Asomugha Right To Question Blitz Calls?

Philadelphia Eagles CB Nnamdi Asomugha.An obvious question following the Eagles’ meltdown against the Lions is: What changed with the defensive approach at the end of the game?

Through three quarters, Matthew Stafford was 7-for-21 for 91 yards, and the Lions had managed just two field goals on nine possessions. In the fourth quarter and overtime, Stafford was 15-for-24 for 220 yards as the Lions rallied for a pair of touchdowns and two field goals.

While many of the Eagles defenders said after the game that they’d have to look at the film to figure out what exactly went wrong, Nnamdi Asomugha was more forthcoming. He told Tim and some other reporters that a couple things changed.

One, the defense switched up how it covered Calvin Johnson. For much of the game, Asomugha was on Johnson with safety help. And he did an excellent job. But in the fourth, the Eagles used Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on Johnson and also played some zone.

The other point Asomugha made was that the Eagles blitzed more late in the game, and it cost them. But was that really the case?

I went back and looked. Overall, the Eagles blitzed just six times on 51 Stafford dropbacks, or 11.8 percent of the time. They blitzed on three of Detroit’s first 40 passing plays and then three more times on the final 11. So yes, the Eagles blitzed a little more down the stretch, but it’s a stretch to say that was the major change that caused the meltdown.

In the fourth quarter and OT, Stafford was 3-for-4 for 36 yards against the blitz. When the Eagles didn’t send extra pressure, he was 12-for-20 for 184 yards. In other words, he was lighting up the defense against four-man rushes too.

As for Asomugha, who played probably his best game of the season, the guess here is that two plays stuck out in his head when he made those post-game comments. One was a 17-yard completion to Johnson on the Lions’ final drive of regulation. The other was a 17-yard completion to Johnson that essentially put the Lions in position to hit the game-winning field goal in overtime. On both plays, Stafford beat the Eagles’ blitz for big plays. But again, it’s not as if the Birds were shutting him down when they went with the four-man rush.

Perhaps more significant is that Rodgers-Cromartie was on Johnson for both of those 17-yard completions, and it’s tough to figure out why Juan Castillo and Todd Bowles made that decision. Asomugha had done a good job on Johnson for much of the game, and on both those routes, he lined up in the slot. We know from last year’s failed experiment that Rodgers-Cromartie struggles in the slot. Asoumugha, meanwhile, had been lining up inside all game. He said afterwards that the idea was to give Johnson different looks, but clearly those looks didn’t work in the end.

Johnson had one catch for 28 yards after three quarters, but finished with six grabs for 135 yards. By my count, Asomugha allowed three catches for 81 yards; Rodgers-Cromartie gave up two catches for 34; and the Eagles were in zone with Nate Allen nearby for one 20-yard completion.

With the game on the line, the defense fell apart against Stafford, Johnson and the Lions. The result was a 26-23 loss and a 3-3 record going into the bye.

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  • ItsJustDoug

    The reason the Eagles lost all those 4th Quarter leads last year, was faulty logic and Zone coverage schemes that fell apart…Why would they go back to that and away from something that was working…

  • Tough way to go into the bye…but the extra week might be a good time to make a change or two. Eagles tried to talk to Todd Bowles about the DC job when he was in Miami and they were declined by Miami FO. Now that he is with the team…might be time to make a change. If they wanted to let Juan go, now seems like a good time. The D was unable to hold on to a win two games in a row and TB would have two weeks to work with the defense.

    • jabostick

      I agree that now would be the time but it’s tough to put this on Juan without knowing how the play calling/scheming goes. If it is the secondary we have an issue with, I’d assume Bowles has major input.

      Also, DRC (I think it was him) dropped a pick in the endzone at the end of the 4th, Hughes gave up two pretty brutal plays… Play calling (especially on Def, when it is more reactionary) can only take you so far.

      • Brian

        On DRC’s potential pick, Anderson was called for pass interference. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

    • Danny

      According to Asomugha, Bowles was the one who against Arizona decided that after they were planning on shadowing him all week that they shouldn’t shadow Fitzgerald, because they’ll end up moving him around a lot. Where is the logic in that? That is exactly WHY you shadow someone. Instead they did the typical Eagles D (they did the same thing under Jim Johnson too) of let the best receiver lineup where he wants and pick his matchup, so Boykin ends up one on one with Fitzgerald. Asomugha shadowing Johnson was working incredibly well for 3 quarters yesterday, and then someone decided to switch it up. I’m guessing that was Bowles too.

      • Yes and no.. the Eagles’ corners are NOT shadow corners. They’re too tall and not flexible enough to react to the two-way breaks that receivers take out of the slot. They need to use the sideline to control the receivers’ routes. From that standpoint, they do a terrific job, but they (and most of the rest of the corners in football, too) are not going to shadow someone like Fitzgerald for 60 minutes successfully. That’s why many teams use smaller corners — they’re more agile, more flexible, and quicker in their breaks than the ‘longer’ and taller corners.

