All-22: Why the Eagles’ Offense Got Shut Down
A single response from Pat Shurmur Tuesday explained a lot about the Eagles’ ugly offensive performance against the Seahawks.
“They played exactly… they did less on defense than we expected,” Shurmur said. “They played single-safety middle like we expected. They played a combination of man and zone, and on third down it was very similar until we got in third-and-long and you saw split safeties. They did less on defense than what we had planned for.”
In some ways, what Pete Carroll does on defense is similar to what Chip Kelly does on offense. It’s not about volume. It’s about finding an identity, having answers for every situation, getting a lot of reps and allowing players to make plays in a scheme that they know inside and out.
The Seahawks did not go into Sunday’s game thinking they needed to come up with some kind of exotic game plan. They felt good about their matchups and relied on their personnel. Tempo didn’t concern them because they play the same coverages over and over again. And they didn’t think the Eagles’ passing game would be able to do much of anything.
Turns out they were right.
The Eagles labored through 45 plays, totaling just 139 yards. Mark Sanchez completed 10 of 20 passes for 96 yards. LeSean McCoy managed just 50 yards on 17 carries. The offense turned it over twice. And eight of 12 offensive drives lasted four plays or fewer.
Below is a look at what went wrong.
RUN GAME STRUGGLES
The Eagles went into Sunday’s game thinking they would be able to run the ball against Seattle. McCoy had totaled 289 yards and averaged 6.3 YPC in his previous two games. The Birds were starting the same offensive line for the third consecutive week.
But Seattle had a bead on what the Eagles were doing, and the Seahawks had the athletes to win one-on-one matchups. Combine those things with the fact that the Birds were not sharp, and the results were not good.
Even when it looked like things went right for the Eagles, there were errors. For example, in the first quarter, the offense faced a 4th-and-1 from the Seahawks’ 5 yard line. Kelly decided to go for it, which was absolutely the right call. Watching live, it appeared the Eagles executed well, and McCoy got a first down.
But the All-22 revealed a different story.
The Eagles ran their usual inside zone. Here’s the early look. You can see Jason Kelce and Andrew Gardner are double-teaming the defensive lineman.
Under normal circumstances, Gardner would peel off and take on safety Kam Chancellor, but that didn’t happen. He stuck on the double team with Kelce, and Chancellor was left completely unblocked to take on McCoy in the hole.
“It was a play that was designed and schemed all week for a different defense,” Kelce said. “We saw something else out there, and we didn’t react well to it. I should have basically pointed to a different guy. We ended up having two guys go to the same guy, and that safety was un-hatted, and it could have really been a negative play, but luckily we still got the first down.”
McCoy needed a yard, and he got it.
But it was still poor execution.
More of the same later in the first half. The game was tied at 7, and the offense had picked up a couple first downs. It looked like the Eagles might be able to regain the lead as they set up with a 2nd-and-10 from their own 48.
Here, they are running a sweep read, one of the plays they went to often on Sunday. They leave No. 97 unblocked on purpose. If he chases Darren Sproles, Sanchez can keep the ball. Otherwise, Sanchez hands it off.
The problem again occurred on the right side where Gardner failed to account for Michael Bennett, who went right past him and blew the play up.
“That play was a miscommunication,” said Gardner. “That was all it came down to. The guy did a good job of making the play, but it was a busted play.”
The loss set up 3rd-and-18. Kelly opted to run the ball, and the offense was forced to punt.
Overall, there were some opportunities in the run game, but the Seahawks were just better up front, and the Eagles made too many mistakes.
“The way they lined up and played us, when most teams line up and play us like that with that type of spacing and that type of coverage and that personnel, we usually have some success,” Kelce said. “They play extremely hard, but we just didn’t get the job done blocking-wise. It was almost like we reverted to what we were doing before Dallas where it’s like one guy here, one guy there, and then all of a sudden… .But I think there were opportunities there to be had and we just didn’t capitalize on them.”
For the Eagles’ offense, everything starts with the run game, and that didn’t get on track vs. Seattle.
Let’s be clear here. There were not a lot of missed opportunities against Seattle. The Seahawks were great on defense and limited those chances. But when the Eagles did have shots to move the ball and put points on the board through the air, they failed to do so.
