Eagles-Lions Game Review: Offensive Breakdown

How Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz and others fared in the Eagles' first loss.

Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz. (USA Today Sports)

Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz. (USA Today Sports)

Some thoughts on the Eagles’ offense after watching the All-22 coaches film from their 24-23 loss against the Lions:


*Doug Pederson called another good game. Some people have questioned the decision to run a toss on Ryan Mathews’ fumble, but the problem on that play was execution, not the call. The Eagles just picked up a yard on the play before because of the how the Lions stuffed the inside, so it made a lot of sense to attack the edge of the defense.

*Pederson did a really nice job of setting up a couple of plays in the Eagles’ second drive of the game by calling for the speed sweep to Josh Huff in the first series. After Huff converted a third down by picking up 10 yards on the call, Detroit’s defense was very cognizant of that threat. When Pederson called a play-action and an inside run off jet motion soon thereafter, the Eagles picked up at least 10 yards and a first down both times. Those two plays accounted for about 30 percent of the Eagles’ yards on their first touchdown drive of the game.

*Both of the Eagles’ touchdowns came off good calls, as well. On the first one, Mathews caught an easy one-yard touchdown as the defender responsible for him looked lost. That was probably because not only have that Eagles not run that play before, but they haven’t used that personnel grouping — “14” with Matt Tobin as the fourth tight end — or formation a single time this season. As for Huff’s one-yard touchdown catch, the Eagles implemented a simple, but effective wrinkle to help get the receiver open. In addition to Huff running a quick slant, they had Jordan Matthews line up directly in front of Huff to do the same to act as a legal, moving pick. You typically see a slant/flat combination here, but the slant/slant ensured a defensive back couldn’t make a play on the ball.


*Overall, Carson Wentz played well. I detailed the mistake he made this morning on his interception, so I won’t rehash it here. Even with the pick, he completed 25 of his 33 passes for 238 yards, two touchdowns and a 102.8 passer rating. One of his most impressive plays was his 27-yard back-shoulder throw to Matthews on the move. The ball placement was outstanding, and it looked like he may have set up the cornerback by raising his finger and pointing to Matthews to run down the field.

*I asked Pederson yesterday what he thought Wentz’s best play in Detroit was, and he pointed out two third-down throws to Matthews in the fourth quarter. Pederson referred to them as plays “not many rookie quarterbacks are going to make.” The first was a 20-yard gain on a dagger route that extended the drive before Caleb Sturgis made a 49-yard field goal to put the Birds ahead. The second was a 10-yard gain that displayed his arm strength. The broadcast didn’t show good replays of either throw, but Fran Duffy put together good videos of the plays with the All-22 HD footage he gets:

*However, in addition to Wentz’s interception, there were two players earlier in the game when defenders got their hands on the ball and could’ve recorded takeaways. The second was a good decision, but a bad throw — he threw the ball way too high to Nelson Agholor over the middle. The first, however, looked like a decision he’d want back. On the Eagles’ opening drive of the game, Wentz targeted Agholor along the right sideline with a defender in his pocket when one of the two underneath receivers looked like better alternatives. Here’s the play:


*Some have used Agholor as a scapegoat for Wentz’s poor decision on the interception, and while you’d hope the receiver would do more in that situation, the quarterback is almost entirely at fault for that play. Earlier in the game, Agholor made the catch of the game as he picked up 18 yards on the Eagles’ second touchdown drive.

*The defender made a good play, but it looked like Dorial Green-Beckham did drop his potential touchdown catch early in the third quarter. On the plus side for him, however, his season-high of 43 yards was generated mostly on his own after the catch. He turned what looked like a potential five-yard catch on third-and-8 into a 26-yard gain, which set up a touchdown, with a nice stiff arm.

*Green-Beckham had another stiff arm later in the game which helped him turn a zero-yard gain into an 11-yard reception. Darius Slay didn’t appear to make a very good play when he missed that tackle, but he also showed how tough it can be for cornerbacks to tackle receivers 50 pounds heavier than them. Green-Beckham’s size is a nice asset to have on those run-pass options when Wentz delivers a quick strike to the outside.


*Mathews’ fumble is yet another example of why you follow a fundamental rule of football: Carry the ball in your outside arm, not the inside one. If Mathews did that, it would’ve been tougher for Slay to force that game-changing fumble.

*The Eagles only ran the ball 21 times, but they picked up 116 yards on 5.5 yards per carry. Darren Sproles led the way with five rushes for 45 yards, and it wasn’t difficult to see why. He benefited from great blocking on a couple of plays, but he also hit holes quickly and was much shiftier than Mathews.

*With as much hype as there was about the Eagles’ three-tight end sets, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek and Trey Burton combined for just four catches and 42 yards. Ertz was wide open on a couple of plays — including one in the end zone — but Wentz delivered completions to guys who were earlier in his progression. Here’s what Pederson said when asked if he would’ve done anything differently after they lost:

“I felt like going into this game, that our tight ends against their linebackers, for instance, was a match-up in our favor. Could I have called more middle of the field with our tight ends? Yeah, but we were getting a couple calls against us at that time, too.”


*As usual, Jason Peters dominated on down blocks. Defenders he blocked recorded two sacks, but one was because Allen Barbre was quickly pushed back and Wentz had to step far up into the pocket, giving Peters’ man an easy path to the quarterback. As a whole, however, Barbre played very well in the run game, including a pancake he recorded in the fourth quarter.

*Jason Kelce appeared to play one of his best games of the season and Brandon Brooks was good overall, too. Brooks got a pancake in the fourth quarter on that 20-yard Wentz throw to Matthews I featured above. Still, Lane Johnson was the best offensive lineman in Detroit, and he’s been the best guy up front for the Eagles this season. His suspension will be a noticeable blow. There are a lot of plays like this one on film, in which defensive ends do absolutely nothing against him on a passing play: