Key Plays: How They Happened
There were plenty of highlights (and a couple of lowlights) for the Eagles in the preseason opener. Here’s how they happened.
The play: Mark Sanchez throws a short hitch to Nelson Agholor, who jumps up to grab it and then runs for the 34-yard touchdown.
How it happened: Agholor made an impressive catch, but Sanchez’s inaccuracy may have partially caused Colts cornerback Greg Toler to overrun the play because of the delayed timing. Agholor then outraced Colts safety Mike Adams, who could have taken a better angle, to the goal line.
Bird’s-eye view: “When you talk about running straight forward,” Jordan Matthews said, “my boy, Nelson goes zero to one hundred.”
The play: Matt Barkley pitched the ball to Kenjon Barner for the nine-yard touchdown run.
How it happened: Left tackle Matt Tobin sealed the defensive tackle inside while tight end Trey Burton kicked out the defensive end to open up a huge running lane for Barner. The Colts’ play-side linebacker overran the toss and Barner cut up field to go virtually untouched into the end zone. Right tackle Dennis Kelly also got inside leverage on the back-side linebacker, preventing the defender from getting to Barner.
Bird’s-eye view: “One of the reasons we were having success was because our offensive line was doing a great job of moving guys and re-establishing the line of scrimmage on the opposite side of the ball,” Barner said. “I was able to [play] off of them and they were just doing their job.”
The play: Cornerback Eric Rowe forced a fumble before safety Chris Prosinski jumped on the loose ball for the first turnover of the game.
How it happened: Rowe lined up six yards off the ball and never closed the gap between him and Colts receiver Phillip Dorsett. However, it looked like outside linebacker Marcus Smith moved to jam Dorsett at the start of the play and mostly missed him. Regardless, Rowe closed the gap after Dorsett caught the ball and punched it out while Prosinski recovered the fumble before it rolled out of bounds.
Bird’s-eye view: “I messed up and let my man do a deep over so all I could do is run and catch up,” Rowe said. “I saw the ball loose so [I] punched it. At the same time [I] wrapped around and tried to get the tackle too just in case I missed.”
The play: Barkley’s pass intended for Josh Huff was tipped by Bjoern Werner and intercepted by Amarlo Herrera.
How it happened: As Chip Kelly revealed in his post-game press conference, Barkley never should have had Werner in his face in the first place. However, mistakes happen, and Barkley compounded it by trying to hit Huff—who was open—on a crossing route. Barkley could’ve tried pump-faking to get Werner out of his throwing lane (easy for me to say), or perhaps he could have targeted Freddie Martino, who ran a five-yard out and was open on the sideline.
Bird’s-eye view: “We screwed up a little bit on that one naked [bootleg] where it ended up getting tipped,” Kelly said, “but that guy should have been blocked. Our tight end was lined up too tight, we should have had a pin block on him and got him to the corner and given him an opportunity to throw it.”
The play: Barner returned a 65-yard punt from Pat McAfee 92 yards for the only special teams touchdown of the game.
How it happened: Colts punter Pat McAfee had a terrific game as he averaged 56 yards per punt, but his longest bomb of the day displayed why there can be drawbacks to having such a strong leg. When Barner caught the ball, the closest defender was 24 yards away. When they got closer, he spun out of two tackles, gave a hesitation move to Josh Robinson that left Robinson on his knees and then raced past more defenders. That left only McAfee, whom Raheem Mostert blocked.
Bird’s-eye view: “I had a long conversation with [Darren] Sproles during pre-game,” Barner said. “He told me [McAfee] was going to give me plenty of opportunities and he was going to outkick his coverage and sure enough, throughout the game, you see that he was kind of outkicking his coverage and our guys did a great job as gunners. Usually gunners are the first guys down there to make or break a play.”
The play: Bryan Bennett handed it off to Robinson, who rumbled nine yards for the touchdown.
How it happened: The Colts’ offensive line had a significant breakdown to start the play: they left an Eagles defensive tackle unblocked. That defender (it looked like Wade Keliikipi, although I couldn’t confirm it), committed the first of three missed tackles on the play and let Robinson get away after having the running back in his arms. Robinson then escaped the out-stretched arms of linebacker Jordan Hicks and somehow got past cornerback Jaylen Watkins to get into the end zone.
Bird’s-eye view: “We did miss a couple tackles on the defensive side of the ball and we need to clean that up,” Kelly said. “That one touchdown run, we should have had the back down on the long third-down that they ran in for a touchdown.”
The play: Safety Ed Reynolds intercepted Bryan Bennett’s pass intended for Ryan Lankford at the 2-yard-line and returned it 19 yards.
How it happened: It’s unclear if he did it on purpose or if he misread the route, but cornerback Marc Anthony jumped to Lankford’s outside, leading the receiver inside. Lankford may have been running a skinny post anyway, but with Anthony on Lankford’s outside hip, Bennett made the correct read and threw it inside. However, he didn’t do a good job of looking off Reynolds so Reynolds read the quarterback’s eyes and picked it off.
Bird’s-eye view: “It felt amazing,” Reynolds said. “It made me feel like I was in college again. That was my thing in college—to go out there and be a ball-hawk and give our offense more opportunities.”
The play: Reynolds intercepted Bennett for the second time on a deep throw to the right side of the field and returned it 19 yards to the Colts’ 12-yard-line.
How it happened: With the Colts facing a 3rd-and-10, defensive coordinator Bill Davis called a Cover 2 zone. That allowed Reynolds to sit back about 20 yards from the line of scrimmage and read the quarterback’s eyes. Reynolds broke on the ball before Bennett released it and undercut the receiver for his second pick of the day.
Bird’s-eye view: “It felt good, but it wasn’t like I was going out there and doing anything crazy,” Reynolds said. “I was just playing our scheme and having good eyes on the quarterback and breaking and believing what I saw.”
The play: Linebacker Bryan Braman suplexed Bennett to force a fumble before defensive back Randall Evans picked it up and ran four yards to the Colts’ 20-yard-line.
How it happened: Indianapolis purposefully left Braman unblocked because it was a zone read play. However, due to Braman’s athleticism, he quickly got into the backfield and virtually guaranteed the Colts would lose yards due to his positioning alone. Then, when Bennett kept the ball, Braman picked him up and threw him to the ground. Obviously, this forced a fumble, which Evans scooped up after Prosinski initially failed to recover it.
Bird’s-eye view: “Hahaha!” Braman tweeted. “See ball get ball!”
The play: Tim Tebow kept the ball on the zone read and ran seven yards for the touchdown.
How it happened: This is a well-designed play by Kelly, because as long as the unblocked defender doesn’t get up field quickly (as Braman did), he’s essentially blocked by the tight end. If the tight end, who is Justin Tukes in this case, throws a solid block and doesn’t get pushed way off the line of scrimmage, the unblocked defender won’t be able to move laterally. After Tukes essentially blocked two people, Tebow ran through a weak tackle at the 3-yard-line to get into the end zone.
Bird’s-eye view: “We were getting looks that I couldn’t really pull it for a while,” Tebow said. “It was kind of close and I wanted to take it.”