Much of the talk this week has focused around the innovation that Chip Kelly has brought to the NFL.
But ironically enough, his first touchdown as a professional play-caller came on a concept used by several teams around the league, including the one the Eagles were playing, the Washington Redskins.
Michael Vick lined up under center for exactly one play all game (before the team knelt down at the end). And it was this 25-yard touchdown to DeSean Jackson.
Shotgun? Spread? Single back? Ball out quickly? Not on this play. It’s essentially a two-man route. Riley Cooper runs a deep crosser, and Jackson runs a deep post into the end zone.
There are two backs behind Vick. The Eagles run play-action. The secondary doesn’t bite, but the play-fake allows Vick plenty of time to wait for his receivers to get open.
The Redskins appear to be in quarters coverage, meaning four defensive backs split the field into four zones.
The key defender is the player circled in yellow, E.J. Biggers. He comes up when he sees Cooper. And even as early as the frame above, Jackson puts his hand up, knowing the Eagles have a shot for a touchdown.
Vick probably could have gotten rid of the ball sooner. But Bacarri Rambo (near-hash) also cheated up because of Cooper, and Jackson had the whole end zone to work with.
“DeAngelo Hall, he didn’t carry with me on the post and Mike did a great job of just holding the ball, seeing it kind of open up and he threw a ball to a spot where nobody else but myself could get to make the catch,” Jackson said.
Added Cooper: “A crossing route with a post over top. If that safety comes down, that’s your read.
“We did a bunch of that last year. It’s not too different.”
Jon Gruden said Kelly had asked him about this particular play.
“There’s more offense in Chip Kelly’s background than people think,” Gruden said, explaining that the call is 97 Fist. “That time Michael Vick goes under the center and they steal a play that Chip Kelly’s been studying the New Orleans Saints run.”
One comment from Todd Herremans this summer stuck with me when reviewing the film.
“I think the flow and the way that he calls the game is really good,” Herremans said of Kelly. “It seems like you’re always setting up the next play, which I think is smart.”
Those words rang true on Vick’s 28-yard touchdown to Brent Celek in the second quarter. The Eagles had been killing the Redskins with WR screens in the first half. But on this play, they faked the screen, which opened things up for Celek down the middle of the field.
Jason Avant sets up for the screen up top. Cooper runs a go-route down the sideline to that same side of the field.
Vick takes the snap and immediately turns his shoulders to Avant. That draws two Redskins defenders, including cornerback Josh Wilson, who was the key defender on this play. The safety up top has to retreat towards the sideline to account for Cooper.
That leaves Celek with nothing but open space once he gets behind the linebacker.
Wilson tries to get back, but it’s too late. Vick had some pressure, but threw a laser in between two Redskins defenders. Celek shook off a tackle and scampered into the end zone.
When we think of option football, we usually are talking about the quarterback reading an unblocked edge defender. But the Eagles ran a different play with a similar concept on several occasions Monday night. It’s called the sweep read, and instead of an unblocked edge defender, it’s an unblocked interior lineman. That’s who Vick read on his 3-yard touchdown run.
Here, the unblocked defender is going to be lineman Stephen Bowen. Evan Mathis lets him through and goes straight for the linebacker, London Fletcher.
At the very moment Vick has to decide whether to hand it off or keep it, you can see Bowen is headed straight for McCoy, and a huge hole is opening up.
Pretty sure Kelly himself could have scored on this one. The safety comes up and hits Vick near the goal line, but not before the Eagles add another six points on the scoreboard.
One fascinating part about these option plays is that the control is always exclusively in the quarterback’s hands. And often times, the rest of the team doesn’t know what’s going to happen. Check out the frame below. Lane Johnson is crushing the defensive back on the right side as if it’s a run to McCoy
And Mathis has to deliver a key block on the linebacker.
“That look, I can either be blocking the end or the linebacker,” Mathis said. “And whoever’s on the back side on that block, that could become a front-side block if Mike keeps it as opposed to Shady or the running back running front side. So you have to be able to adjust your angle based on what the read is. And you don’t know the read until it happens so you have to react to how the defenders react.”
In other words, figure out where the defender’s trying to go and stop him from getting there.
“You don’t wait for ‘em,” Mathis said. “You go get ‘em. But you have to react because… you have to protect the front side if they’re going that way. And if Mike keeps it, you’ve gotta be able to protect back there.”
And finally, there was the McCoy 34-yard scamper. Let’s start off with the look.
They have Johnson set up in between Mathis and Jason Peters on the left side. Three offensive linemen to Jason Kelce’s left; one and Celek to his right.
“It’s just a numbers game, a mismatch that we try to get when I go over to the left or the right,” Peters said. “Get the defense off-balance and then run into their weakness.”
Added Kelce: “It’s just another thing the defense has to think about. It’s just another thing the defense has to prepare for. And the whole thing with tempo is just trying to catch the defense on their heels and make them feel uncomfortable. So the shift can do things like that. Just a little change of moving a tackle over to a different position, and now all of a sudden the defense has to react, figure out where to line up and play the ball rather than thinking about the situation, the down and distance, the personnel that’s on the field and things like that.”
Vick takes the snap and hands off to McCoy.
That’s hat-on-hat blocking from Mathis, Johnson and Peters. Again, a giant running lane for McCoy.
And of course, there’s McCoy’s ability to make defenders miss. Here, it looks like Biggers has a shot at him.
But McCoy is one of the most elusive backs in the game. So Biggers doesn’t have much of a chance in the open field.
Avant and Cooper do a great job of blocking downfield, and McCoy scores from 34 yards out.