Zone Read: Eagles-Lions, the Day After

NFL: Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles

Chip Kelly and his coaching staff worked all week on a special gameplan to neutralize the aggressiveness of the Detroit Lions’ defensive front.

Screens, draws, read-plays that would have left linemen unblocked. Those were all part of the plan as of Sunday morning.




"We had a lot of plays in the gameplan to attack their scheme and attack a lot of their explosion and things like that," said center Jason Kelce. "I was excited to run them coming into the game because I thought they were awesome. But the weather really took them out of their typical way that they played football because they couldn’t get their footing, they couldn’t get upfield as fast.

"I think the coaches got to some more downhill stuff and some more vanilla stuff where we could just kind of get together and get double teams and get moving vertically."

The word vanilla has been used in the past as a jab at Kelly's offense. On Sunday, vanilla was what saved the Eagles.

The Lions like to set up in the Wide-9, fire off the ball and attack the quarterback. But the snow naturally slowed their ability to do those things. That meant the Eagles had to adjust. Kelly scrapped the original gameplan and went back to basics - inside zone runs that challenged his offensive linemen to win their battles up front.

"We've been trying to preach here just hitting things downhill," Kelly said. "It was very tough, especially with this defense to go lateral. We learned that with the weather it was very difficult to go lateral and we felt like we had to get a downhill game going."

In other words, they noticed what was working (and what wasn't) and just went with it.

"Early on, we were trying some stuff that was more lateral, more outside, but it was really hard for everybody to get their footing I think," said guard Evan Mathis. "It was just kind of awkward running those plays. So we just brought it back inside. It allows everybody for the most part to keep their footing, keep their base up underneath them and just use your power and drive ‘em and control the line of scrimmage."

And that's exactly what the Eagles did to finish the game. In the fourth quarter, they had 23 offensive plays - 19 runs and four passes (not counting kneel-downs). On the runs, they totaled 226 yards, averaging 11.9 yards per carry. In the final 15 minutes, the Eagles had five runs of 20+ yards: three by LeSean McCoy, one by Chris Polk and one scramble by Nick Foles.

While McCoy will grab many of the headlines today (and rightfully so), the offensive line deserves credit as well. The Lions entered the game with the second-best run defense in the NFL, per Football Outsiders. All week, Eagles linemen were asked about defensive tackles Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh. The weather obviously played a factor in slowing those guys down, but Kelce, Mathis and Todd Herremans did their part to control the interior down the stretch.

"Obviously they’re gonna be different players in the dome than they would be in that snow," Herremans said. "But so are we. I think it just kind of became a shoving match up front to a point. Our backs did a really good job of setting up the blocks, making a good cut and just getting north."

Added Kelce: "If our team was gonna be successful, it really came down to us three getting the job done against those two. Those two are pretty much the heart and soul of that defense. ...So for us, I think naturally all three of us put a little bit more pressure on us to get the job done and we felt like going into the game, as long as us three took care of those two that we’d be able to be effective offensively."

And Kelly: "I just know they weren't as disruptive as they've been during the year, and I know going in that was one of the big challenges because Detroit was so stout from a run standpoint. ...Obviously that was a big matchup we knew going in, and I thought Todd, Jason and Evan did a real good job of that."

The Eagles at one point scored touchdowns on five straight drives in the second half before Foles knelt down a couple times to end the game.

Many will debate today about what the ceiling is for this football team. The Eagles have averaged 31.6 points during their five-game winning streak. Each week has presented a new challenge, and each week the team has answered the call. An under-the-radar factor has been offensive line continuity. The Eagles have started the same five guys up front in all 13 games.

With just three tests remaining to determine whether this is a playoff team or not, the guys up front feel good about where they're at.

"Any time a unit’s together as long as we’ve been together all year through training camp, you’re gonna get to jelling at some point unless you just don’t have good offensive linemen," said Jason Peters. "And we have ‘em and we’re jelling right now."

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  • Adam

    How cool is hearing about this “clutch period” stuff? You see this stuff in practice and it comes natural in a game. Love it.

