Eagles Key Plays: How They Happened
The Eagles scored four times, gave up two touchdowns, forced four turnovers and recorded two giveaways in their win over the Saints. Here’s how it all happened.
The play: Sam Bradford’s pass intended for Riley Cooper was intercepted in the end zone to end the Eagles’ second series.
How it happened: Cooper put a good move on the slot cornerback and had an easy release. Zach Ertz came open on the backside in the end zone, but Bradford’s read was fine. The problem was the throw, which needs to be high and outside. It’s easier said than done, but Bradford needs to locate the ball in an area only his receiver can get it. It also may have been an easier throw if Bradford released the ball a little bit sooner, so he had more space to work with between Cooper and the sideline.
Bird’s-eye view: “I just missed the throw; it was behind him,” Bradford said. “I can’t miss that one – you know behind him, I just have to put it back to the pylon and let him go get it.”
The play: Drew Brees threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Benjamin Watson for the first score of the game.
How it happened: This was simply a communication error between Jordan Hicks and the other defenders on the back end. According to Chip Kelly, the defense made their call to the wrong direction, so Hicks was confused where he was supposed to align. Hicks wasn’t the only one confused, however, as Nolan Carroll was still running to cover the slot receiver on the opposite side when the ball was snapped.
Bird’s-eye view: “It was the wrong call, so instead of the discussion about it being the wrong call, play the call,” Kelly said, “because it’s not a wrong call if we all line up the right way. It was really just a miscommunication issue.”
The play: Bradford’s pass intended for Miles Austin was intercepted in the end zone to end the Eagles’ third series of the day.
How it happened: The defensive back certainly made a good play here, but similar to Bradford’s first interception, the quarterback needed to lead his receiver more and throw it higher. Austin did a good job of beating his man to the inside, and the play-action helped him get open.
Bird’s-eye view: “The second one, I think the kid made a good play,” Bradford said.
The play: Bradford threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Josh Huff to tie the game.
How it happened: Bradford made a good throw to Huff, although Ertz was also open deeper down the field. The Saints’ defense appeared to be a mess on this play, as one defensive back was either confused or late lining up. They also allowed the only two receivers running routes to get open and then had two defensive backs run into each other, giving Huff an easy path to the end zone. The play-action helped again, and Bradford had a lot of success when he rolled outside of the pocket Sunday.
Bird’s-eye view: “I haven’t done that [flip] since high school,” Huff said. “I thought it would be fun.”
The play: Fletcher Cox sacked Brees and forced a fumble, which Hicks recovered at the New Orleans 31-yard line.
How it happened: Cox called all three of his sacks coverage sacks, and that’s certainly apparent on the first one. The secondary didn’t give Brees — who normally gets the ball out of his hands quickly — anywhere to throw. Cox also did a great job of quickly shedding the right guard to get to the quarterback.
Bird’s-eye view: “I’m going to give the credit to the back end,” Cox said. “All three of those sacks were coverage sacks. When the quarterback holds the football, it gives the rush time to get there.”
The play: Ryan Mathews ran for a 2-yard touchdown, giving the Eagles a lead they would never relinquish.
How it happened: The offensive line played well throughout the game, but they didn’t do a spectacular job of blocking this play. Mathews earned each of his two yards the hard way, lowering his pad level before the initial contract and driving his legs to power through defenders. It’s unclear if Matt Tobin was supposed to come off of his mate block with Jason Kelce to reach the second level, but the right guard did open up a crease by pushing the nose tackle down the line of scrimmage.
Bird’s-eye view: “The line was working their tails off,” Mathews said. “Without them, we can’t make it look easy. They deserve all the credit.”
The play: Cox sacked Brees, forced another fumble and recoverd the ball at the Saints’ 13-yard line.
How it happened: Although he credited the secondary for all three of his sacks, Cox made this play himself. Brees began his throwing motion as he had a receiver coming open across the middle, but he had to hold back because Cox was in his face. Cox then finished the play by jumping on the loose ball.
Bird’s-eye view: “We preach it all the time. No quarterback likes people around their arms,” Cox said. “That’s the goal. Instead of just going for the big hit, go after the football.”
The play: Bradford threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Brent Celek, marking the second straight game Celek reached the end zone.
How it happened: Bradford made a good throw and Celek held on for the catch (something worth noting given the number of drops), but the tight end also appeared to benefit from a blown coverage for the second consecutive game. He was wide open in the end zone as two defenders converged on Cooper, which was made possible by Kelly’s well-designed play.
Bird’s-eye view: “The one thing with Sam is Sam will take what the defense gives him,” Kelly said. “So we felt like we could exploit that matchup [with the tight ends] if they were going to play us that way.”
The play: DeMeco Ryans forced a fumble after a 1-yard completion in the red zone, which Byron Maxwell recovered.
How it happened: This is why you put your helmet on the ball when you tackle, instead of going for the big hit. Ryans did that and forced the turnover, as the Eagles only allowed two touchdowns in New Orleans’ four red zone trips. That 50 percent mark is below both the NFL average, and the Saints’ average this season.
Bird’s-eye view: “DeMeco just made a great play,” Maxwell said, “and I happened to be around the ball.”
The play: Walter Thurmond intercepted Brees’ pass and returned it 44 yards to the New Orleans 4-yard line.
How it happened: Brees under-threw the pass, but Thurmond has been playing at a high level, particularly when acting as a center fielder in coverage. Thurmond is tied for third in the NFL with three interceptions this season, after intercepting just one pass in the first five years of his career. Marcus Smith also got a good pass rush, which certainly contributed to the turnover.
Bird’s-eye view: “On Walter’s interception, [Smith] did do a good job of one-arm bull-rushing the offensive tackle,” Kelly said, “kind of bringing him back into Drew’s face and Drew couldn’t really follow through on the throw.”
The play: DeMarco Murray ran four yards for his second rushing touchdown of the season.
How it happened: Murray had an easy path to the end zone, thanks to Allen Barbre and Kelce — who both pulled and blocked a linebacker — and Ertz — who sealed his man to the outside. This was the second time the Eagles scored the play after forcing a turnover.
Bird’s-eye view: “Our offensive line played really well today and we have to give credit to those guys,” Murray said.
The play: Brees threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks — who was covered by Eric Rowe — on the last play of the game.
How it happened: Although he gave up the touchdown, Rowe was in good position. He knew he had help inside with Chris Maragos at safety, so he maintained outside leverage. However, Rowe needs to locate the ball better and Brees made a good throw.