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InFocus: Situational Playcalling Analysis

Posted Dec 1, 2012


Led by running backs LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown, the Eagles are averaging 4.4 yards per carry on designed runs that commence in the backfield this season, which ranks 12th in the NFL. On the other hand, they’re putting up only 6 yards per pass attempt, which ranks 26th in the league. The Eagles have called a pass on 64 percent of their offensive snaps this season, which is the league’s eighth-highest mark.

Of course, you don’t get to 3-8 without trailing quite a bit throughout the year. It doesn’t take a stat nerd like me to tell you that teams will often throw more when behind in the game. But I will anyways. Through 12 weeks, NFL teams have called a pass on 60 percent of their offensive snaps. That figure drops to 51 percent when the team is ahead in the game and increases to 68 percent when it is behind. Teams call a pass 58 percent of the time when the score is tied.

Applying that logic to the Eagles, it shouldn’t be too surprising to see them among the league’s pass-heaviest teams. Of course, the Eagles have always been among the league’s pass-heaviest teams when under the tutelage of coach Andy Reid. The difference, however, is that they’ve rarely struggled in the passing game under Reid. Consider the splits …

With The Lead

In 2011, the 8-8 Eagles ran 517 plays with the lead, compared to 345 while trailing and 175 when tied. In 2012, they’re run only 103 plays with the lead, 467 from behind and 182 while tied. The 103 plays while ahead on the scoreboard ranks 30th in the NFL, ahead of only the Chiefs and Raiders.

Here’s where it really gets interesting. The Eagles have called a pass on 60 percent of those 103 snaps this season, which ranks them as the pass-heaviest team with the lead in the league this season. The next-closest to them is the Ravens at 59 percent. The Jets hold the league’s lowest mark at 35 percent. In 2011, the Eagles ranked second in this category at 59 percent.

Often pointed to as a turning point in the season, let’s look at the team’s Week 6 overtime loss vs. Detroit. The Eagles ran 45 offensive plays with the lead in this game, a whopping 34 of which were passes. Against Dallas in Week 10, they went with a 7-3 pass-run ratio while leading. This past Monday night against Carolina, they ran only four plays with the lead, two of which were runs. Philadelphia has not run an offensive play with the lead in five of its 11 games this season.

Playing From Behind

Unfortunately for the Eagles, the sample size in this category is a little bit larger this season. They’ve run at least 11 offensive plays while trailing in each of their 11 games this season.

Proving that they aren’t like most teams and generally stick to their gameplan regardless of the score, the Eagles have called a pass on 66 percent of their offensive snaps when trailing on the scoreboard this season. That ranks 22nd in the league. All 32 NFL teams throw more when they’re behind than they do when ahead, but the 5.3 percent difference between the Eagles’ marks in each category is the lowest in the league. Both right around seven percent, the Ravens and Steelers are close behind, but no other team is below 12 percent. The Jets’ 29 percent mark makes them the most volatile playcallers in the league. At 69 percent, the Eagles ranked 16th in this category last season.

There were actually two games this season where the Eagles ran more than they passed when behind on the scoreboard. One was a 5-6 pass/run mark vs. the Giants in Week 4. The other was a 15-20 ratio in this past week’s game vs. Carolina. Interestingly, the Eagles have as many games where they ran more than they passed while trailing as they do where they passed more than they ran while ahead.

The Eagles have called a pass while trailing at least 69 percent of the time in six of 11 games this season. That includes four of the team’s last five games, highlighted by a season-high mark of 76 percent against Dallas in Week 10. You may recall that as Nick Foles’ NFL debut.

In The Event Of A Tie ...

Interestingly, the Eagles lead the NFL in yet another category - offensive snaps in a tie game. Having tallied 182 snaps with an even score this season, the Eagles rank just ahead of the Dolphins (181). The Panthers rank last with 60.

Not surprisingly, the Eagles are among the league’s pass-heaviest teams in this situation. They’ve called a pass on 64 percent of their snaps with a tie score this season, which ranks as the NFL’s sixth-highest mark. At 74 percent, the Lions are the pass-heaviest team in a tie game, while the Chiefs are last at 40 percent. In 2011, the Eagles were at 64 percent, which ranked fifth-highest.

Philadelphia has run an offensive play in a tie game in all but one of its games this season (Week 8 vs. Atlanta). In each of the other 10 instances, the Eagles called more passes than runs. The biggest gap game in Week 1 vs. Cleveland; they called 23 passes, compared to only four runs. It’s worth noting that the tie-game playcalling has been a lot more balanced recently. Since the bye week, they’ve called 29 passes and 24 runs in tie games.

That’s a wrap for this week. Check out InFocus throughout the season for the most comprehensive Eagles analysis on the web.

Mike Clay, @MikeClayNFL on Twitter, is the Director and Managing Editor at Pro Football Focus Fantasy. He also works as an NFL Writer for NBC's

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