One Yard Away, Eagles Offense Fails To Finish
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — With 6:35 left in the game, all of a sudden things started to click.
Down 26-21, the Eagles needed to drive 91 yards to take the lead and escape Levi’s Stadium with a fourth straight victory. They were able to pick up 90 of those yards, but faced with two opportunities from the 1 yard line, the Eagles were unable to close the deal.
“We just didn’t execute,” said Nick Foles. “It’s as simple as that. I’m not going to try to break it down or anything. We just didn’t execute the play. In that situation, I have to give the guys an opportunity to make a play, and I didn’t do that. We’ll work toward it so in those situations we have to capitalize and get the ball in the end zone.”
Foles targeted Brent Celek with his first pass, but there wasn’t much there, and the result was an incompletion.
On the second play, Foles rolled to his right and looked for Jeremy Maclin, but he sailed the throw, and the 49ers’ offense got the ball back.
“I tried to surprise them on the run before that got us down to the 1, but I knew they were just gonna pack it in there, and we hadn’t run the ball very well all day long,” said Chip Kelly, when asked to explain the two calls. “So just trying to put it in the quarterback’s hands and tried to run a crossing route, bringing the tight end underneath and missed that. And then on the next play, we just tried to get Nick on the perimeter. I wanted to get him away from the rush, see if we could get him on the edge, and he had a couple options, but we just sailed it a little bit high.”
By all accounts, the second throw presented the best opportunity to score.
On third down, the Eagles went max protect and only sent three receivers into routes. Even with the extra help up front, Foles still faced some pressure. So on fourth down, Kelly decided to move the pocket.
“I was just trying to get away from the guys in the middle, just ‘Let’s get out of there,’ ” he said. “Obviously we didn’t think we were gonna be able to run it in because we weren’t moving the ball at all versus that front.
“We thought maybe we could get him to the perimeter, and if we can get him to the perimeter, he’s got a run-pass option. Maybe they come up and he can run it in for a yard. Or if they don’t, we’ve got a shot. We’ve got two guys in the back of the end zone.”
Said Maclin: “I thought we had a chance. Nick threw it. The ball kind of sailed a little bit. I think he had a little bit of pressure.”
Asked if it’s fair to say he had his guy beaten, Maclin said: “Yeah.”
The other option for the Eagles would have been to run the ball. On second down, LeSean McCoy picked up 5 yards and got the ball down to the 1.
But the Eagles’ offensive line was getting pushed around all game long, and Kelly, who likes to run the ball as much as any coach in the NFL, decided giving McCoy another touch would have been a mistake.
“We gained yards because I think we surprised them,” he said, speaking about the second-down run. “I think they thought we were gonna throw it. They were all cushioned back and they were dropping everybody into the end zone. Didn’t think we were gonna be able to throw it in from where we were. We threw it, I think, the play before that and they were all back in zone, so they were a little bit light. They weren’t pressing the line of scrimmage. I thought maybe we could pop a run. We popped it for 5, but when we got the ball to the 1, they changed defensively. Now they’re going to go more towards a goal line look, and that wasn’t a favorable matchup for us today.”
Asked if he thought the look of the defense was not conducive to a run on third or fourth down, McCoy responded: “I wouldn’t say that. I don’t even know what they were playing, so to give you an honest answer, I’m not sure.”
From a personnel standpoint, the Eagles left one of their most difficult matchups, Zach Ertz, off the field. Instead, James Casey was part of both plays.
“James is blocking,” said Kelly. “So that’s a run set for us. On the first play, James blocked. And on the second play, you’re giving them the look that we’re running the football, so trying to see if you can get ‘em to think that we’re gonna run the football and then try to just get the ball to the perimeter. So that’s part of that thought process.”
Asked if there was any doubt in his mind that the Eagles were going to finish with a score, Celek said: “No. We totally thought that we were gonna score. We expected to score. When you’re a great team, you do. You expect to score. And the fact that we didn’t stinks.”