    • GEAGLE

      Really well coached team!! 1 penalty all day in a Blizard? Like are you kidding me? That’s a damn good coached team!

      just look at your defense. So fundamentally sound,yet now you are seeing front 7 players try to hold up ball carriers while someone comes and tries to strip the ball free…Cary and Brad aren’t shutdown CBs, but they are FANTASTIC and WILL be starting here TOGETHER for two, three more years…just WATCH! They don’t have that all world speed, but they battle the hell out of WRs for 60 minutes, and while they won’t just shut you down, they are fantastic at interrupting WRs hands at the last second and breaking up what looks like a completion…that’s just COACHING!!!

      the sports science..the TEAM UNITY. Players keeping their heads down and not talking about how great they are…consistent weekly improvement in so many areas…we have the makings of something special here!!

      • Mike Flick

        It is funny how we are trained. After every single 3rd down pass hits the turf (or snow). I hold my breath and wait to make sure there are no flags before I celebrate the play.

        I can’t remember a game with only 1 penalty.

        • GEAGLE

          Trained? More like traumatized!! We have some NFL version of some twisted Stockholm syndrom sort of disorder :)

    • southy

      I’m all for gushing over CK, but “clutch period” is something pretty much all NFL teams run in practice, just by another name.

      • Adam

        Chip seems to put the guys in very specific scenarios, more so than most teams. There was an article about it a few weeks ago I think. If Andy used to do it, he must not have done it very well, along with some other teams in the NFL.

        For the scenarios that played out in our clutch period to play out in back to back games, well that’s pretty.. well, um.. clutch.

        • BlindChow

          OMG Time machine!

  • DirtyWaters

    As awesome as that was, I would’ve loved to see the gameplan. Would we have stuck with our first 15 scripted plays last year?

    • Adam

      I think they had the right game plan as far as theory went in the beginning… running stretch plays and running away from the middle of that defense, but the weather obviously made that impossible to get any footing. Kudos to Kelly for adjusting and not banging his head against the wall. Let them play strength vs strength.

    • Scott J

      We might still see it in the playoffs.

  • annoyed eagles fan

    Andy Reid inherited a team that had at least 8 pro-bowlers on it….how many pro bowlers did Chip inherited? That alone should put The Chipper ahead of Andy….

    • Richard Colton

      he might have inherited 2 MVPs…I’ll take it

      • Andy124

        What do you mean? Donnie Football wasn’t inherited.

        • GEAGLE

          Did you hear the ironic story of Donnie long balls success?
          Punters have been learning this rugby style punting the past few years, so Donnie wanted to add that style to his arsenal, so he sought out the help of Brad Wings father like two years ago when he was for the texans. ironic how B rad Wings father teaching that technique played a role in his son not being an Eagle today….life is funny sometimes

          • Andy124

            Ha. Did not hear that.

      • macadood

        Foles and McCoy?

        • Richard Colton

          yep. why not? each has had a little MVP buzz this year.

          • GEAGLE

            Probowl caliber Cox
            probowl Meco
            The best signing of the NFL offseason, BRAMA Bull Barwin!!

          • Richard Colton

            best offseason move? not trading FOles to KC for a second round pick.

          • GEAGLE

            Can’t trade what you don’t know :)

    • GEAGLE

      Andy inherits probowler…Chip manufactures probowlers…

      What is Andy even really doing? Suttons defense scores more points then Andy’s offense, and he traded for a QB that can’t get on the same page as their probowl WR….if Billy Davis defense was doing what Suttons defense is doing, and Chips offense was playing like Andy’s the national guys would be ridiculing Chip all day about how he can’t coach here…Andy is being carried by a defense he inherited. And the DEFENSIVE additions added since the arrival of Andy are the weak links of that defense..Andy doesn’t learn, he went for the name again, and Sean Smith ends up being the worst CB in NFL…what has Dunta Robinson done in past two years?

      Chip took what Andy ran to the ground and turned it into gold?we thought he had of turnover this entire roster! yet Chip just coached it up to his standards…THAtS the NFL coach of the year right now…we would still be eating tacos on Tuesdays if Andy were still here smh

  • cloisterwater

    “Kelly scrapped the original gameplan and went back to basics…”
    The best part of the article right there. One thing that Reid could never do was adjust/adapt to how the game was going. If the original game plan didn’t work (which many times it did – to his credit) he just stuck with it, expecting it to eventually work.

    • Wilbert31

      preach.

