Eagles Key Plays: How They Happened
The Eagles scored three times, gave up one touchdown, recorded four giveaways and forced three turnovers in their win over the Giants. Here’s how it all happened.
The play: Eli Manning threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Odell Beckham Jr. to cap off the first series of the game.
How it happened: Bill Davis explained in detail below how a miscommunication led to this touchdown. However, even if that didn’t occur, there appeared to be a blown coverage on the bottom of the screen between Nolan Carroll and Jordan Hicks. Both stuck with the tight end on a corner route, leaving the running back wide open on a quick slant.
Bird’s-eye view: “They motioned empty, and what happened was it originally — DeMeco [Ryans] had help, and he was playing outside leverage with inside help,” Davis said. “And then the motion empty happened and Chris [Maragos] left him to help over on the empty side and DeMeco is still thinking he had help, was playing outside leverage thinking — even from the box I thought we had it. That slant was coming, I thought Chris Maragos was going to step into it, but they had changed and he was actually helping on their No. 1 with Nolan.”
The play: Ryans intercepted Manning’s pass intended for Larry Donnell at the Philadelphia 22-yard line.
How it happened: This was simply a great play by Ryans. He was in good position and quickly diagnosed the route, but he just took the ball from Donnell. This was a huge turning point in the game because it appeared the Giants were on their way to a 14-0 lead.
Bird’s-eye view: “It was definitely a momentum shift and something that we needed as a team,” Ryans said. “I was elated that I was able to be the guy to make that play for the team. You have to have the will to come down with it.”
The play: Sam Bradford threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper near the end of the first quarter.
How it happened: A big reason Cooper was open on this play was play-action. Although he never moved toward the line of scrimmage, the safety Cooper got over top of couldn’t begin his full-speed back-peddling until he saw the running back without the ball. The other safety appeared to turn his hips late and couldn’t break up the pass, even though Bradford under-threw it. The offensive line’s pass protection was also outstanding.
Bird’s-eye view: “Great concentration, great catch by Cooper,” Bradford said. “I left that ball a little short and he did a good job staying with it and making that play.”
The play: Nolan Carroll intercepted Manning’s pass and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown.
How it happened: Two people — outside of Carroll — deserve a lot of credit for this play. The first is Davis, who just switched how the Eagles were covering this concept. Instead of sticking to man-to-man, he had his corner and slot corner hand off their receivers to each other. Then, Malcolm Jenkins told Carroll the slot receiver was coming his way. The Eagles confused Manning by disguising their coverage well, which was a consistent theme throughout the game.
Bird’s-eye view: “We actually sat in the two-deep zone,” Davis said. “We hadn’t run it all year, and we knew, because of their quick game, that we wanted to throw some cover two in there, a hard, zone cover two. And Eli is right, he saw mostly two man from us the whole time. And right about that time in the game we put the hard two in, and the guys had been working hard at it all week.
“It kind of starts as a man, but then as two goes out — Malcolm did a great job of hollering ‘out, out, out’ because Nolan could not visually see it. So he’s yelling ‘out, out, out,’ and Nolan knows to drop it then, and the safety is over the top of No. 1 and Nolan just stepped right in and made a big play for us.”
The play: Jenkins forced a fumble early in the second quarter, which Ryans recovered at the Philadelphia 38-yard line.
How it happened: Jenkins made a great play, but give Jordan Hicks some credit for maintaining inside leverage against his blocker so the running back couldn’t cut to the middle the field. As for Jenkins, this forced fumble was the result of his mentality of not just bringing the opponent down, but going after the ball whenever possible.
Bird’s-eye view: “We have three pieces of [practicing forced fumbles]: we have a how to strip a carrier, how to attack the quarterback when he has the ball, and then how to recover a fumble,” Davis said. “We talk about it a lot. The art of recovering a fumble, and the hardest part is when you’re on the bottom of the pile keeping the ball when the scrum is happening, and those guys are doing a great job. And it matters how you are laying; are you laying on your side or on your back? We teach you how to get in the fetal position on your side that helps protect the ball.”
The play: Bradford’s pass intended for Zach Ertz was intercepted and returned to New York’s 42-yard line.
How it happened: This was an awful pass by Bradford. How bad? A few of his teammates weren’t sure after the game who he was throwing the ball to. The offensive line once again gave him great pass protection, and all four of his receivers were open, but he sailed the ball well over Ertz’s head.
Bird’s-eye view: “I thought I was open,” Ertz said. “He might have said that I should have kept [the route] higher.”
The play: Jordan Matthews fumbled the ball early in the third quarter, which the Giants recovered and returned to their 37-yard line.
How it happened: It’s unclear if Matthews was trying to stretch the ball out to maximize his yardage, or if he was simply holding the ball too loose. Either way, as I always say when we review fumbles, you must keep the ball tight against your body. If Matthews did that, the defender wouldn’t have been able to get his helmet on the football to knock it out.
Bird’s-eye view: “He should have just stuck his foot in the ground and got up the field; he tried to go across the field,” Chip Kelly said. “If he literally, after the catch, just stuck his foot in the ground and go vertical, he would have had a first down and wouldn’t have had the hit we had.”
The play: DeMarco Murray ran 12 yards for a touchdown in the middle of the third quarter, giving the Eagles a 24-7 lead.
How it happened: Jason Kelce and Matt Tobin got great movement on the defensive tackle, opening up a big hole for Murray. On the backside, Allen Barbre and Jason Peters also executed their mate-block well and took their defensive lineman and linebacker out of the play. Ertz stayed on his block long enough to take his defender out of the play, and Murray stiff-armed the Giants safety to reach the end zone.
Bird’s-eye view: “We had two great double teams and both off to the linebackers and they were taking — both tight ends did a really nice job,” Kelly said. “Then, DeMarco got up to the free safety and that was the free safety he beat, kind of with a stiff arm and knocked him to the ground. When you have a run play that pops and gets to the free safety, then that means the front seven did their job and they all did their job on that play.”
The play: Bradford’s pass intended for Riley Cooper was intercepted and returned to New York’s 39-yard line.
How it happened: This is a textbook example of a read-route gone wrong. Because Cooper cut off his route later than he was supposed to, Bradford thought he was going to try to beat the defense over the top. However, that still doesn’t explain why Bradford threw the ball in the first place. When he released the ball, the corner was three yards deeper than Cooper and there was a safety responsible for the deep middle. That’s why it appears Cooper made the correct call cutting off his route, even though he did so late.
Bird’s-eye view: “It was just a miscommunication between the two of them,” Kelly said. “It’s a read route, in terms what have we are supposed to do and trying to read the top end of the coverage. Riley was a little late in his decision part of it and Sam thought he was going to run though. Then, Riley decided to stop. You could see both sides of it.”
The play: Bradford’s pass intended for Ertz was intercepted in the end zone.
How it happened: This play was designed for Ertz to be matched up against the safety, and that’s where you want your quarterback throwing the ball. Unlike his first two interceptions, Bradford’s read is acceptable here. He just under-threw it against a defensive back who was in great position.
Bird’s-eye view: “The one to Ertz was probably a little bit under-thrown; I think Sam will tell you the same thing,” Kelly said. “It was the same issue with the one Riley broke in the Saints game where we thought we had it clean, but then [Brandon] Browner came back underneath. Put a little bit more air under it and give the receiver a chance to catch it.”