Top 10 NFL Games of 2018: #9 Philadelphia @ Tennessee Week 4

The Philadelphia Eagles traveled to Nashville for a game against the Tennessee Titans in week 4 in which the two teams would exchange haymakers for four quarters and nearly an entire overtime. Both teams had made the playoffs in 2017 and were holding 2-1 records entering the contest. The two quarterbacks had already missed time due to injury early in 2018, but both were healthy for this matchup, making this the 9th best game of the season.

Carson Wentz was looking to regain his MVP form from 2017 after being eased into the 2018 season. Marcus Mariota was looking to build off his first career playoff win, where he showed the ability to take over a game with his mobility and playmaking skills. They both showed flashes of their peak quarterback form in a game of ebbs and flows.

First Quarter

The Titans would start the game with two rushes before their game plan began to come into picture.

Corey Davis was drafted fifth overall in the 2017 NFL Draft with the intentions of being a big-time playmaker that could assume the role of a prototypical number 1 wide receiver for Mariota. As Davis battled through injuries, the result was a disappointing rookie season, putting up only 34 receptions for 375 yards and zero touchdowns. Before this game, Davis had failed to tally a 100-yard game or a touchdown in his short career.

The Titans offensive coaching staff, led by offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, were finally able to unleash Corey Davis against the Eagles.

Mariota would miss a chance for an explosive play to Davis, overthrowing him just over a minute into the game. But he would find his target the following play.

Tennessee is facing their first third down of the game and come out in 11 personnel, Philly decides to match up with Cover 1. Davis (#84) is split out wide to the boundary side of the field when he hits Jalen Mills (#31) with an out-and-up. Davis’ out cut is right at the sticks, causing Mills to bite on the initial break, fearing a quick completion for a first down. Just as Mills breaks down field, Davis snaps off his route and accelerates down the sideline, adjusting very well to an accurate Mariota touch pass.

Tennessee would go three-and-out after the big play. Ryan Succop would draw first blood as he puts up the first points of the game to make it 3-0 Titans early.

Philadelphia showed aggressiveness early as well, going for a big play right out of the gate, but Nelson Agholor would fail to track a downfield bomb from Wentz. Wentz would then go to his security blanket, Zach Ertz, in order to get the Eagles moving early.

The Eagles are in 12 personnel in a tight formation with Jordan Matthews (#80) the only player split outside the numbers. Tennessee is in a quarter-quarter-half coverage with underneath defenders favoring the field side away from Ertz (#86), who is lined up closest to the left tackle. Ertz stems his route outside and up the seam before he cuts in and settles between Wesley Woodyard (#59) and Logan Ryan (#26). One of Ertz’ best traits is being able to consistently get open and find soft spots in the defense, in a way that mimics Jason Witten.

The Titan’s defense, led by Head Coach, Mike Vrabel, would step up after the big play, forcing an Eagles punt just as Philadelphia crosses midfield.

Tennessee and LaFleur would keep up with the aggressive mentality and big number 84 would be the target once again

The Titans are in 12 personnel in a tight formation with two receivers in the slot to the boundary. Following a split zone play-action fake, Mariota (#8) drops deep and steps up into pressure when he hits Davis near the sideline on a deep out route. This play is set up beautifully, after the Titans aggressively targeted Davis 20+ yards down field twice on their first drive. Ronald Darby (#21) and the Eagles defense take notice and are making sure coverage is over the top of Davis. This gives Davis more than enough space to break off his route at 18 yards, and Mariota is able to find his big target for another big gain.

A quick three-and-out and Tennessee is punting back to Philadelphia.

The Eagles would respond by feeding their chain-mover, Ertz, on the first play of their second possession as well.

Philadelphia is in 11 personnel when they dial up an Run Pass Option. Wentz is reading the middle linebacker, rookie Rashaan Evans (#54), on this play as he begins to move with Jay Ajayi (#26). Wentz pulls the ball and quickly hits Ertz who is slanting right into the natural gap left by Evans when he reacts to the run action. However, this drive would also fail after the Titans get a sack, stuff a screen and force an incompletion resulting in the third consecutive punt of the game.

Mariota would start spreading the ball around to targets other than Davis, giving Taywan Taylor and Dion Lewis a chance to force their will on the Eagles.

