One week after Vikings' quarterback Matt Cassell played the game of his life in shredding the Eagles' pass defense, the Eagles' defense offered up a very different-looking game plan against the Bears.
On this early pass play, it looks like the Eagles are bringing pressure up the middle and playing straight man-to-man across the back. But at the snap, three of the seven would-be rushers bail off the line and take away the quick throw Jay Cutler is expecting to make:
The coverage wasn't flawless. The slot receiver on the right is running free. But Cutler didn't get the look he was expecting on the left and that hesitation was enough time for Nate Allen to drop down and seal things up.
The Eagles did more of this throughout the day, which normally I'd illustrate with a few more examples, but we're on a holiday schedule here, so the gist …
… is that while last week we saw lots of single coverage and quick throws to beat pressure, against Chicago the Eagles thickened their coverage to take those away and hoped the pass rush could use that extra time to get home:
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On offense, the Eagles unveiled a few new looks. The one everyone is talking about is the zone read with the optional backwards pass to DeSean Jackson. The most interesting action on this play comes from left tackle Jason Peters:
At the snap, Peters is bolting downfield. (This is why the pass to DeSean has to be backwards.) He throws a desultory shoulder into the linebacker on his way past him, but he's really running to a spot outside … where he'll then turn around and block back to the line as LeSean sprints past him.
This is the same "ambush" action that we first talked about after the Washington game in the running back screen game. And it's an indication that for all the excitement and attention that goes to DeSean Jackson, he's really a decoy to help set up a big play to the running back:
On this one, the ball's headed to DeSean and Peters is still running to his spot away from the play.
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As we've noted before, opponents have been attacking the Eagles' wide receiver screen game in recent weeks:
Against Chicago, the Eagles attacked those attackers – although they were also helped by a choice the Bears made:
At the snap, the inside slot cornerback will blitz, while the middle defensive back chases the DeSean screen action in the flat. Instead of setting up to block for DeSean as he normally would, Jason Avant runs a route downfield. And because of the blitz, the linebacker has to pick up Avant:
As you can see, he's very slow in doing so and Foles finds Avant for a nice gain. What I wonder is if Avant's route is an auto-response to his man blitzing or if this is how they set it up before the snap and they just ended up getting a little fortunate in how it worked out.
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On the touchdown to Riley Cooper, the Eagles did a couple interesting things. They started with three tight ends, which kept the Bears in their base defense. Then Cooper and Zach Ertz crossed off the line, which meant a linebacker had to match up with Cooper, "wasting" the safety on Ertz:
You can see the safety knows what's happening and is trying to catch up to Cooper at the end, but it's too late. The "throw back across your body into the middle of the field" play is a bit less dangerous when it's only a linebacker in coverage.
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As a final note, we've seen lots of interior defensive linemen cheating this year against the running game. One advantage of the under-center alignment is it makes that kind of guessing harder.
Our old friend Jay Ratliff is going to fire off the ball to his right on this play, but since the play is going to his left that just takes him right into the path of left guard Evan Mathis, who definitely appreciated how much easier this made his reach block.
Happy holidays, everyone.