  • GW.Fisher

    Chip’s certainly done more with less than most of those other guys. Took Andy’s team, got rid of a few cancers, and is sitting at 8-5.
    And as much as I loved the last throw to Celek it sure looks like Lane Johnson is illegally 5 yards downfield before the throw…

    • Brian

      He was only 2.5 yards off the line, when the ball was released.

      • @PhilthyBird215

        Not that anyone can see it. but Brain is right. not sure, but i also think Jonson was an eligible receiver.

        • southy

          He was covered up by Celek on the play, so not eligible.

      • Corey Dawson

        Yep. Easy to miss that line across the field though. The shade of blue is just too glaringly bright.

    • JTR

      Is it possible that Reid was doing less with more? Either way, Chip has them playing great, whether that means playing way over their heads or up to their potential…

  • @PhilthyBird215

    before we start handing out honers. lets just see this through. where ever its going to take us. think about your initial thought, and expectation at start of the season. think back to your thoughts after the first game vs the Redskins. then after back to back losses to the Cowboys and Giants.

    what I’m trying to say is, this team, this coaching staff and players are something special. I dont know about anyone else but, my expectation a the out set was modest at best. I wanted to see improvement across the board. To put it simply; When i sit down on sunday afternoon to watch a eagles game. I wanted to feel that i was going to watch a good effort, smart play, smart coaching and play calling. Instead of the feeling I’ve had every sunday for the proceeding two years; feeling of complete hopeless ness, and the urge to but a bag over my head.

    I guess the point I’m trying to make is. I am still enjoying the win yesterday. and its seems everyone is way ahead of me handing out medals and such.
    I love everything I’m seeing and hearing about this team. they project my thought what a “TEAM” should be.

    lets enjoy the ride, because it is special. believe me there will be plenty of time for awards .

    • GEAGLE

      What awards were handed out? Like do you really take issue with people praising a team for good play? I don’t think you have read too many, SB here we come posts. this is a day after reaction to a game that went AWESOME, you can’t even talk about yesterday without throwing out some serious praise.that doesn’t mean people are handing out awards…..how can you talk about yesterday without being excited or positive?
      ….
      I’m watching Tom Brady and his veteran hall of game coach squeak out 1 point wins against teams like Cleveland yet after we win games, the talk is about not being able to hold onto leads?….if you are going to react to what you saw yesterday, how can you not be positive?

      • @PhilthyBird215

        GEAGLE, there is nothing i’ve said that was/is negative about reactions to Eagles wins.
        yesterdays game was fantastic, or as you put it “AWESOME”.
        where in the last 2 years I would have turned the TV off after the 3rd quarter, when ross took a punt back for a TD to make it 14-0 Lions. This year I did not. If you remember by then it felt more like 41-0 rather than 14-0.
        More to the point; I am simply trying to put focus on the fact that this team is over achieving by a wide margin then initial expectations set last August. so when we start praising, we should do so with perspective. Meaning, No matter what happens in the next 3-5 weeks. It would not changed my thought on them over achieving.

    • Scott J

      I feel the same. I just wanted to see improvement – which we have seen. I still don’t expect much, but I think we have a QB for next year. There is no QB in the draft that I would rather have instead of Nick. Is he our next franchise? Maybe. Lets let it play out. Our defense is much improved. Instead of a complete overhaul, we need a few more pieces and we could be in the top 10. There is reason to be optimistic now and Chip Kelly has won me over.

  • Dallas Eagle

    Agree with cloisterwater. Reid’s achilles was inability to ever adapt in-game. Chip is showing he can do that – even listening to the players – that only bodes well as they improve.

  • GEAGLE

    Can someone explain something to me? How was the Lions run defense NOT ranked #1 when they were accomplishing things that no run defense had accomplished since 1930 like not allowing a TD?….they have been historically fantastic defending the run before Shady and our Oline punched them in the mouth! yet they were only ranked like second or 3rd….how is that even possible?

    • Corey Dawson

      I know they’ve just been silly good the last 6 games or so, but what were the 6 before that like? According to espn, they’ve allowed 1291 yards on 315 attempts over the course of the season for a 4.1 ypc average.
      Whatever happened, run defense rankings are based on rushing yards allowed. They weren’t #1 there, so they aren’t #1 in the rankings.
      This is the same reason the Eagles D ranks so low, they gve up a lot of yards since they’re on the field so much and have to defend more plays, but they still don’t give up points.
      Run/pass/total D isn’t ranked on points allowed like many think it should be because a) you don’t know how many points are due to passing or running individually but mostly, b) points doesn’t account for field position. A efense can can give up only 200 yards a game but a bunch of points if the oline is constantly giving the ball to the opposing team on the 40.

