Day-After Notes: Crossing Up Coverages
GREEN BAY, Wisc. — You saw it time and time again in the Eagles’ 39-26 win over the Packers: crossing routes. Philadelphia used them on touchdowns, big plays and first downs, and Green Bay seemingly had no answer for them.
“It’s a main-staple in our offense,” said Jeff Maehl, who caught a nine-yard touchdown pass last night. “We have a lot of guys going different ways and since we get so much man coverage, it’s hard when two guys cross with each other to either stay with your guy or pass him off. Coach [Chip] Kelly does a great job of putting us in the right position and giving us a chance to make plays.”
Because of the Eagles’ success with the passing concept, you’d think defenses would switch to zone more often. However, as Sam Bradford noted after the game, the Packers ran a lot of man-to-man coverage.
The reason for that, according to Maehl, actually has nothing to do with the passing game.
“A lot of them think for the zone-read, they like to match-up with the receivers and then have that extra safety down to take care of the quarterback in the run game, Maehl said. “When we start running the ball really effectively, we start to see a lot of bump-and-run. When you run the ball well, everything else opens up.”
On Bradford’s first touchdown pass, Darren Sproles showed why he’s so dangerous as a receiving option. He ran a wheel route to the corner of the end zone, and the linebacker just couldn’t keep up with him.
But Sproles wasn’t the only Eagles running back who proved to be a receiving threat out of the backfield. Five of the six backs on the roster caught multiple balls last night and combined for 10 receptions for 141 yards and a touchdown.
“You talk to a lot of those defensive guys, it’s really frustrating when they take away everything down the field and then we’re able to throw a checkdown,” Bradford said, “and Sproles or DeMarco [Murray] or Ryan [Mathews] make someone miss and then it’s a 12-, 15-yard pick-up on a play they had good coverage on.
“And the fact that all three of our backs can do that, it’s huge. Certain teams, you know that if Sproles was coming in the game it was going to be a pass play but with our backs, we can throw it to any of them.”
Walter Thurmond had such an easy path on his interception returned for a touchdown, he began to high-step to the end zone nearly ten yards out. As for the interception itself, that was easy to come by for Thurmond as well as Brett Hundley threw it right to the defensive back.
Why? Brandon Graham. The outside linebacker got good pressure on the quarterback off the right edge and didn’t allow Hundley to step into his throw.
“I just knew the starter wasn’t in [at left tackle],” Graham said. “I used a speed-to-power move. I walked him back and then shedded him to jump in the quarterback’s face.”
Graham turned in another good performance as he made two tackles, including one for a loss. He also had a couple of good pass rushes and helped throw off the rhythm of the opposing quarterback.