Before we get started, it’s important to keep in mind that much of what the Eagles did last week was an attempt to mask deficiencies on their offensive line, where they started three backups.
I provided details in an earlier post, but there was balance, a lot of quick throws and a game-plan that required great efficiency. The Eagles’ three scoring drives went 13, 9 and 16 plays, respectively. While the formula had its merits, it doesn’t work so well when you get down early and can’t get a stop on defense. When the Eagles needed to score quickly, they couldn’t convert.
Keeping that in mind, here’s what we saw from the All-22.
Play 1: Like I said, the game-plan was to get the ball out of Michael Vick’s hands quickly and give the offensive line a chance. In the second quarter, the Eagles ran a nice WR screen to Jeremy Maclin. It ended up being a 12-yard gain, but very easily could have been a 40-yard touchdown.
Look at who’s out front blocking – King Dunlap. He’s no Jason Peters, but there’s a certain degree of athleticism on display here. The guy on the ground near Maclin’s feet is Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann. He hustled from the right defensive end spot and got just enough of Maclin to trip him up. The Eagles ended up scoring on the drive, but they missed a chance at a big play here.
Play 2: Running the kind of offense the Eagles tried out on Sunday requires a high level of execution. They weren’t counting on big plays that can sometimes make up for the minor errors. And when you get down two touchdowns early, the margin for error becomes slim. Here, they faced a 3rd-and-2 from the Atlanta 49 in the second quarter. Check out the pre-snap look.
The Eagles go with four wide receivers and LeSean McCoy in the backfield. The Falcons crowd the line of scrimmage and don’t have any safeties deep. You can see how much space the receivers to the top of the screen have. When the ball is snapped, Biermann sprints back as the lone safety. We pointed this look out last week in the cheat sheets. The Falcons blitz five on the play.
Vick gets rid of the ball quickly, but he targets Avant (blue circle), who is blanketed by the cornerback. And that’s the area of the field where Biermann dropped back too. Jackson and Maclin both appear to be open at the top of the screen. Keep in mind, the Eagles only needed 2 yards to extend this drive. The defensive back on Avant made a nice play to force an incompletion, and the Eagles punted. Atlanta got the ball back, kicked a field goal and went up, 24-7, before halftime.
I understand Vick’s making a split-second decision, and I’m getting time to rewind multiple times, but this could have been a difference-making play.
Play 3: If there’s one stretch that had to make Andy Reid seriously consider benching Vick this week, it had to be the one I’m about to show you. The next time someone tells you defenses are taking away the Eagles’ big plays or points out that DeSean Jackson doesn’t score enough touchdowns, go ahead and show them the photos below.
The Eagles line up in the I-Formation and get the Falcons linebackers to bite with run-action. The safety moves up – either because of the fake or because Brent Celek starts to run across the field.
But Vick doesn’t pull the trigger, instead tucking the ball and running for 4 yards. Peria Jerry eventually pressured him, but Vick had plenty of time to throw the ball, and at the very least could have stepped up and then made the pass. Jackson was visibly frustrated after the play, jumping up and down and waving his hand in the end zone.
Play 4: Two plays later, on the same series, the Eagles faced a 3rd-and-6. Vick motioned Jackson to the left, setting up a bunch look.
The Falcons blitzed, and Sean Weatherspoon came unblocked. Watching live, my initial reaction was to blame the offensive line, and surely some of that is warranted. But on the All-22, you can see that the Eagles had a play called designed to help Vick get rid of the ball right away.
Play 5: On the first play of the very next drive, Maclin runs a slant. But a problem we’ve seen all year surfaces: Vick completely fails to recognize that there’s a linebacker dropping into his passing lane.
Play 6: As I wrote about earlier this week, Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg decided during the bye week that they had to find some way to help the offensive line. In past weeks, we’ve shown Jackson and Maclin getting open even when they’re outnumbered in coverage. But that’s difficult to do when the defense knows you have to pass.
For example, on this 3rd-and-10 play, Atlanta drops eight into coverage against two Eagles receivers.
Falcons defenders are in red. Eagles receivers are in yellow. Not much of a chance to get open here. Vick tucks it and runs, but comes up just short of a first down, and they punt. Another effect of having little confidence in your offensive line.
Play 7: In the fourth quarter, the Eagles had to get a little greedy, and it became clear that they just don’t have quick-score capabilities anymore – mostly because of protection issues. Here, Weatherspoon comes on a delayed blitz, and nobody picks him up.
Again, this was the exception. For most of the game, it was short, quick passes. But obviously, in the fourth, the Eagles were looking for ways to pick up big chunks of yardage, and they couldn’t get it done.
Play 8: And finally, there’s just poor execution. Here, the Eagles run another WR screen to Maclin. With Avant on that side, and Celek coming off the line of scrimmage, it should pick up at least some positive yardage. The problem? They both go to block the same guy.