All-22: Sanchez’s Interceptions, Receiver Rotation
It felt like the aftermath of the Dallas game all over again. Lavonte David, who had just intercepted Mark Sanchez twice on Sunday, explained that his pick-six was a result of the Eagles predictability problem.
“It was just play recognition,” David told NJ Advance Media in the Buccaneers locker room. “I knew exactly what they wanted to do. It’s the same thing they were doing all game. I knew that on the drive before they were hitting us a lot with screen passes. So, knowing that, all I needed to do was read and react.
“When I saw the alignment coming out … [Darren] Sproles came out earlier and the alignment came out after. I was able to get a beat on the ball and was able to jump the route.”
Against a poor pass defense, Sanchez completed 26 of his 41 passes for two touchdowns, three interceptions and a 67.2 passer rating. Although the Eagles’ defense played much worse, the offense struggled to string together scoring drives.
When talking about his defensive unit, Malcolm Jenkins emphasized that Chip Kelly had nothing to do with their implosion. The safety did, however, relent and say Kelly is responsible when the offense plays poorly.
“When it comes down to the offense, Chip is the face of that,” Jenkins said, “so we can let him wear that hat.”
Down 28-14 with 23 seconds left in the second quarter, the Eagles faced third-and-10 from Tampa Bay’s 33-yard line.
“We really needed to get points at the end of the first half there,” Kelly said. “We had the ball at the end of the first half to give ourselves an opportunity to at least get something there where we are close in field goal range.”
However, after Sanchez dropped back, he tried to fit the ball in between two linebackers to Brent Celek. The Buccaneers intercepted the pass, and entered halftime with a two touchdown lead. Kelly said Sanchez should’ve “gone outside” with the pass instead, but the play is another example of what Pat Shurmur said his quarterback’s turnover problem is.
“I think Mark is very aggressive, very aggressive pushing the pace, and he’s very aggressive with his throws,” Shurmur said last week. “You know, and I think it’s always important to match that aggressiveness with staying in the moment, and matching the situation that kind of reveals itself within each play.”
On Sanchez’s second interception, his decision to throw to his intended target — Riley Cooper — is again questionable. However, when asked what went wrong on this play, Shurmur referenced the throw.
“The initial part of the progression was to the left,” Shurmur said yesterday. “It was covered or Mark had moved on. As he worked back, he just kind of flicked it in there a little quicker than he would have wanted to.”
Sanchez’s best option appeared to be the running back as a check down option.
When Sanchez threw his third interception, which David returned 20 yards for a touchdown, tensions boiled over. Sproles and Sanchez began arguing with each other on the field and continued to do so as they walked to the sideline.
Both players, as well as their head coach, said they resolved their issue after the game, and Sanchez explained why the ill-advised throw occurred.
“It’s not really Sproles’ fault, we have to get that man-to-man guy on the screen like that, and versus man, we have to get that guy blocked,” Sanchez said. “And I am trying to get it over a d-lineman to Sproles and it looks like he’s on the run so I am trying to lead him on the run and let him just square out the back side there.
“And so he stopped so I had already let the ball go and when he stopped that’s why I was upset. But then looking back at the replay I can see why he stopped. And so it was just [David] made a pretty good play and we had run that play a couple times so it’s too bad it ended up like that.”
Although David said he saw the play coming, Johnson explained Monday that he isn’t worried about the Eagles being too predictable again.
“I think we did a good job of mixing it up a bit, but there’s only so much you can do whenever you get down 15, 20 points,” Johnson said. “They know we need yards now and that we’re going to throw the ball.”
Despite an early fumble, the Eagles offense cruised down the field on their first drive of the game. Josh Huff capped it off by turning a quick slant into a 39-yard touchdown catch, but it ended up being his only target of the game as he played just 17 snaps (two less than Trey Burton).
“Well, they were playing man coverage on him,” Kelly said. “We didn’t see much man after that; we saw a lot more Cover 2 after that, and I think maybe that was the reason for that. To make a concerted effort to throw a ball to an outside receiver in Cover 2 is not very smart. To say that, ‘They did that on that specific play,’ we caught them in man coverage; Josh ran over a good slant route; Mark put it on him, and we didn’t see much man after that.
“We saw a ton of Cover 2 in that game, which, obviously by the score, I think people do that. They’re going to play back a little bit; they’re going to play more zones; try to keep the ball in front of them. And they did a very good job of doing it.”
Shurmur echoed Kelly’s sentiment that the Eagles were forced to check the ball down, although it doesn’t explain why Huff rotates with Nelson Agholor and Riley Cooper rotates with Miles Austin, meaning Cooper or Austin will be on the field for most of the snaps.
Because the Eagles had to throw the ball underneath more, it would’ve made sense to have Huff in instead of Cooper as he averages double the yards after catch per reception (6.4 vs. 3.2).
“We roll our guys in, as you know,” Shurmur said. “We’re a no-huddle operation. Last week, Riley and Miles each had 31 snaps. Josh rotates in with Nelson. We intended to have it be even, but as you know, last week Josh missed one of our training sessions with a back [injury]. We weren’t sure how much he could go, although he was up.
“The intention was for them to share the reps. It was good we got Nelson more reps. Really what people don’t understand is throughout the game, there are small stretches in the game when he comes off on special teams and he needs a minute to gather himself. So he may lose a couple reps there.”