For the better part of five weeks, the run game left LeSean McCoy, the offensive line and the coaching staff somewhat frustrated.
Chip Kelly and company had trouble getting everyone on the same page. McCoy averaged just 3.4 yards-per-carry on 90 attempts from Oct. 6 to Nov. 3. He failed to tally a single run of 20+ yards during that span.
While we spend a lot of time in this space talking about scheme and X’s and O’s, sometimes it’s as simple as the best players doing things the opponent can’t account for.
That brings us to Sunday’s game against the Packers, which was easily one of McCoy’s best performances of the season. There have been seven instances this year where a running back has amassed 150+ yards while averaging 6.0 yards per carry or better. McCoy was the running back on two of those seven.
On Sunday, he carried 25 times for 155 yards (6.2 YPC). The blocking up front was better at times. But during other instances, it was just McCoy doing what he does best: making defenders miss.
Take this first-quarter run, for example. Nowhere to go, right?
The Packers have safety Morgan Burnett up in the box unblocked. B.J. Raji penetrates the backfield against Jason Kelce, and there’s no crease for McCoy.
His only option is to try to bounce it outside. But again, Burnett is unblocked and in perfect position to make the play.
However, McCoy against a safety often times is an advantage for the offense.
“I think today I had more lanes and a lot more one-on-one opportunities,” McCoy said afterwards. “I was to the second level so fast today, and I was just hitting it.”
McCoy’s move at the line of scrimmage left Burnett in the dust, and he took off towards the sideline.
McCoy ended up turning a potential loss into a 20-yard gain.
By the way, there’s a reason Eagles coaches have raved about Allen Barbre this week. Look at his hustle on this play.
Barbre is nearly 30 yards downfield on the defensive back. That kind of effort and athleticism makes coaches happy when they review the film.
Then there are the instances when the right play-call meets good execution.
“I think it’s one thing for a back to be confident to run the ball,” McCoy said. “But it’s another when the guys up front want to run the ball even more than you do. So it says a lot about them up front, the way they played today.”
On this sweep to the right, the Eagles have an advantage before the snap.
There’s a lot going on here. The Packers are in man coverage, and you’ll notice Brent Celek to the left of Evan Mathis. Jason Avant is also in tight. There are five Packers defenders in the shot to the left of Kelce.
Barbre is set up to the right of Lane Johnson. They’re both going to down-block on the defensive linemen. Meanwhile, Kelce and Todd Herremans are going to pull. Because of the formation, if the play works, the only defender for them to block on that side of the field will be linebacker A.J. Hawk.
“We had ‘em out-leveraged on the right,” Kelce said. “I think they only had one linebacker over there. They had everybody else pushed over to the left. So me and Todd pulled around. They only had one linebacker so I took A.J. Hawk. Todd tried to get to the second level.”
You can see that the lineman slip past Barbre, but it doesn’t matter. He’s not going to catch McCoy, who is turning the corner.
Kelce makes sure Hawk gets a good taste of the Lambeau grass, and poor Herremans does all that work for nothing. He’s got no one to block.
The other key here is that the Packers are in man coverage. That means the Eagles can take defensive backs out of the play just by having the receivers run them off. Take a look at the cornerback circled in red. He has his back to the play as he tries to keep up with DeSean Jackson.
There’s nothing but open field for McCoy to that side.
“That’s one thing in man coverage is if you can break through that initial defensive structure, they really don’t have a lot of support because guys are running in man coverage and there’s no other safeties to read really,” Kelce said. “So that was really the biggest thing on that play, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do against man coverage for awhile now. If you can break contain, if you can break through the initial stopping of the defense at the first two levels, those third levels often are taken up in routes and things like that.”
McCoy picked up 30 yards for his biggest run since Week 3.
The final drive was huge for the Eagles. They ran the ball on 11 of 12 plays (not including three kneel-downs) and chewed 9:32 off the clock.
Kelly is still using read-option principles with Foles in the game. Here, the Eagles leave Mike Neal unblocked.
A couple plays earlier, McCoy juked Neal and picked up 14. But this time, the defensive lineman gets his hands on McCoy. Looks like about a 1-yard gain, right?
Wrong. McCoy shows great lower-body strength and power. Remember, this was his 24th carry of the game and 15th of the second half. But McCoy drags Neal with him for a gain of 7.
Two plays later, the Eagles faced a 2nd-and-9. And they go zone-read leaving Neal unblocked once again.
Neal is focused on McCoy, although he doesn’t crash hard. In other words, this was a gutsy keep by Foles.
My favorite trend on the Eagles’ zone-read plays with Foles is that the camera-person refuses to acknowledge that it’s possible he’ll keep the football.
We have a confused Neal, and we have McCoy carrying out his fake. But has anyone seen Foles? Or for that matter the football? You know, the thing everyone’s fighting over?
Ahh, there it is. Foles picks up 9 yards and a first down, essentially ending the game.
Overall, on designed runs, the Eagles piled up 179 yards on 31 carries, averaging 5.8 yards per attempt. Even though the Packers geared up to stop the run, the offense was able to pick up yards on the ground. That’s something they’ll have to continue down the stretch for the offense to be successful.