  • Course, if we have an offensive coordinator (or head coach) who understood time management having the ball with 3:40 left and a running game….maybe the defense would be “put in a better position.” Instead we throw 3 straight passes and snap the ball with 12 secs on the clock all 3 plays. Brilliant

    • SKA

      I did not get to watch the entire game. Did this actually happen? I just knew we blew a 10 point lead. Did they really not make any attempt to run the clock down??

      • Ken Raining

        No, I think one of them was a running play, though I can’t recall for sure. The big play was 3rd and 4, in which Suh deflected a Vick pass at the line. I don’t like the play call, but I do think it would have worked; Vick had either Jackson or Macklin open on a slant (I can never tell which is which right away, their numbers look too much alike). And the run game had been nonexistent all game. But I, for the first time all game, was hoping for a QB draw. Vick had been the team’s most effective runner; just give him the chance to pick up the four yards. If he fails, at least you either get the Lions to use another TO or run the clock down even more.

        • Kimbafuzz

          He had Jackson open, which is why I think he threw it a little lower than the previous one to Maclin (to accommodate the height difference). Suh just made a great play. That said, I agree that 1st or 2nd down should have been a running play.

      • The Eagles’ offensive line was manhandled all game long, and the running game was, as a by-product, non-existent. We can crush Reid for not running the football enough 99% of the time, but in this instance, he felt like they had to try and get a first down or two — which they had only been able to manage through the air all day long.

        • Brian

          agreed, running the ball would have almost guaranteed a 3 and out.

    • Danny

      Matt, you are absolutely right. Other than the fact that they went pass (out of bounds), run, pass (incomplete) and used about 40 seconds of clock and forced zero timeouts. I was stunned that I haven’t heard any of the media experts bring up the drive as a major point of where and why they lost this game. Had the eagles run three straight plays, like any other playoff caliber team would do, worst case scenario is Detroit gets the ball back with about 2:00 left and no timeouts, or if we get 2 first downs, the game is over.

  • Nate Allen going out in the fourth change the defense a lot too.

    • Ken Raining

      Yes, I think that had a bigger impact then most people realize. Colt Anderson came in, and he’s just coming back from injury himself. I think Castillo felt like he had to do more to hide the weakness in the secondary, which unfortunately seemed to expose the secondary even more.

    • The Eagles are 18 Million under their cap, there is no way they should be left with Colt Anderson as the back up safety with all that money left. Give me a break!

      • Brian

        Cap space is great, but they still need someone to sign. There aren’t too many good safeties in the NFL in general, so I’m guessing there really aren’t too many decent backups on the streets 6 weeks into the season either.

    • Some, you’re correct. Here’s my question back, for whomever would care to reply: Why do you need to replace a safety with a safety…? Nate Allen goes down, and the Lions are throwing, throwing, throwing. Why not replace him with Curtis Marsh, or Hughes? The Eagles didn’t need the run-stuffing ability of a safety (and let’s face it, that’s really not Allen’s strength, anyway). So why put Colt Anderson into the secondary in a game you need, at home? It made no sense to me.

  • Jerry from Flawda

    Truth is that the Eagles are just not that good… and not that lucky. Adjust expectations going forward and you’ll be able to watch and retain your sanity. This week, as bad as they were, the offense did enough to win, while the defense faultered. Since McNabb has left, they rarely have played consistent, solid football, on both sides of the ball. They will be lucky to sneak into the playoffs – and if they do, they do not have the makeup to string together multiple wins. It is what it is. 3-4 going into week 9, should be what is expected.

  • Juan and Bowles has to learn if it ain’t broke don’t fix it…… NA was doing a masterful jobs as was the rest of the Eagles Defensive Backfield keeping Megatron and Detroit’s Receivers in Check until late in the 4th Quarter.

    There are a lot of people in Philly not appreciating what both, DRC and NA bring to the Eagles Defense, the focus with NA is on his salary, but up until yesterday these guys have surrendered less than 3 Touchdowns against quality opponents.

  • Voice of reason

    “So yes, the Eagles blitzed a little more down the stretch, but it’s a
    stretch to say that was the major change that caused the meltdown.”

    Asomugha’s argument was clear: the combination of blitzing and coverage switch on Johnson unleashed a Detroit offense that had been contained for 3 1/2 quarters. Not blitzes alone. Not the Rodgers-Cromartie switch alone. It was both.

    Citing Stafford’s completion statistics don’t change that truth. He was contained before the ill-advised tweaks. He was unstoppable afterward.

    Asomugha’s right on this. By a landslide.