Breaking down the Eagles' 12-play drive
The Eagles' offense took over from its own 9 yard line with 13:12 remaining in Sunday night's game against the Giants.
The Birds were up, 37-31, but it was clear that they would probably need another score to win and take control of the NFC East.
What followed was a methodical, 12-play drive that went 91 yards in 7:24 and helped the Eagles escape with a victory.
I wanted to take a closer look at what made the drive so successful, so here goes:
The Eagles set up in the I with Leonard Weaver and LeSean McCoy in the backfield. The handoff went to McCoy, who found minimal room outside, picking up 3 yards.
The Eagles set up in the I for a second straight play. This time, it was play-action. The Giants brought a blitz, sending two linebackers and a defensive back off the edge. On the left side, Jason Peters did a good job of recognizing it, and McCoy did an outstanding job helping him. In the middle, Weaver was a little late picking up Michael Boley, forcing Donovan McNabb to escape the pocket and scramble to his left. As he does so often, McNabb bought time with his legs but still looked for a receiver downfield. He found (who else?) DeSean Jackson wide open down the sideline for a 20-yard gain. It's also worth noting that Brent Celek had no trouble blocking a blitzing linebacker on the right side.
The Eagles had a 1st-and-10 from their own 32. Interesting formation. They lined up with three wide receivers and Weaver in the backfield. Jackson came in motion and stopped right behind Jason Avant, who was in the slot on the same side. The Birds used him as a decoy, giving the ball to Weaver straight up the middle. Boley made the stop after a gain of 2. It looked like Jamaal Jackson was a little late getting to him. Really like the design. The Giants' defense was obviously terrified of DeSean Jackson, and the Eagles coaches found another way to try and take advantage of that, even if it was only a minimal gain.
The Eagles set up with Weaver in the backfield and three wide receivers. Celek lined up in the slot to the right side. McNabb stumbled after getting the snap, but got the ball to Weaver, who found a big hole on the left side, rumbling for 10 yards and a first down. Good block by Jason Peters on Osi Umenyiora and great job by Todd Herremans on Boley. Jamaal Jackson also held his block just long enough.
With another first down, the Eagles lined up again with Weaver in the backfield and three wide receivers. Celek lined up in the slot to the left side on this one. The give went to Weaver to the right, but Nick Cole couldn't handle Justin Tuck, and the Birds had to settle for a 3-yard gain. It was the Eagles' third straight run play. Also worth noting that they were operating in a no-huddle.
The Eagles went back to the I. McNabb ran play-action to McCoy and then looked for a receiver downfield, but couldn't find one. He checked down to McCoy, who was open on the right side, picking up 10 yards and another first down. Good protection on the play. The fake handoff froze the Giants' defenders for a second. They were only rushing four.
This was an interesting one. Michael Vick came into the game, setting up in the shotgun with Weaver in the backfield. McCoy lined up out wide, but then came in motion. McNabb and Jackson lined up on the left, and Celek assumed the role of right tackle. The Eagles shuffled their line as Winston Justice lined up outside Peters on the left side. Vick handed it off to McCoy, who then tossed it back to McNabb. As the announcers observed, it seemed like the play was designed to go back to Vick. After handing off to McCoy, Vick stopped, tried to sell that his role in the play was over and then took off. But the Giants defenders weren't sold (although you can't see the route on TV), and McNabb made the smart play, dumping the ball off to Celek for a 4-yard gain. Credit to McNabb here. How often do we see players force it on these types of plays? McNabb instead found Celek for a positive gain. A turnover obviously would have changed the entire complexion of the game.
The Eagles set up with 2nd-and-6 from the Giants' 39 yard line. McNabb in the shotgun with Weaver in the backfield. Three wide receivers and Celek lined up in the slot to the left side. A screen to Weaver on the right side, which took advantage of a Giants blitz. Cole did just enough as a blocker, and Weaver showed great toughness and strength. He was initially hit at the 36, but carried two linebackers with him for 5 more yards, picking up 8 and another Eagles first down.
For the second time this drive, the Eagles used Jackson as a decoy. They gave the Giants a different look. McCoy and Weaver were in the backfield with Jackson and Reggie Brown lined up to the right side. Jackson came in motion, all the way behind the formation as McNabb faked the handoff to him before dumping it off to McCoy. He didn't get much blocking but was able to pick up 6 yards before getting shoved out of bounds. Good, high-percentage play on first down.
The Eagles lined up in the I with Jackson and Brown split out wide. Celek was on the line of scrimmage to the right. The Giants brought two linebackers on a blitz up the middle, and McNabb made an oustanding read, throwing off his back foot and finding Brown wide open over the middle. Great effort from Brown, who picked up 14 yards after the catch as the Giants missed three tackles. A 19-yard gain, which set the Eagles up with 1st-and-goal from the 6. It's tough to tell clearly on TV, but the announcers pointed out that Celek picked Brown's defender, leaving him wide open.
Vick entered the game for the second time this drive. He lined up in the shotgun with Weaver in the backfield. Jackson and Brown out wide. Avant motioned right behind Peters to be used as a blocker. Vick took the snap and showed good patience, before finding room behind good blocks from Celek, Herremans and Cole. He picked up 5, getting all the way down to the 1 yard line.
Three wide receivers. Celek on the left side of the line. Weaver in the backfield. And McNabb under center. Good job by the left side: Celek, Peters, Herremans and Jackson, to open just a big enough hole for Weaver, who scampered into the end zone for the touchdown.
Overall, Weaver touched the ball five times on the 12-play drive. And the Eagles never even faced a third down. Remarkable when you think about it.
Closing out games and executing in the fourth quarter is critical this time of year. As is sustaining drives. The Eagles are a quick-strike, big-play offense. But it was extremely encouraging to see them find another way to score late in the game.