Tennessee was trying to use tight formations to move the ball against Philadelphia, until Mariota motions Lewis (#31) out of the back field, giving a five-wide look. Jordan Hicks (#58) follows Lewis out wide, indicating the Eagles are in man-coverage. Corey Graham (#24) moves up to the line of scrimmage, showing Cover 0. Mariota recognizes the matchup outside and quickly gets the ball out of his hands to beat the blitz. Once he has the ball in his hands, Lewis shows off his elusiveness and quickly sheds Hicks and Mills. Taylor (#13) delivers a block that gives Lewis the edge, and he lays out attempting to gain the first down. Notice how much ground Graham is able to cover on this play. If not for Graham’s effort, this play could have broken off a huge chunk of yardage.

Three plays later, the Titans try again to go deep, but this time it’s Philadelphia who makes a play.

The Titans are in 12 personnel, and after play-action and a jet-motion fake, they try to go over the top of the defense. Malcolm Jenkins (#27) flies down to cover the potential jet-sweep but the Eagles secondary is prepared for the play. Jalen Mills diagnoses the play instantly and points deep, letting Darby know that he is playing underneath the deep route. Taylor is violently quick off the line and runs by Darby, but Darby is able to recover partially due to a slightly underthrown ball by Mariota. Darby makes contact right before the ball gets to Taylor, but it’s timed well enough that the officials do not call pass interference on the pass breakup. The Eagles force another punt.

Second Quarter

Wentz struggled in his debut in week 3, but looked much more comfortable a week later in this matchup. Getting back one of his favorite targets aided that cause.

Alshon Jeffery missed the first three games of the season recovering from shoulder surgery. He showed up in a big way on a 3rd and 4 when the Eagles were deep in their own territory.

The Eagles are in 11 personnel with a tight bunch into the boundary just inside the numbers. Tennessee is in Cover 1 and Adoree’ Jackson (#25) is in man-to-man coverage on Jeffery (#17), who is positioned on the line of scrimmage in the bunch. Jackson was drafted for his speed, not for his strength. Jeffery is running a fade and is able to bully Jackson down the field, winning position and creating leverage for Wentz to drop in a pass over Jeffery’s outside shoulder. His first catch of the year goes for 31 yards. Wentz does a great job reading the field and standing tall in the pocket until the last second, when he delivers an accurate ball despite the pressure.

The Titans and Eagles defenses were playing well early in this game creating pressure, stuffing runs and delivering huge hits. Both teams were able to create some big plays but would take turns punting until the Eagles get the ball with 8:56 left in the 2nd quarter.

A few solid runs and a couple first down receptions from Ertz would put the ball at the Eagles 44-yard line.

After chewing up 4:48 of game time in 7 plays for only 31 yards, Philadelphia decides to take a shot at the end zone. The Eagles are in 12 personnel, with Matthews the single receiver split out into the boundary. Tennessee is running a Cover 4 zone with Malcolm Butler (#21) lined up on Matthews at the top of the screen. Dallas Goedert (#88) is lined up tight to the boundary side and is running an out route, with Matthews running a post over the top. This post-out concept is designed to beat Cover 4. Kenny Vaccaro (#24), the boundary safety, is the defender the Eagles are keying on. Due to his responsibilities in Cover 4, Vaccaro takes Goedert on the out route, leaving a void in the middle of the field. Butler is slow to get depth against Matthews and once Vaccaro breaks outside, Matthews cuts to the middle of the field. Wentz stands tall in the pocket and delivers a dime, giving the Eagles a 7-3 lead following a Jake Elliot extra point.

These teams would again exchange punts before the Titans take over with only 41 seconds left in the first half.

Tennessee is keeping their foot on the gas pedal as they look to possibly take a lead into the half. The Eagles only rush four, but Fletcher Cox (#91) and Chris Long (#56) are able to push the pocket all the way back into Mariota’s lap. The Eagles use a box coverage to cover the bunch formation that Tennessee has on the field side. Philadelphia has this play covered pretty well, but Mariota still forces a ball into coverage and the result is an Avonte Maddox (#29) interception. I’m not really sure where Mariota is going with this ball and frankly, if he wasn’t targeting Nick Williams (#14) on the curl route, this ball should have never been thrown.

Now the Eagles are gifted an opportunity to take an even bigger lead into the half. But the Titans defense would hold and the Eagles settle for a field goal to start the second half up 10-3.

Third Quarter

Philadelphia would receive the second half kickoff, and the game plan would largely remain the same. Ertz was owning the middle of the field on this day. Ajayi broke off a run for 18 yards that was be called back for holding. Aided by a pass interference penalty against Kevin Byard, Wentz sliced and diced the Tennessee defense all the way to the Titans 8-yard line.

