It would seem to be the simplest NFL play, the one you don't need any fancy 3-D holographic whiteboard work to understand. The quarterback, under center, takes the ball and leans forward.
Six times this season on fourth-and-1, the Eagles have run a Carson Wentz quarterback sneak. And six times they have been successful, including twice last Sunday against the Chicago Bears. Just for variety's sake against the overmatched Bears, Wentz also handed off to Jay Ajayi for a successful fourth-and-1 conversion.
ESPN did a study of NFL QB sneaks from 2001-16 that showed the average team runs 4.5 of them per 16 games, so the Eagles are ahead of the curve, even if you don't count – as we haven't, for the purposes of this story – the stray third-and-1 sneak.
Overall, the Eagles are 8-for-8 running this season on fourth-and-1, the most such conversions in the league. They are 2-for-2 passing on fourth-and-1.
"Obviously, that's a pretty big advantage if you're going to be 100 percent at any play in the NFL," Eagles left guard Stefen Wisniewski said Friday, as his team wrapped up preparations for Sunday's game at Seattle. "That might be something that's tough to do the whole season, but the fact that we've done it so far is a really good thing."
"I would say that it's not as simple as it probably looks," center Jason Kelce said. "We've been really good at it this year. I think a lot of it comes down to the technique, making sure everybody is working well together. Sometimes it's less than a yard, sometimes you only need a few inches, but if one guy doesn't put his head where it needs to be, if one guy doesn't have the pad level necessary to be successful, then 1 yard can be that much harder to get."
The best NFL team at converting quarterback sneaks so far this century is, big surprise, the New England Patriots. Since 2001, Tom Brady has attempted more sneaks than any other quarterback, about one every other game, and has converted slightly more than 90 percent, against about an 84 percent league average. Wentz is off to a good start at picking up Brady's torch, in this area, at least.
"It really is about leverage … getting a good takeoff. Honestly, the quarterback's a really big part of it," Wisniewski said. "Wentz is a strong quarterback, which helps … probably got more weight to him than most quarterbacks. There's just kind of a knack to finding the little crease, I think. Brady's probably the best at it. Wentz is pretty good, too, at finding the little spot."
Wentz said the perfect sneak mark is more about his blockers than him.
"The biggest thing is just knowing which side you're going to, and driving your feet. But honestly, it all pretty much rides on the center, the two guards and the push … really, they're the ones converting it. I'm just following their lead.," he said.
Given that getting low is so important, Wentz's 6-5 stature would seem to be an impediment.
"But I'm long," Wentz said. "So when I am down there, I can keep pushing, and if I need to extend anything, I usually can, because again, those guys get really good push up front."
Right guard Brandon Brooks said Wentz actually "does a good job of getting low," and is "a little more muscular" than most QBs, at 237 pounds.
Brooks also said there is more going on with a typical sneak than is visible on TV.
"[Bleep], it's just [bleep]ing carnage on the inside there, man," Brooks said. "Bodies bending backward … It's similar to field goals in a way. It's mano-a-mano. The [defense is] not going to necessarily slant the whole line, they might pinch in or something. But when it comes to the quarterback sneak, everybody in the city knows what the quarterback sneak is – it's us going forward and them going forward, man. Whoever keeps their feet driving and [gets] lower, moves the other guy. It's no secret to it."
Brooks said the pile on a sneak can be a dangerous place for an o-lineman. He said when he played for the Houston Texans, he suffered an MCL sprain on a sneak. He didn't miss any games, but he did have to brace his knee.
"I was at Houston and I'll never forget, quarterback sneak, [Baltimore's Terrell] Suggs came off the edge. I kind of wrapped him up, but when I wrapped him up, his body whipped around and just caught the back of my leg," Brooks said.
Brooks, 6-5, is listed at 335 but acknowledges he weighs about 350. He usually gets excellent push, but he lamented that even so, he usually ends up on the bottom of the pile during a sneak.
"As an offensive lineman, you kind of learn to fall and protect yourself," Brooks said.
Wentz sometimes ends up on top of the pile, but if he finds a crease, he, too, can end up in the middle of the hurly-burly.