All-22: What We Saw From the Eagles’ Defense
Here’s a breakdown of what we saw from the coach’s tape in what ended up being Juan Castillo’s final game as coordinator.
Play 1: Opposing offensive coordinators have to know by now that the best way to burn the Eagles for big plays is with play-fakes. The safeties seem to bite every week. On this first-quarter play, tight end Tony Scheffler is streaking down the middle of the field after Nate Allen got fooled.
But Stafford misses with his throw (or maybe Scheffler slowed down). That was a theme in the first half. After watching the game live, I thought the Eagles’ defense really did a good job through three quarters, but upon re-watching, it sure seemed like the Lions left a lot of plays on the field. Also, take a look at the bottom of the screen. Nnamdi Asomugha didn’t always get safety help. Here, he’s got Calvin Johnson one-on-one. Asomugha was really good all game.
Play 2: Here, the Lions get the Eagles with a bootleg. The entire Detroit line goes to the right, and both Eagles linebackers bite. Highlighted in the image are Kurt Coleman and Trent Cole.
Look how close Cole is to the quarterback with nobody blocking him. But the fake gets him. Coleman starts towards the line of scrimmage as Brandon Pettigrew goes right past him into his route (he initially set up like a blocker). The result is a 16-yard completion.
Play 3: While the defensive line needs to play better, it is true that the front four can affect the game without racking up sacks. For example, on this third down in the first quarter, Brandon Boykin gets beat for what could have been a touchdown.
But Cole gets pressure off the edge and hits Stafford as he sails a pass to Scheffler. If Stafford has time to go through his reads on the play, it could have been a score.
Play 4: The Lions had a chance for a big play to Johnson in the first. Stafford ran a play-fake and rolled to his right, but Johnson got free deep on the left side.
He’s pretty much all by himself on the far side of the field. Coleman (yellow circle) is the nearest defender. But Stafford doesn’t pull the trigger. It’s tough to tell if Brandon Graham was the reason Stafford hesitated. He was near the quarterback on the play.
Play 5: I wonder if Cole is getting impatient because of the lack of sacks. Look at where he is on this run play in the first.
Or maybe he was anticipating a bootleg after the earlier play? Not used to seeing this from Cole, who is generally an excellent run defender. The left tackle (No. 71) whiffed on his block on Allen, or this could have been much more than a 9-yard gain.
Play 6: I’m guessing other teams will see this play on tape and run a couple end arounds to Cole’s side. Here, he gets completely fooled by the initial fake as Nate Burleson gets the ball.
Look at where Cole is when he finally realizes Burleson has the ball.
Akeem Jordan actually doesn’t get fooled, but he does get blocked. The result is a 16-yard pickup.
Play 7: In the past, with the Eagles’ offense, we’ve shown them keep extra blockers in and let DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin try to win even if they’re outnumbered. On one second-quarter play, the Lions did the same. After a play-fake, check out the blocking.
All four Eagles defensive linemen are double-teamed. The running back chips Cole and then goes out into his route. But otherwise, the Lions only have two receivers in pass routes. Titus Young gets behind Coleman, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie trips on the play. But Young drops the ball. Otherwise, this is a big gain. Not an All-22 shot, but here you can see the close-up.
Play 8: You see it again here. Eight guys in to block four Eagles defensive linemen.
Tough to generate a pass-rush when you’re so outnumbered. Also with the max protect, the linebackers are stuck in no man’s land, waiting for the running backs and tight ends to release.
Play 9: Another missed opportunity to Johnson. Here, Allen gets matched up with him, but Johnson has a step. There is no one deep except for the official.
Luckily for the Eagles, Stafford decides he needs to get rid of the ball quickly. That was another theme of the day. Another example of the defensive line indirectly impacting the game without sacks. He actually had Burleson open for what would have been a first down (3rd-and-3), but Stafford misfired, and the Lions had to punt.
Play 10: One way to help yourself get pressure on the quarterback is to, well, play with two defensive ends. On this third-quarter play, the Eagles decided 10 players and NO left defensive end would be just fine.
For the record, coverage was so good on the play that Stafford had to tuck the ball and run for 3 yards.
Play 11: The 57-yard completion to Scheffler in the fourth is a great example of why the All-22 is so helpful. On TV, it looked like Brandon Hughes just got beat, but really, Colt Anderson deserves blame on the play. The first shot shows Anderson deep. He’s not supposed to let anything get behind him.
But it’s a broken play. Stafford rolls to his right, and Scheffler makes his way back to the sideline. Anderson cheats up – either to help on a shorter route or to chase Stafford if he scrambles.
Scheffler gets free for the big gain.
Play 12: One of the plays Asomugha was presumably talking about after the game. In overtime, Castillo sent Coleman on a blitz. It’s fair to question why he’d go with a safety blitz from distance in a game where Stafford was regularly getting rid of the ball quickly. The matchup in the slot is Rodgers-Cromartie vs. Johnson.
The Eagles tried Rodgers-Cromartie in the slot last year. It didn’t work. He’s mentioned on several occasions how he’s not comfortable there. He had gotten beaten for a 17-yard gain on the final drive of regulation in a similar situation. And here he’s got no help against perhaps the best wide receiver in the game. So you can understand why this play probably frustrated Asomugha, and it’s no surprise that Johnson beat Rodgers-Cromartie to the outside for a 17-yard gain, putting the Lions in field-goal range.
And finally, be sure to check out the Iggles Blog All-22 breakdown. Outstanding in-depth analysis on the specific coverages the Eagles used and what changed late in the game.
Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.