Zone Read: Eagles-Colts, the Day After
INDIANAPOLIS — With the Eagles facing a 2nd-and-goal from the Colts’ 19 yard line, Darren Sproles set up in the backfield to the right of Nick Foles.
The quarterback handed him the ball, and Sproles initially headed to the left, where his blocking was. But there was no hole, and the cutback was open, so he brought it back to the right side. Foles was a couple yards behind him carrying out his fake.
At the 15, there was safety Mike Adams waiting. Sproles juked him and headed further to his right where there was open field. At the 7, linebacker D’Qwell Jackson closed in and made contact, but didn’t wrap up. Another Colts defender went low, and cornerback Darius Butler tried to help out as well.
Yet somehow, Sproles kept his balance and continued to pump his legs. When the Colts finally brought him down, he had stretched the ball into the end zone, and the Eagles had tied the game at 20.
“The only thing that was going through my head was: Stay up and score,” Sproles said afterwards, seated at his locker.
Added Jason Kelce: “I think he made more out of that run than there actually was there. I think that he made a guy miss that was unblocked. Then he was able to make a few more guys miss and scramble into the end zone, so it was an outstanding run by him. I don’t know that the offensive line had much to do with that one.”
And Jason Peters: “We needed a touchdown instead of three points, and he popped it for us and ended up scoring. He got hit on the 3 and spun and jumped into the end zone. It was big for us.”
If that had been the only notable play of the game for Sproles, it still would have been a good night. But there were so many more. The veteran running back had seven catches for 152 yards, including two receptions that gained 50+ each. For the second week in a row, he sparked the offense in the second half.
“When I was coming in, they told me I was gonna get some, but the way [Chip Kelly] uses me is perfect. I love it,” said Sproles. “For me, watching the offense last year, it’s actually the best place I could come.”
In the first half, Sproles made linebacker Josh McNary look foolish on an option route that picked up 57 yards. And in the fourth, he took a screen 51 yards.
On that play, Sproles did a masterful job of weaving between defenders and waiting for his blockers. As he got to the Colts’ 41, he placed his hand on Kelce’s back and used the center as an escort downfield.
“I turned upfield and Sproles ran into me a little bit and was waiting for me to get going,” Kelce said. “So he did a good job of being patient there. I ended up getting an extra guy. Really he kind of knocked me for the most part… I got hit pretty good. But it was enough to seal [the defender] from making it to Sproles.”
On the Eagles’ final drive, they set up with a 1st-and-10 from the Indianapolis 36 with 1:21 left. Kelly put Sproles and LeSean McCoy in the backfield together.
“The last screen we had to him, I went the opposite way and he came in motion, and it was crazy because they called a timeout,” said McCoy. “They called a timeout first because they were trying to figure out where to go. And then we did it again.”
Foles tossed the ball to Sproles on another screen, and he took it 17 yards to the Colts’ 19. Two plays later, Cody Parkey kicked the game-winning 36-yard field goal to give the Eagles the 30-27 victory.
“He’s really giving us a spark,” McCoy said. “Without Sproles, we would be in some trouble, to be honest. We really would. That’s why we’re a team. When guys are struggling, he’s picking everybody up.”
Through two games, the Sproles addition has been a home run. He’s produced three plays of 40+ yards and scored two touchdowns. There were reports during the offseason that the Saints felt his best days were behind him.
Instead, Sproles has become a key cog in an offense that has rallied for back-to-back come from behind victories. And the Eagles are one of only three NFC teams sitting at 2-0 going into Week 3.