certainly exceeded expectations this postseason, posting 9.9 adjusted net yards per attempt and completing 77.8 percent of his passes. However, head coach Doug Pederson deserves a lot of credit for how has called plays and managed favorable situations in which Foles can thrive. Advancing to the Super Bowl while taking down the reigning NFC champions and lighting up arguably the best defense in football is no small feat. The difficulty of that task is magnified even further with a backup quarterback in the lineup.

In their NFC championship bout against the Minnesota Vikings, Pederson pulled all the stops to help Foles generate big plays down the field.

The Eagles used double moves to get open against Minnesota's aggressive secondary play. Since they were going against Foles, the Vikings were trying to be physical at the catch point and force Foles to make tight-window throws. To counteract that, Pederson called plays that allowed the Eagles' receivers to take advantage of the physical play by Minnesota's defensive backs.


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Alshon Jeffery is running a post-corner route at the bottom of the screen here. He's selling the post towards the middle of the field, but once Terence Newman bites on the post, he breaks back towards the sideline on a corner route. The Vikings are playing QQH (quarters-quarters-half, aka Cover-6) coverage on the play; once Jeffery pivots outside on the corner route, there's no one left to make a tackle. It's deep throw for Foles, but an easy one considering no one is within 50 miles of Jeffery after he breaks his route.

Philadelphia also used double-moves to beat man coverage looks by the Vikings defense. Zach Ertz's 36-yard gain against Harrison Smith to get the Eagles in field goal range to close the second quarter was a prime example.

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Minnesota rushed five on the play with single-high man coverage behind the blitz. Smith was tasked with covering Ertz on his short route towards the sideline at the top of the screen. This is where the Vikings' aggressive defensive back play hurt them. Smith's intentions on this play are to jump the route and have an easy pick-six against Foles. Look where his eyes are when Foles lets go of the ball.

When a defensive back has his eyes in the backfield, he is extremely susceptible to giving up big plays through the air. As Foles is letting go of the ball, Smith doesn't even realize Ertz has headed up the field behind him. Once Smith does notice, it's too late. This set up the Eagles to get three points heading into the half.

Pederson wasn't afraid to go into his bag of tricks to generate big plays either.


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This play was a lethal combination of clever play calling by Pederson, savvy wide receiver play by Torrey Smith, and an unbelievable throw by Foles. As the Eagles sell the initial run fake, watch Smith at the top of the play. He slows down as Foles hands the ball off, then accelerates down the field after Corey Clement throws the ball back to Foles.

The pause gives Smith a chance to race away from Trae Waynes, and Foles drops the ball right in the bucket to barely beat Smith coming over the top from his single-high spot.

The final score by the Eagles to lock in a trip to the Super Bowl was the perfect combination of execution between the coaching staff and the players to force the Vikings to play at a severe disadvantage on the goal line.

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When the Eagles broke the formation in a jumbo package, it forced the Vikings to prepare for a running play. Minnesota has one single-high safety, which is usually a sin in the red zone, but with the way the Eagles have been able to run the ball in the red zone this postseason, it makes sense to put another defender in the box.

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The Eagles motioned from a jumbo package to a 3x1 shotgun set, while the Vikings were trapped with heavy personnel on the field. The Eagles added one more wrinkle of confusion as they motioned from a 3x1 to a 2x2 set. Think about that. In a few seconds the Eagles were able to move from jumbo, to 3x1 spread, to a 2x2 set at the snap of the ball. That's utter chaos for any defense to cover, even a top-three defensive unit in the league.

Since Minnesota had been expecting a run up the middle they employed Cover-3, which is arguably the worst coverage to call in goal line situations. Jeffery runs a quick slant into space and makes a great adjustment on the ball to catch a pass that was thrown a bit high for the final score of the game.

If the Eagles are going to stop the Patriots' reign of terror in Super Bowl LII, then Pederson is going to have to call the game of his life. In terms of pure talent, the Eagles should be able to move the ball on the Patriots defense. However, we know Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia will be ready for whatever the Eagles throw at them, especially in the second half when the Eagles move off of their initial game script. It can be done, but the Eagles and Pederson are going to have to be picture perfect to come home with a Lombardi trophy.


16 comments, Last at 31 Jan 2018, 2:56pm

1 Re: Film Room: Eagles Offense

The other thing clear on all those plays is the Eagles line gave Foles the time he needed for those double moves and other routes to work.

2 Re: Film Room: Eagles Offense

I'd like to see a throw chart of Foles from that game (similar to a shot chart from basketball) He moved all over the place to release the ball and keep the Vikings away from his passing lane. Look at where he ends up on the deep ball to Jeffrey. Look at where he is when he throws the sideline route to Agholor. The line was fantastic, but so was absolutely everything about Foles' game and the game plan from Reich and Pederson.

Foles, Brees, Marino, the Mannings, and Brady all ran the 40 between a 4.8 and 5.25. (the 5.25 is Brady and Foles was 5.03) All of those other guys are in the top 16 all-time for lowest sack %. Foles would be around Andrew Luck at 42nd. Its about moving away from pressure in and around the pocket to still make the throws.

3 Re: Film Room: Eagles Offense

I'm not sure how much stock to put into combine QB 40 times, unless it was for an expressly running QB.

