On Sunday, the Eagles' offense clearly tried to establish things on the ground. This made sense for multiple reasons. Getting into an offensive rhythm certainly plays a part in that, but also considering the elements in Cleveland, it was clear that the run game was going to be pivotal if the offense had any hope of success. That first drive was a great example, as they moved the ball down the field efficiently and methodically on a possession that ended with a fumble inside the 5-yard line.
Throughout the game, that rushing success continued. It wasn't until the team was in a two-score hole late in the fourth quarter that the offense relied solely on the pass game in that weather. Consistently, the Eagles were able to create movement up front, particularly against Cleveland's pair of defensive tackles. It didn't matter that there was once again a handful of combinations along the offensive line due to injury, and that center Jason Kelce had to play the second half with his left arm in a brace. The Eagles did some good things on the ground on Sunday, and their two best concepts were the Pin-Pull play and the Tackle Trap concept.
ALL OF THE VIDEO CLIPS FEATURE AUDIO ANALYSIS
The Pin-Pull play has long been a staple of the Eagles' run game. In fact, Tight Ends Coach Justin Peele joined me last week on Eagles Game Plan to break the play down, because it was the play design on Boston Scott's long touchdown run against the Giants in Week 10. Going back to Chip Kelly's arrival in Philadelphia, this scheme has been effective for the Eagles, and I expect that to continue.
The Tackle Trap play hasn't been used as often, but it's also been in the back pocket of the Eagles' coaching staff for a couple of years now. There are two key blocks to watch on these plays, but the bigger takeaway for me in this matchup was the running backs' performance. They did a great job of reading off their blocks, even when it wasn't always a perfectly clear picture, and got downhill to pick up positive chunks of yardage. On these quick-hitting runs like Trap and Wham (which we covered in this space last week), the backs MUST be decisive, and they were in this game.
The Eagles can't be an effective running team without the tight ends blocking. As you can see In the clips above, Dallas Goedert put in some work as a blocker on Sunday in a big way. Goedert has developed into one of the best two-way tight ends in the entire NFL.
I loved the design and the use of pre-snap motion to get the ball to Goedert down the field on that first play, taking advantage of his athleticism to beat the safety in a foot race. Goedert's ability to uncover in the scramble drill showed up multiple times as well against the Browns.
It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows for the Eagles' offense against the Browns, and two plays in particular put points directly on the board for Cleveland. Here's what happened on those two snaps.
On both plays, the protection broke down for Wentz in the pocket. I, personally, don't have an issue with his decision to check down to Miles Sanders on the interception. In that rain, it may have been a tough throw to try and drive the ball to Reagor with the safety patrolling over the top. He's trying to be safe here, which is what many have pleaded for him to be. He goes for the checkdown and gets hit from the back side.
The way I'm reading the play, Richard Rodgers is responsible for the most dangerous man on his side. In his defense, Denzel Ward does not initially present himself as a blitzer, but once he "green dogs," Rodgers already has his eyes inside. Rodgers doesn't see Ward, and the cornerback gets in scot-free to force the errant throw.
On the safety, the Eagles are running a three-man flood concept to the left side, and that's where Wentz is working first. On the back side of the progression, once he goes through his reads, he will have Goedert breaking open for a big play. The problem? He can't get there. The pressure gets home, and Wentz is sacked. It was one of four third-down sacks in the game. The Eagles are now 2-for-21 on third down in the last two games. It's tough to have a lot of sustained offensive success without moving the sticks on third down.
The other part of that safety is that it represents the issues that the Eagles are having as an entire team. Greg Ward did not catch a punt that hit the ground and bounced inside the 5-yard line. That put the Eagles in a backed-up situation inside the shadow of their own goal post. When Wentz gets sacked on third down, the Eagles aren't punting the ball away. They're giving up two points AND kicking to the Browns on a short field. Fortunately, defensive end Derek Barnett blocked the field goal attempt to limit the damage, but these are the kinds of mistakes the Eagles must correct.
Let's transition into the best two-play sequence for the Eagles on the day, a sack-fumble by Fletcher Cox that turns into a touchdown throw by Wentz.
Cox absolutely manhandled Wyatt Teller – who could be an All-Pro this year – to get home for the sack. That gives the offense the ball on a short field and allows Wentz to strike instantly, attacking the middle-of-the-field safety for a score.
Defensively, the Eagles performed very admirably, not allowing the Browns' offense to reach the end zone until midway through the fourth quarter. For the most part, they kept a dominant run game in check. A big part of that was the play of the linebackers and their attacking style downhill.
This style of defense allows the defensive line to stay off double teams, and gives the good guys a lot of hats in gaps to stuff up the run. For the most part, that was successful on Sunday.
One player on defense who continues to catch my eye is defensive end Josh Sweat. The third-year pass rusher had two big plays on Sunday in a rotational role with Barnett.
Whether it's against the run or the pass, it's been fun to watch Sweat this year.
Lastly, I thought Jalen Reagor quietly had a pretty good game too. It was tough conditions and not exactly the most friendly situation for a player with his skill set, but he made some tough grabs, ran some good routes, and came up big for the Eagles in a couple of spots.
The Eagles will continue to need Reagor's ability as a separator and as a pass catcher down the stretch. Now healthy, here's hoping he'll have the ability to create some big plays for this offense.
Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominatedEagles Game Planshow which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts,Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as theJourney to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices, and opponents.