Key Plays: How They Happened
There were plenty of highlights (and a few low-lights) for the Eagles in their second preseason game. Here’s how they happened.
The play: Walter Thurmond intercepted Joe Flacco’s intended pass to Kamar Aiken in the end zone and returned it 16 yards.
How it happened: Thurmond gets the credit on the stat sheet, but the real play was made by Nolan Carroll. The corner ran step-for-step with Aiken for 50 yards and then tipped the ball into the air for Thurmond to catch it. Jordan Hicks also gets credit for pressuring Flacco and flushing him out of the pocket to disrupt the quarterback’s timing.
Bird’s-eye view: “When I saw the receiver bend in, I looked in and I saw Walt,” Carroll said. “I knew he wasn’t going to continue to run at Walt, so once he bent back out, I knew I had Walt at least behind me. When I looked up at the ball, I knew I had somebody there and I just tried to tip it up as high as I could.”
The play: Ryan Mathews took the hand-off from Sam Bradford and ran 14 yards for the touchdown.
How it happened: Four people keyed Mathews’ untouched waltz into the end zone: Allen Barbre, Brent Celek, Jason Kelce and Jason Peters. Kelce got a good initial push on the nose tackle before Barbre came down to completely push him out of the ‘A’ gap. Peters, meanwhile, did an excellent job of standing up the outside linebacker so Celek could get inside leverage and seal the defender to the outside. Then, Peters ran five yards down field to block the inside linebacker to open up a huge hole for Mathews.
Bird’s-eye view: “J.P. and Celek did a great job on the back side,” Chip Kelly said. “Our line is doing a really good job at the point of attack.”
The play: Byron Maxwell intercepted Flacco’s pass intended for Marlon Brown and returned it 31 yards to Baltimore’s 28-yard-line.
How it happened: This was simply a bad pass by Flacco. He threw the ball a few yards over Brown’s head and Maxwell was in the right place at the right time. Credit the corner, though, for making the catch. The ball was thrown slightly behind him so Maxwell turned and caught it away from his body. If Najee Goode made a better block, Maxwell may have given the Eagles starting field position in the red zone.
Bird’s-eye view: “They are lactose intolerant in terms of they do not bite the cheese in front of them,” Kelly said of the secondary. “When they have a deep zone, they play the deep zone. A lot of mistakes we made in some of those deep balls last year were we were just biting each either a play action fake or we are biting an underneath route when that’s not our responsibility. I think our guys are playing their responsibility.”
The play: DeMarco Murray took the hand-off from Mark Sanchez and ran two yards for the touchdown.
How it happened: Murray ran untouched into the end zone, so the credit once again goes to the offensive line. Barbre got a good initial push on the defensive tackle, but Peters came down and pushed the lineman three yards out of the play. Trey Burton, the tight end next to Peters, didn’t exactly put on a blocking clinic—Terrell Suggs threw him to the ground. However, Burton did do the most important thing: he got inside leverage. Because he did that, he got in the way of Suggs potentially tackling Murray.
Bird’s-eye view: “We did a good job of blocking and the offensive line did an incredible job tonight,” Murray said. “I just try to do my job and make sure that I am doing the little things right and make sure I am not making mistakes down there or getting too antsy to try to get a touchdown.”
The play: Kenjon Barner returned Sam Koch’s 41-yard punt 68 yards for a touchdown.
How it happened: Barner caught the ball with at least 15 yards between him and the nearest defender. He caught the punt, quickly ran 15 yards up the field along the sideline and then cut back across the field and outraced everyone else. He used his explosiveness and lateral quickness to break two tackles and seems to have played his way onto the 53-man roster.
Bird’s-eye view: “He’s done a great job of making those initial guys miss while moving forward, and that’s what you always want in a returner,” Kelly said. “A lot of guys can try to do it, but they’re always working east and west. The one thing with Kenjon, he’s a lot like Darren [Sproles] in terms of he’s always hitting it and going downhill and we’re going to get positive yardage out of him, whether it be a 5‑yard gain or 10‑yard gain or he can break one for a touchdown. He’s not a dance guy back there that’s trying to figure out how to hit a home run but they end up losing yards on the thing. I think he’s always advancing the football and that’s what we want our returners to do.”
The play: Ravens third-string quarterback Bryn Renner threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Darren Waller.
How it happened: Waller caught the bubble screen and faced a fairly easy path to get into the end zone. The Ravens did a good job blocking the Eagles’ secondary, but Eric Rowe was slow in diagnosing the play. He didn’t realize it was a screen until after Waller caught the ball and the receiver he was covering began blocking Denzel Rice too. If Rowe would’ve peeled off earlier, he could’ve made a touchdown-saving tackle.
The play: Kevin Monangai took the hand-off from Tim Tebow and ran two yards before fumbling, which the Ravens jumped on.
How it happened: For Monangai, it’s as simple as sticking to the fundamentals. He carried the ball away from his body instead of high and tight to his body. He may not have seen or felt the defender coming from behind him, but it’s a good lesson for him going forward: never hold the ball loosely, even if you think the nearest defender is several yards away.
The play: Renner threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Daniel Brown.
How it happened: Although he was in press coverage, Marc Anthony let Brown get a relatively clean release. After that, Anthony ran along the sideline step-for-step with Brown. However, Renner made a great throw and when the quarterback throws the ball up high to a receiver six inches taller than you, there’s not much you can do.
The play: Monangai took the hand-off from Tebow and ran one yard for the touchdown.
How it happened: The right side of the offensive line—guard Malcolm Bunche, tackle Kevin Graf and tight end Justin Tukes—did a good job of clearing the way for Monangai. The running back appeared to get hit just before reaching the goal line, but he bulldozed his way to six points.
Bird’s-eye view: “I just have to show the coaches I’m mentally tough, and I’m able to bounce back from bad situations,” Monangai said. “They always talk about turning the bad into good, and the good into great, so I’m just trying to do that.”
Adam Hermann contributed to this post.