Stafford, who we think of as slow, ran a 4.81.
Prescott, who we think of as fast, ran a 4.79.
Luck, who we think of as big, ran a 4.62.
Wentz and Rodgers, who run all over the place, ran ~4.75
Carson Palmer, who we think of as statuesque, ran a 4.65

4 Re: Film Room: Eagles Offense

The Atlanta game might be more enlightening, on both fronts. The Falcons seem to resemble New England more than Minnesota does, both in terms of their offense and defense.

5 Re: Film Room: Eagles Offense

I'd be interested for a different reason: Atlanta has a *lot* more speed on defense than NE does, and I'd like to see how big a part that speed played in their success in slowing Philly down.

6 Re: Film Room: Eagles Offense

The Eagles and Pats couldn't have played two more different opponents in the CCGs. The Jags came to play, were playing on fast turf, showed why everyone believes they are the most athletic defense in the league and made very few mistakes, while the Vikings were clearly burnt out from the game the week before, looked old, slow on grass and made a ton of mistakes.

10 Re: Film Room: Eagles Offense

The Jags were too scared to try with 52 seconds left and 2 timeouts. I can't think of anything worse in NFL History in displaying a completely broken will. This was like an entire team making the Saints 'business decisions' on that Beast Mode run. They were afraid to try to score points. They went in the half losing by -4. It was just a matter of time.

They also went into a pathetic shell of Fournette right up the middle on first down in the 4th quarter. That team was timid and soft. They still should have beaten the Patriots if the ref did not blow the whistle early on Jack.

Jacksonville gave up 6 points per game in 4 games vs pathetic Indy and the laughable Savage/Yates Texans. They gave up 20.3 per game in the other 12 games. They were 6-6 in those games. That defense gave up 40+ twice in the last four games before the AFCCG! They gave up 27 in a loss to BLAINE GABBERT! Better than the Eagles D? Really?

The Vikings came out on fire with that first drive. They were marching again until the Eagles punched them in the mouth. They were not tired or low energy. They just got destroyed by a better team that ground them into paste on both lines and picked them apart on deep passes from a close to perfect QB.

11 Re: Film Room: Eagles Offense

Sacks-onville had 28 sacks in the 4 games against the Texans and Colts. (7 per game)
They had 27 sacks in the other 12 games (2.25 per game would be 36 over 16 or 19th in the league.)

They had 7 sacks in the playoffs. (2.33 per game)
Wow! The numbers in the playoffs were similar to the numbers that did not include the Colts and Texans games. Its almost like horrific O-lines don't make the playoffs.

The Texans and Colts QBs were sacked 110 times this year.

15 Re: Film Room: Eagles Offense

It's almost universal that teams/units/players post some of their best performances and rack up numbers against weaker competition. The Eagles four best performances by defensive DVOA in the regular season came against the Beathard-led 49ers, the Bears, the Cowboys when they were mired in a three-game slump where they couldn't crack 10 points or 250 yards of offense sans Elliot, and then the Raiders playing out the string.

In the final month of the regular season the Eagles defense got rolled by the moribund Seahawks offense, were hit for 35 points by the Rams, and got rolled for 500+ yards of offense by the Giants in back-to-back-to-back weeks. The Eagles actually finished with a higher variance in defensive DVOA than Jacksonville did.

The Eagles defense finished the season strong and dominated its two playoff games so far but, again, they've been up and down this season. They don't get to play the Super Bowl at home like they did the past two weeks. The Jags held the Pats to 24 points with 344 yards of offense on 61 plays in Foxboro. If the Eagles defense can match that performance next week I think they'll have done very well for themselves.

12 Re: Film Room: Eagles Offense

Jax raced out to their league running plays outside their usual playbook (as an anecdote, Grant's 59 first half yards were more than had all season), whereas a half-ending drive would have been more standard passing against pass defense. Not only was I not surprised when they kneeled, I expected them to. It was less fear and more honest recognition of the roster limitations.

13 Re: Film Room: Eagles Offense

Lets not try to go to the Super Bowl guys, you know... roster limitations.

The Giants had limited rosters in 2007 and 2011 (10-6 and 9-7 teams)

Every possession is precious and the Jags surrendered one of theirs. No one else did the same with that much time and timeouts this year. Marrone was a coward and his team knew it. You are well in the minority with your opinion that this move was right and expected.

7 Re: Film Room: Eagles Offense

An even better analysis might be the last time Philly and NE played. Given how well Foles played in the Chip Kelly system plus how tired the Pats looked at the end of that game, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Peterson run a hurry up offense for part of the game. Doug’s never been afraid to borrow stuff that worked in the past.

9 Re: Film Room: Eagles Offense

There's been a lot of turnover since then. The only defensive regulars who carry over are Butler, McCourty, Harmon and Chung.

It also should be noted that Philly didn't do that much on offense that day, 248 total yards with 120 passing. The high point total was due to two special teams TDs and a 99 yard pick 6.

8 Re: Film Room: Eagles Offense

The first play isn't a post-corner, it's a backside dig on a 3-level stretch to the field that Jeffrey turned up on a broken play after Newman lost vision of him. Foles slid in the pocket really well and read the improv. (h/t Fran Duffy and Greg Cosell for breaking that down on an All-22 vid They hit this play on regular progression to set up the game winning 61 yarder against the Giants, and again at the end of the 1st half against the Falcons 2 weeks ago.

The last play is fun, because it's a lot of window dressing to get the leverage they want to run Carson's favorite NDSU goal line play they installed during training camp this season and it worked again.