The Titans are on their heels as Philadelphia is threatening to go up by double digits. The Eagles run a screen play to Agholor (#13), who is lined up in the slot to the field. Wentz gets the ball out quickly and in front of Agholor so that the receiver can attempt to make a play in space. Agholor sheds an arm tackle before Brian Orakpo (#98) tracks him down and pops the ball out of his hands. Ryan (#26) makes a great effort play diving to keep the loose ball in bounds. However, Byard recovers the fumble while his body is touching out of bounds. Philadelphia is lucky to retain possession.

Following two offensive holding penalties, the Eagles are pushed all the way back to the Tennessee 25-yard line.

Third and goal from the 16-yard line, Wentz delivers. Philadelphia lines up Agholor, Ertz and Jeffery in a trips formation to the bottom of the screen. Tennessee is in Cover 4 and the Eagles would score their second touchdown against this coverage. Jeffery lines up to the bottom of the screen and runs a post-corner on LeShaun Sims (#36). The big bodied receiver is able to box out Sims and high point the ball to put the Eagles up 17-3. The Eagles would lose 30 yards to penalties, yet take up 7:24 of game time on this drive.

The Titans were in danger of letting this game out of their control and needed a big drive with some points to stay within reasonable striking distance. Corey Davis would contribute with another 20-yard reception. Tennessee would avoid disaster when a mishandled pitch from Mariota to Derrick Henry was recovered by the Titans for a 12 yard loss. A pass interference call on Jalen Mills on 3rd and 5 would put the ball inside the 5-yard line for the Titans, as the penalties started to catch up to the Eagles. Two plays later, Mariota would improvise and scramble into the end zone. A huge responding drive for the Titans brings them back to a one score deficit.

Philadelphia gets the ball back with just under three minutes remaining in the third quarter and picks up two quick first downs before the fourth quarter starts.

Fourth Quarter

First play of the fourth quarter, Wentz drops back on a play action pass when the Eagles pass protection breaks down. Wentz slips and is smothered by a swarm of Titans. Two plays later the Titans pass rush is able to get to Wentz again.

It’s 3rd and 20, and the Titans line defenders all the way back to the sticks only rushing four. Lane Johnson (#65) is one of the best tackles in the NFL, but in this league everyone gets beat eventually. Rookie Harold Landry (#58) was touted by many as the best pass rusher in the 2018 Draft and this play shows why. Landry gets a great jump off the line and is able to dip his shoulder, rip through Johnson, and turn the corner with great bend and speed. Wentz barely gets to the top of his drop before he is leveled. The ball goes flying and the Titans regain possession in Eagles territory.

In the ensuing series, Tennessee is faced with a 4th and 1 and the Titans coaching staff elects to be aggressive once again. They’re going for it.

One of Mariota’s best traits is his mobility, so rolling him out of the pocket where he can pass or run will create problems for a defense. Nigel Bradham (#53) recognizes the play call but the chip block from Lewis is just enough to allow Mariota to gain the edge. This puts Jenkins in no man’s land. The immediate threat is Mariota running the ball, but Lewis stays with the play and keeps moving up field. Just as Jenkins sells out to stop Mariota, Mariota flips the ball to Lewis and ducks down to avoid the collision.

This massive fourth down conversion would only result in a Ryan Succop field goal. Philadelphia still leads 17-13.

The Eagles would quickly go three-and-out. Tennessee has a chance to finally retake the lead.

Tennessee is in 12 personnel and runs another split-zone play action fake with Davis being the main target. It’s a Yankee concept with Taylor running a dig crossing the face of Jenkins and drawing the attention of the middle defender in Cover 3. Davis is screaming towards the middle of the field and hauls in another big play. Darby is the key defender on this play. Once he sees no one in his zone to cover, he gets lackadaisical as he sinks, until the ball is going over his head. Had Darby been able to gain more ground sinking back, he would have been under Davis’ post route and could have made a play on the ball. Instead it’s a gain of 51 for the Titans, who are threatening to take the lead.

Tajae Sharpe would catch a Mariota pass from 11 yards out later in the drive, and the Titans would take the lead 20-17. Philadelphia has another unsuccessful drive and is forced to punt with three minutes left in the contest. The Titans would not be able to extend the lead and would punt with 1:54 left.

