Eagles Key Plays: How They Happened
The Eagles scored six times, gave up four touchdowns and forced two turnovers in their 39-26 win over the Packers Saturday. Here’s how it all happened.
The play: Sam Bradford threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles on the first series of the game.
How it happened: The offensive line gave Bradford a nice pocket and plenty of time to deliver the throw. Once Miles Austin—who was the lone wide receiver to the left side of the formation—ran an inside route, Sproles had the Packers linebacker one-on-one in open space. He ran a great wheel route out of the backfield and Bradford placed the ball perfectly.
Bird’s-eye view: “[Sproles has] got a great feel for a lot of those choice routes, especially inside,” Bradford said. “Like the one down the sideline on the wheel. We drew that up for that coverage to get him matched up with a linebacker. He ran a great route and made a nice catch.”
The play: Bradford threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Trey Burton on the Eagles’ second drive of the game.
How it happened: This was Bradford’s most impressive touchdown of the night. The Packers blitzed a defensive back off the edge, forcing the quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly before he could step into the throw. Burton ran a great pattern by running just underneath Brent Celek and Riley Cooper’s crossing routes. This created separation between Burton and Green Bay’s defensive backs before Bradford hit the tight end in stride.
Bird’s-eye view: “Sam threw unbelievable balls,” Burton said. “They were right on my body. Celek had a great route on that and he took a couple defenders with him.”
The play: Walter Thurmond intercepted Brett Hundley’s pass intended for Richard Rodgers and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown.
How it happened: Although the Packers receiver fell down during the pass, both Thurmond and Brandon Graham made great plays. Graham pressured Hundley and forced the quarterback to release the ball before he wanted to. If Graham hadn’t gotten pressure, Hundley would have seen an open receiver crossing over the middle. Thurmond, meanwhile, was in excellent position and had the outside leverage so he may have intercepted the ball even if the receiver didn’t fall.
Bird’s-eye view: “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.”
The play: Bradford threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Celek on the quarterback’s third and final series.
How it happened: Bradford showed good patience here in working through his progression from. When he released the ball, Celek wasn’t open yet but Bradford correctly anticipated the route and coverage and hit his tight end in stride. Bradford faced some pressure up the middle because Jason Kelce let a defensive lineman get underneath him and push him back. It’s tough to see in the above angle, but Bradford also moved the safety away from Celek with his eyes and opened up a huge throwing lane.
Bird’s-eye view: “[Bradford] just made a great read and it was a great play call,” Celek said. “It’s tough for defenses to stop us when we run routes like that and we’re going every which way.”
The play: James Starks ran one yard for a touchdown for Green Bay’s first points of the game.
How it happened: When the offense is so close to the end zone, the defensive line can’t be pushed back even a yard, but that’s what happened here. The left side of the Eagles’ defensive line lost at the point-of-attack and Starks barely got through. The best way to prevent this, as Cedric Thornton alludes to below, is to not even put yourself in the situation.
Bird’s-eye view: “For that, we just have to be better in getting off the field on third down and not putting ourselves in that position,” Thornton said. “We had like three penalties on that drive which kept us on the field. We have to get off the field on third downs.”
The play: Mark Sanchez threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Maehl in Sanchez’s second drive of the game.
How it happened: Ironically, it was a Packers linebacker who helped Maehl get open. As the wide receiver ran across the field, the linebacker obstructed the defensive back’s trailing angle and created separation for Maehl. It was a simple throw and catch before Maehl cut up the field and into the end zone.
Bird’s-eye view: “My job was just to get across the formation as quick as I could,” Maehl said. “Once I got the ball, I just had to put my foot in the ground and go.”
The play: Hundley threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Rajion Neal on a screen play.
How it happened: The Eagles had a lot of difficulty with the Packers’ screen game, and this is a great example. It’s unclear whether Brad Jones or Jordan Hicks was responsible for the running back on the play, but Eric Rowe also missed a tackle down the field. No one took great angles in pursuit of Neal, giving the running back a relatively easy path to the touchdown.
Bird’s-eye view: “Stopping screens is all about eye-discipline and taking good angles when your running to the ball,” Diaheem Watkins said. “Most of the time it’s man-to-man so you can’t get lost.”
The play: Sanchez threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to Burton, giving each of them multiple scores in the game.
How it happened: Burton ran a good route and Sanchez placed the ball perfectly. Sanchez threw it to the inside where only Burton could get it, but if he had thrown it on the other side of Burton’s body it could have been deflected by a defensive back. You can’t see it in the above angle, but the offensive line did an outstanding job in pass protection. They gave Sanchez more than enough time to wait for Burton’s route to develop.
The play: Hundley threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Kennard Backman for the first points of the second half.
How it happened: This was a good route combination by the Packers with the slot receiver and outside receiver to the right of the formation essentially acting as picks for the tight end out of the back field. If you follow the wide out, you’ll see he doesn’t really run an actual route. He cuts across the middle, stops for a second to block scraping linebackers and then continues. Because Rowe was briefly obstructed by the slot receiver, he was delayed in covering his man in the flat and gave up the touchdown.
Bird’s-eye view: “When they’re driving on you and you’re tired, you still have to be on top of things mentally,” Rowe said. “That’s what these games are for is to just get reps to work on your technique so you have everything down.”
The play: Matt Blanchard threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Janis for the last points of the game.
How it happened: E.J. Biggers simply got beat one-on-one in the slot. The backup defensive backs didn’t have a good game, and this reflects that. Credit the quarterback, though, for making a good throw.
Bird’s-eye view: “At the line of scrimmage, that was bad,” Biggers said. “That’s where you lose when you’re a corner. Poor technique put me in a bad position. I just have to stay square; I didn’t do that.”
The play: Randall Evans intercepted Blanchard’s pass intended for Larry Pinkard.
How it happened: It’s unclear whether this was a bad route by the receiver, a bad throw by the quarterback, a miscommunication between the two or a combination of the three. Regardless, Evans was in the right place at the right time and made a good catch while he was back-pedaling.
Adam Hermann contributed to this post.