Eagles Key Plays: How They Happened
The Eagles scored three touchdowns, gave up two scores, committed two turnovers and forced two turnovers in their 26-24 loss against the Falcons Monday. Here’s how it all happened.
The play: Kiko Alonso intercepted Matt Ryan’s pass intended for Roddy White in the end zone.
How it happened: Alonso made an incredible one-handed grab to shift the momentum, but he got beat by White after being put in a difficult situation. The Eagles were in nickel, so Malcolm Jenkins came down to cover the slot receiver while Chris Maragos entered the game at safety. Maragos followed tight end Jacob Tamme on a 10-yard out route, leaving Alonso one-on-one against White in the middle of the field. White froze Alonso before getting behind him in the end zone, but Ryan made a bad throw.
Bird’s-eye view: “The guy came inside, and I had to take him,” Alonso said. “I knew they were going to try to work me with that route, and I turned around and he threw it my way.”
The play: Ryan threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones on second-and-goal.
How it happened: The Eagles were in zero-coverage, meaning no defensive back could get help on the play. With the running back staying in for pass protection, the Eagles rushed seven guys—one more than the Falcons could block. However, Ryan quickly got rid of the ball on the screen play. Walter Thurmond made a great read and quickly broke up field after he saw Jones take a step back, but then he missed the tackle—which is killer in zero coverage and on the goal line.
Bird’s-eye view: “It’s a tough situation because we were in an all-out blitz,” Thurmond said. “It was a good play call on their part. We were expecting something else so they had more numbers at the end of the day.”
The play: Sam Bradford’s pass intended for Zach Ertz was intercepted and returned to the 27-yard-line with less than a minute left in the first half.
How it happened: The Eagles handled the Falcons’ defensive line stunts poorly in the first half (something we’ll touch on more in one of our All-22 posts this week), and this one may have been the most costly. Atlanta called for a simple twist on the right side of their defensive line and had their defensive end crash inside while their defensive tackle looped outside.
Both Allen Barbre and Jason Peters blocked the defensive end who crashed down, giving the defensive tackle a free rush. Bradford made a bad decision to throw it to Ertz—he could’ve throw it earlier to Josh Huff over the middle—but he also couldn’t throw the ball as well as he wanted to with the pressure.
Bird’s-eye view: “Bad read, bad throw,” Bradford said. “It’s just one of those things that can’t happen. With that little time left in the half, I’ve got to be careful with the ball when we’re backed up. I can’t give them the ball with a short field.”
The play: Ryan threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Jones with 45 seconds left in the first half after the turnover.
How it happened: This play simply shows the benefit of having an elite receiver. Although Byron Maxwell had an up-and-down game, his technique wasn’t that bad on this play. He didn’t push Jones off his route enough at the line of scrimmage, but Jones used his size and speed to get a step on the cornerback. Ryan also delivered a perfect pass.
Bird’s-eye view: “My eyes were bad,” Maxwell said. “I played a step-kick technique and I just wasn’t aggressive enough. My feet were probably actually really good. When I should’ve hit him—shocked him—I didn’t.”
The play: Thurmond intercepted Ryan’s pass intended for White and returned it to the 8-yard-line.
How it happened: When Chip Kelly and Billy Davis praised Thurmond as a ball hawk during training camp, I was skeptical. But the safety made an impressive play here by reading the quarterback and coming off of his initial assignment. He showed his athleticism by changing direction and finished off the play by making the catch and setting the Eagles up in the red zone.
Bird’s-eye view: “Just from film study, they would get in that formation and they would have that double in route concept,” Thurmond said. “We had the robber safety—myself—coming down to Julio’s side to get that dig, but I was reading Matt Ryan’s head. I just came back around and made the play.”
The play: DeMarco Murray ran for an eight-yard touchdown on second-and-goal.
How it happened: Murray is a great running back, but he doesn’t come close to scoring this touchdown without three key people: Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson and Huff. Johnson made the first important block by sealing off the outside linebacker to the inside. Kelce then came around and cut off a safety who could’ve hit Murray close to the line of scrimmage. Finally, Huff blocked the corner and Murray didn’t get touched until he reached the goal line.
Bird’s-eye view: “That play in particular is a fold scheme play,” Kelce said. “I don’t want to get too much into it; I’ll get in trouble if I get into it too much. We had called that play a couple of times, I believe. On one of them we had a holding call, on another we had penetration, and as the game got going we got better at playing their defense.”
The play: Bradford threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Murray on second-and-goal.
How it happened: The Falcons pressured Bradford from the right interior, but he took a couple of steps to his left and made a good read to get the ball to Murray before taking the hit. Murray was open in the flat and then made the initial defender miss before scoring his second touchdown of the night.
Bird’s-eye view: “[Murray] was kind of early and late in the progression,” Bradford said. “I felt like I kind of expanded with him early. They did a pretty good job covering our primary, which was the tight end, and then just got back to DeMarco late.”
The play: Ryan Mathews ran one yard for a touchdown as the Eagles scored three times in as many drives to start the second half.
How it happened: This play is another good example of the Eagles’ offensive line not handling stunts well. Atlanta’s defensive tackle performed a nut stunt by lining up in one ‘A’ gap and crossing Kelce’s face to shoot through the other ‘A’ gap. Peters did a nice job of blocking a defensive tackle down before coming off to the second level, but Mathews couldn’t reach the hole because of the penetration up the middle.
Johnson kicked out an outside linebacker, opening up the hole between him and Andrew Gardner, but a Falcons linebacker met Mathews before he could reach the goal line. After his running back was stood up and unlikely to score, Barbre came over to push Mathews and two defenders into the end zone.
Bird’s-eye view: “We missed [the nut stunt] on the goal line, but we still ended up scoring,” Barbre said. “I just got lucky and ran over there. It was perfect. Right place, right time.”
The play: Bradford’s pass intended for Jordan Matthews was intercepted on the Eagles’ final drive, effectively ending the game.
How it happened: Matthews simply dropped a catchable ball. The pass went through his hands and ended the Eagles’ comeback bid.
Bird’s-eye view: “I should catch every one,” Matthews said. “I don’t think there’s ever an excuse. Every ball that you get your hands on, being a receiver in the NFL, I have one job and that’s it. I’m very hard on myself. I have a quarterback who trusts me in that situation. It’s inexcusable, and I take full responsibility.”