Before this DeAndre Carter punt return for 42 yards, these two teams combined for 11 punts and only 8 return yards. Brett Kern (#6) earned his game check on this play as he acts as a roadblock to Carter’s return. The Eagles would be set up at the Tennessee 39-yard line with 1:41 on the clock, only needing a field goal to force overtime.

The Eagles’ efforts to take the lead late would be stopped inside the red zone, and Jake Elliot would split the uprights once more to send the game into overtime.

Overtime

Philadelphia wins the toss and elects to receive. Chunk plays from Jeffery, Wendell Smallwood and Ajayi would get the Eagles into the redzone. Again, the Titans defense stiffens in the red zone and the Eagles are forced to settle for another Elliot field goal.

Tennessee takes over on their own 25-yard and must score a touchdown on this drive to win the game. A quick first down gets the ball to the 36 when doubt would begin to creep in on the Titans.

The Titans take their first timeout of overtime to set up for fourth down.

A mental mistake would once again be the downfall of the Eagles, allowing this 4th and 15 conversion from Mariota to Taylor. Philadelphia has the perfect coverage called, a Cover 2 zone protecting the first down yard line. For whatever reason, Corey Graham does not sink with Taylor’s route as the wide receiver runs to the line to gain and sits at the sideline. It’s way too easy for the Titans on this play.

Next series, Tennessee now has a 4th and 4 from the Philadelphia 44-yard line when Sidney Jones commits a blatant pass interference foul, grabbing and holding Williams around the waist. It’s only a four yard penalty, but it’s the most costly foul the Eagles committed in a game where they had 8 penalties for 77 yards.

The penalty puts the Titans at the Eagles 40-yard line. A negative run by Henry and a Haloti Ngata sack on Mariota pushes Tennessee back to the Philadelphia 49-yard line, and it’s 3rd and 19. Someone needs to make a play.

The Eagles rush four and the defenders in coverage are bailing back to the sticks. They decide not to spy Mariota and the dual threat takes notice. Mariota gets to the top of his drop, looks at Dion Lewis who has quite a bit of space in the flat, then takes off. When the Titans need him the most, Mariota makes a huge play and instead of a 4th and 10+ the Titans are set up for a manageable 4th and 2 with the playbook wide open.

Tennessee would take their last time out, and Philadelphia takes their first of overtime as the 10 minute period is winding down.

After deciding not to throw to Lewis on third down, Mariota finds his shifty running back as he runs beneath his offensive line and becomes wide open. The Eagles are in man coverage, and because of the route Lewis has and the crossing routes from the tight bunch to the boundary, there is a breakdown in the Eagles coverage. Lewis picks up two huge blocks from Tajae Sharpe then lets his instincts take over. The running back puts the Eagles defense through the spin cycle and glides to the Eagles’ 15-yard line.

The clock is becoming an issue as the Titans snap the ball with 30 seconds left. Another Philadelphia penalty on first down gifts the Titans five more yards. A Davis drop on second down stops the clock with 17 seconds left.

The Titans come out in an 11 personnel set with trips into the boundary. The Eagles bring extra pressure but Tennessee has it blocked. Davis is the closest slot receiver in the formation and runs a dig route. Maddox slips as Davis makes his break, Mariota passes with pressure in his face from an awkward platform. Davis soars into the air over the Eagles and secures the game winning catch for Tennessee with seconds remaining.

If I had enough time and was crazy enough to do a “best drives” series from the 2018 NFL season, this overtime drive from the Titans would be very close to the top. Marcus “Super” Mariota made an appearance, cape and all, as the Titans showed great resilience, coming back from a 17-3 deficit and converting on three fourth down plays in overtime to devastate the Eagles.

MVP of the Game

Wins like these are a team effort which makes it difficult to pick one player as the most valuable. Despite making some mistakes, Mariota made some huge plays late and was accurate with the ball when he needed to be. But Davis picked a perfect time to have the best game of his career. Tennessee got him rolling early and he made plays throughout the game. While many fans and evaluators began to think Davis was a potential bust, the former top-five overall pick showed why he was drafted so high. Crisp route running, long speed, and clutch hands make Corey Davis the MVP of this intense week 4 matchup.

Re-live this game and watch the highlights here.

Follow Jake on Twitter @JakeSchwanitz. Check out the rest of his work here, including his look at the #10 NFL Game of 2018, UTEP corner back Nik Needham, how Sony Michel was eased into his rookie season & Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill.

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