One of the biggest plays in the game came in the fourth quarter. The Eagles’ defense had just created a turnover after Mychal Kendricks knocked the ball loose from Marshawn Lynch. Kelly decided to take a shot with Sanchez on the first play of the drive.
The Eagles ran a switch verticals concept on both sides. The outside receivers went inside, and the inside receivers ran outside. All four options were downfield, except for Sproles, who was a checkdown.
Sanchez started his progressions to his right, but felt some pressure and stepped up in the pocket. He saw Riley Cooper on the post and took a shot, but Jordan Matthews was wide open running down the sideline.
“We fudged on one,” Pete Carroll said during his radio show on ESPN 710 Seattle. “The interception we got yesterday, we lucked out a little bit on that play. Tharold [Simon] had to make a decision to go. There’s two guys getting deep on him, and he had to make a decision. He chose it perfectly, made the right one. But there’s a guy running up the sidelines on that play. But we survived it. Those don’t happen very often to us.”
With Earl Thomas moving to help on the other side, Cooper had some room on the post. But Sanchez made a bad throw. He’s struggled when moving forward in the pocket and throwing on the move, even though he’s been at his best when rolling to the left or right.
There were other misses too. We wrote earlier this week that the Eagles should have gone to Zach Ertz more, and the All-22 showed there were opportunities.
In the second quarter, they ran what looked like a bash concept. It involves three receivers to the same side. Two of them run in-breaking routes at different levels, and the third runs a corner route. Ertz runs the corner and gets the safety flipped, but Sanchez opts for the shorter throw, which is incomplete.
There was a blitz coming from the back side, but Sproles picked it up.
“I think I was open a few times,” Ertz said after the game. “Maybe the protection wasn’t perfect so he came off of me early. But hats off to them. They were better than us. They eliminated some things.”
Similar play later in the game. The TV broadcast picked up this one. Ertz runs a corner route at the top of the screen.
The Seahawks are in zone this time. The outside corner sinks, creating space for Ertz. Sanchez has protection, but he comes off of it and throws incomplete downfield to Jeremy Maclin.
Again, not a lot of opportunities, but Sanchez did not capitalize on the ones he had.
WIDE RECEIVERS STRUGGLE
We charted all of the Eagles’ pass plays. They had 10 opportunities to beat man coverage. On those plays, Sanchez went 4-for-8 for 28 yards. He was sacked once and scrambled another time. The outside receivers, Maclin and Cooper, combined for just two catches for 5 yards on those plays.
The Seahawks have lock-down defenders in the secondary, and the officials allowed them to be physical. The Eagles ran several routes short of the sticks on third down. The idea was to create some separation after the catch, but that didn’t happen.
Here’s an example from the first half. It’s 3rd-and-6. The Eagles put Cooper in motion so that he can’t be pressed at the line of scrimmage. He runs a drag route across the field, and Sanchez hits him. But no separation and no yards after the catch.
The result is a 4-yard gain and a punt.
Here’s another example on third down. This time, Sanchez is looking for Matthews on a similar route. Take note of a couple things. One, how Byron Maxwell is all over Matthews (yes, there could have been a penalty). But also take a look at Jeff Maehl. He gets shoved all the way out of bounds at the top of the screen and isn’t even in the play.
Sanchez had no great option in terms of where to go with the football. Once again, the Eagles had to punt.
Asked this week if there was anything he wishes he would have done differently from a game plan/scheme perspective, Kelly said: “No, we just need to execute. When you go back through it, they do a good job. They don’t fool you with anything they do. They line up and play football, and they are really, really good at doing that. You don’t go back and look at it and say, ‘Hey, we should have run trap or we should have run this scheme.’ It’s they executed and we didn’t execute.”
As shown above, the execution was not great. But that can’t be the excuse every time the offense is a no-show. These are players, not robots. There are going to be errors in execution, specifically when the opposition is more talented, which was the case on Sunday.
Kelly’s game plan made sense: try to run the ball, use play-action off of that and don’t take unnecessary chances. But the first part of that never really got going.
Depending on what happens in the next month, we could get a chance to see how Kelly might change things up against Seattle, if given another opportunity.