The 2015 season has been a roller coaster for the Philadelphia Eagles, with an anemic running game part of the problem. Mark Schofield shows how they got back on track against the New Orleans Saints, thanks to an efficient Eagles drive and defenders colliding.
After dropping their first two games, Chip Kelly’s team earned their first win with a 24-17 victory over the New York Jets. But they stumbled the following week against Washington, allowing a Kirk Cousins game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. But they were back on the upswing this past Sunday, in a 39-17 defeat of the New Orleans Saints. On one drive in particular, Kelly’s offense worked to perfection, forcing defenders to chase players all over the field; vertically, horizontally and eventually, into each other.
After the defense forces a New Orleans punt, the Eagles take over on their own 19-yard with 13:28 remaining in the second quarter. Sam Bradford lines up in the shotgun and Philadelphia has 11 offensive personnel on the field, with a pro formation left and a tight slot on the right. The Saints have 3-3-5 personnel on the field in a four-man front, with linebacker Hau’oil Kikaha (#44) on the edge as a defensive end. They also drop safety Kenny Vaccaro (#32) down into the box, and use Cover 1 in the secondary:
The Eagles simulate an outside zone run, with Bradford taking the snap and faking a handoff to running back DeMarco Murray (#29) angling for the left edge. After the fake, the QB rolls to the right where the slot receivers and the tight end coming from the left set up a triangle concept:
From the outside, rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor (#17) runs a pivot route, while Jordan Matthews runs a wheel route from the slot. Tight end Zach Ertz (#86) runs a crossing route, setting up the triangle look on the outside.
The run fake works to perfection. Watch how the defensive front crashes to the right, flowing away from the play and giving Bradford time to settle on a receiver:
Bradford checks both the wheel route and then the pivot route, before going to his third option, Ertz on the crosser. The TE does a good job of throttling down in an open area, making himself available to the QB:
With the defensive front trying to chase this play down, the deep safety Jairus Byrd (#31) recognizes the crossing route and explodes forward, but given his starting depth he can only keep this to a 13-yard gain for the offense.
After a Murray run between the tackles picked up three yards on the next play, the Eagles set up on their 35-yard line facing a 2nd and 7. Bradford stands in the shotgun with an 11 package in the game again and a slot formation to each side of the field. The Saints stay with their 3-3-5 personnel, again using a four-man front:
Prior to the play, TE Brent Celek (#87) shifts to the left side of the formation, into a wing alignment on the left:
Vaccaro moves with the TE to the other side of the formation, confirming the pre-snap read of man coverage in the secondary.
The Eagles run a stretch zone to the left side here, pulling the playside guard in front of the play:
On the edge, both Celek and left tackle Jason Peters (#71) execute down blocks, which allows left guard Allen Barbre (#76) to pull around the end in front of the running back. On the weakside, the center, right guard and right tackle all flow to their left to cut off pursuit angles.
Celek does a good job blocking down on the defensive end, and as Peters turns the corner he spots an offensive lineman’s dream: A defensive back crashing forward ready to be blocked:
As Vaccaro comes forward on the run, Peters simply lowers a shoulder into the safety and knocks him off the mark. Murray follows behind and races into the secondary where he is finally chased down from behind by rookie linebacker Stephone Anthony (#50), but not before a big gain.
Having stretched the defense horizontally in both the running and passing game, the Eagles now test the Saints vertically. They set up on the New Orleans 41-yard line with Bradford in the shotgun and 12 offensive personnel, with tight slot formation on the right and a double TE wing look left. The Saints stay with their 3-3-5 personnel in a four-man front, and show Cover 1 in the secondary. But before the snap, cornerback Keenan Lewis (#21) is trying to find the right positioning. He starts to rotate toward the slot side of the field, before recognizing the two-tight end set on the right, and racing back to that side:
After the snap, the defense drops into Cover 3, with Lewis the defender in the flat:
The offense fakes an outside zone to the right, and Bradford looks to throw to the 2 TE side of the field. Philadelphia has the perfect play called to attack this coverage, flooding the outside zone with a corner route from Ertz and a crossing route from Josh Huff (#13) working across the field
As the play develops, things go haywire for the defense. On the edge, Vaccaro flows with the run action before trying to retreat into his zone underneath Ertz’s route. Lewis, having finally found where he is supposed to line up, starts to read the run action away, but then identifies that Bradford still has the football, so he crashes forward as the force defender.
As Vaccaro retreats, he runs right by Huff, who is crossing from the other side of the field. Byrd, who has gained depth in response to Ertz, now tries to crash forward on Huff as Bradford locates the underneath route. But the free safety runs right into the strong safety:
Huff can basically walk into the endzone.
From this angle you can see just how everything fell apart for New Orleans on this snap:
From Lewis trying to align himself presnap, to Vaccaro flowing forward on the run action before retreating, to the two defenders (Lewis and Vaccaro) nearly colliding before Vaccaro and Byrd actually do collide, it seems this play was doomed from the start.
The catch-and-run tied the game at seven, and although they would not pull away until later in the second half, this quick and efficient drive demonstrates just how effective Chip Kelly’s scheme can be. On these three plays, the Eagles were able to get defenders out of position, racing all over the field, and running into each other. When an offense can accomplish that during the course of a drive, they will likely be celebrating a touchdown at the end of the drive.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.