  • Alex
  • GEAGLE

    For me, Celek deserves a lot of credit. not many TEs that can go out and catch passes, can be asked to consistently handle Blocking DEs the way Brent did yesterday when we started to have our inside zone read success. he was fantastic in sealing the DE.
    ..
    Avant had a fantastic block down field where he literally took out two defenders with one block, springing shady to take it to the house and do his shady dance!

    As soon as I saw the early success bell was having against us early running north south! I KNEW we would be seeing some of Polk.

  • GEAGLE

    Btw, YOUR eagles defense didn’t give up 20 points, they gave up 8!!!!

    And it’s takes a pretty strong team to overcome two ST TDs

    • Andy124

      Initially read as:
      pretty strong team to overcome to STDs

      My thoughts: Only two?

      • Richard Colton

        smoothies are a natural prophylactic

      • Johnny Domino

        Chip has given them a real shot in the arm.

      • Brian

        Spurts Science?

      • GEAGLE

        Ha

  • theycallmerob

    Wilbert Montgomery currently holds the mark (1,512 yards in 1979). McCoy needs 207 yards in the final three games (69.3 YPG) to break that mark.

    Also at 1744 all-purpose. Needs 360 more rush/rec yards to break Westbrook’s franchise record from ’07.
    Very important to note Shady is not alone in carrying this offense, like Peterson did getting all those yards last year:
    DJax needsz 330 rec. yards to break Quick’s record from ’83 (1409). Currently tied with Bud Grant, from ’52, for 9th all-time Eagles’ record in ypg (83.1) If he were to break Quick’s record, his average would bump to 88.1 minimum, good for at least 4th-time and the highest among those who played a full season.

    Simply incredible for a gimmick college offense in its 1st year

    • Richard Colton

      Your Kelce avatar looks like Jesus and Buddha had a child in a blizzard

      • theycallmerob

        courtesy of the 700level (too large to uploard, so link instead):
        http://the700level.com/eagles/gif-jason-kelces-beard-in-the-snow-also-reggie-bush-warming-up-prior-to-his-calf-injury/

        ….getting harder and harder for Eagles’ fans to tell their children Santa doesn’t exist.

        • Richard Colton

          thanks for the link – a few more clicks and this Peter King gem showed up:

          “I think the Eagles have to be the disappointment of the season. The offense in particular. They do nothing well. In the last two weeks they’ve had 25 drives in two home games, against the Cowboys and Giants … and scored one field goal and no offensive touchdowns. A Chip Kelly team first and foremost has to have consistency and efficiency at quarterback, and Philadelphia hasn’t had that all season. Which is why I think Michael Vick isn’t back next year, and why I think Kelly probably drafts a quarterback high. The Eagles, by the way, have lost 10 straight at home, by an average of 9.9 points per game.”

      • Brian

        My favorite scene from yesterday. 700 Level has a great .gif of it. http://abload.de/img/snowmanidq1m.gif

        • Dominik

          Winter is coming!

  • jabostick

    Re: the debate about the ceiling for this team and “with just three tests remaining to determine whether this is a playoff team or not”.

    I get that they’re not yet a playoff team in a literal sense but I think they have proven it in a figurative sense. I think the argument is whether they can win a couple of rounds, not whether they’re able to sneak in.

    I get that NO and SEA are gangbusters at home but given that we’re playing good defense, running the ball well, and not turning it over, who else should we be scared of in the NFC?

    • BlindChow

      If the Eagles make the playoffs, it’ll be nice knowing they actually deserve to be there, as opposed to a team that makes the playoffs just because the other teams in the division just suck worse.

  • Max Lightfoot

    Good analysis of why the Lions skidded off the road yesterday by Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom:

    http://www.freep.com/article/20131209/COL01/312090022/mitch-albom-detroit-lions-philadelphia-eagles-nfc-north

  • dislikedisqus

    Watching highlights on NFL Network. On Shady’s first TD, Todd H’s block was anazing. Like a snowplow, he just shoves either Suh or Fairley about 10 feet, just rips that hole open for 25.