In Year 1 of the Chip Kelly era, the Eagles’ offense can expect to see new wrinkles from opponents on a weekly basis.
In Week 2, the Chargers saw what the Birds did to the Redskins on the ground and decided they would employ a different strategy: bring a safety up, crowd the box and play man on the outside.
That led to a 419-yard passing day for Michael Vick, which included seven completions of 20+ yards.
The Chiefs had the benefit of seeing two games on film, and they decided that despite the Chargers’ lack of success defensively, their philosophy was sound.
So, what was the difference in Week 3? Two things stood out:
1. The Chiefs have a lot of talent on D.
2. The Eagles didn’t execute when they had chances.
The second point is not limited to Vick, although he had plenty of issues. It extends to the offensive line and the wide receivers as well. Vick was 13-for-30 and sacked five times. Against the Chargers, he had time to find DeSean Jackson and his other receivers downfield. That’s the risk teams face when they decide to play with a single high safety.
But the Eagles didn’t have as many opportunities against the Chiefs. Below is a look at why.
Late in the first half, the Eagles faced a 1st-and-10 from their own 38. As you can see, there’s nothing fancy at all about what the Chiefs are doing here. No blitz, no stunts, no nothing. Just a boring old four-man rush.
Justin Houston (yellow arrow) gave the Eagles fits all night. Here, he starts upfield, but then uses an inside move to slip past Lane Johnson. The other key is defensive tackle Dontari Poe. The second-year player has been wreaking havoc through the first three games. Because of Poe’s ability as a pass-rusher, Todd Herremans is double-teaming him. That means no help to the inside for Johnson.
Kelly is all about one-on-one matchups. Here, Johnson lost his to Houston, and the receivers didn’t do much to help.
“We gave up too much pressure tonight,” Kelly said. “A lot of times they’re just rushing four and they’re getting to the quarterback extremely quickly. We’re not even getting to the top of our drop and we’re getting too much pressure on them. We can’t put Mike in a lot of bad situations, and I think we’ve got to clean that up.”
Later on the same possession, the Chiefs appeared to be going with another four-man rush. But they had success with some delayed blitzes, including this one with Derrick Johnson.
“It worked for ‘em,” said Jason Peters. “They went man on our receivers and brought the delayed blitz up the middle, and it worked for ‘em.”
“Good evening Mike. I weigh 346 pounds, can bench-press 225 pounds 44 times and run a 4.98 40. Any idea why your linemen are leaving me unblocked?”
From the time Vick got the ball to the time Poe was face-to-face with him in this shot, only 1.7 seconds elapsed. Vick tried to escape to his right, but Johnson was getting pushed back by Houston, and the result was another sack.
“We screwed up on offense quite a bit,” said Herremans. “It’s frustrating. We put a lot of hard work in, but we can’t stop. Obviously it didn’t go our way tonight. Everything that we did though is fixable, everything that we screwed up. Plenty of time to get it right this week. Another tough game coming up.
“We’ve just gotta play better. There’s no secret or magic to it. We’ve got the players. We’ve got a good scheme. We’ve just gotta all be on the same page and get the job done.”
One final example of how breakdowns in protection and receivers failing to get open are a devastating combination.
The Chiefs run a stunt with Tamba Hali. Evan Mathis fails to pick him up. Lane Johnson does a good job of picking up the blitzing DB (bottom right arrow), but Herremans gets beaten badly by Houston. And McCoy struggles to pick up the blitzing LB.
“They was running man [coverage]. When the receivers [are] covered up, you’ve gotta hold the ball longer and we’ve gotta block longer,” Peters said. “So we’ve just gotta fix it and get ready for Denver.”
Added Kelly: “Guys, when they had the opportunity, guys are getting singled, you’ve got to be able to get off coverage and be able to uncover yourself a little bit.”
The players had four days off. Now it’s back to work to prepare for a trip to Denver. There will be plenty of talk about the mismatch between Peyton Manning and the Eagles’ defense. But just as important is that the side of the ball with plus talent, the offense, gets back on track.