Saturday's loss was heartbreaking.
Not only because of the fact that it ended all postseason hopes and dreams, but because it came against a division opponent and a team that you could've beaten. The Eagles were swept by Washington this year, and in both defeats the team comes away with a bitter taste in their mouths with lots of "what ifs" and "if onlys." Now, with just one game remaining on the schedule, the team has to build toward the offseason and what this roster will look like for 2016 and beyond. We have more than enough time to dive into that, however. For now, let's look at what happened to the offense.
The Eagles started off hot, making it look easy as they marched down the field on the opening possession and went up 7-0. Let's look at the plays that worked well on that drive.
On the first play of the game, the Eagles ran what is known as a "Bash" concept, with two quick in-breaking routes on the outside and a corner route from the No. 3 receiver (some may remember Teddy Bridgewater breaking down this concept with Jon Gruden in his QB Camp series on ESPN before the 2014 NFL Draft).
What's great about the Bash concept is that it's what some would call an "oblique" stretch play because it has a vertical stretch element (the high-low read of the in-breakers and the corner route) and a horizontal element (the two in-breakers can be treated just like double slants or "Tosser"). With two different stressors on a defense, the quarterback has options on this play.
Quarterback Sam Bradford drops back, and he chooses to hit wide receiver Nelson Agholor on the backside in-breaking route. Agholor gets separation from the cornerback on the outside and does a great job of "attacking the corner's technique," getting him to flip his hips before breaking inside. The rookie makes the defender miss on his way to an 18-yard catch and run for a first down.
Three plays later, on third-and-4, Bradford sits back in an empty set with five eligible receivers out wide. The Eagles are running a version of the "Drive" concept here, with a shallow crossing route from wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a curl route over the ball from tight end Zach Ertz in the slot. This play has the ability to be a pretty simple read for the quarterback, first looking inside at Ertz, and if that throw is taken away, check to the crossing route underneath. Chris Brown of Smart Football wrote a great breakdown on this concept, and we also diagrammed it in our Anatomy Of A Play series. This play goes 11 yards for a first down to move the chains, and the very next play results in one of my favorite Sam Bradford moments of the season.
It's first-and-10, and the Eagles call one of their most common plays. Off run-action, Bradford has a quick high-low read on the outside, typically his first progression, followed by a crossing route over the middle, this time from Ertz. But this play stood out to me because of the pre-snap motion. Why? Because when Bradford brings Agholor in jet motion before the snap, watch how Washington reacts, as the secondary makes what can be known as a "Jump" call, with the safeties rotating toward that side. Bradford sees this, and he may have expected it, because when he drops back, he doesn't even look to the outside at that first high-low read. Instead, he gets his eyes squarely on Ertz on the crossing route because he knows that, thanks to the safety rotation, he'll have his tight end open in the middle of the field. He hits Ertz for 16 yards and a first down, and the drive continues. That's a great quarterback play by Bradford.
Two plays later, with the ball on the 24-yard line on first down, the Eagles call a play that we actually highlighted in our prep for Washington a week ago. In a concept that Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has done a really good job of utilizing to create space for wide receiver DeSean Jackson downfield, the Eagles were able to capitalize with it on Saturday night. This "slot fade" route from Josh Huff draws a pass interference penalty in the end zone, putting the ball on the goal line and allowing the Eagles to punch it in for a touchdown, the first points of the game.
The Eagles went back to the concept later in the first quarter for a big gain to Matthews. You can see what this does for both the quarterback and the receiver down the field. Running the fade from the slot gives the quarterback more room between the receiver and the sideline to drop this ball in, whereas it's a much tighter window if the receiver runs that route from outside the numbers. Bradford drops this pass in beautifully for a 43-yard gain and a first down.
Last week, I called Bradford's game against the Cardinals one of his best performances of the season in a losing effort. I thought that he had another good outing against Washington, although there were a number of plays left on the field on Saturday night, for a number of different reasons.
One of those plays occurred in the second quarter. It was third-and-9, a big situation as the Eagles were hoping to cross midfield down by a score. Washington has a busted coverage on the back end, as it appears to be some kind of a Cover 2 call, except DeAngelo Hall isn't in the correct spot. Ertz runs a vertical route right into the voided area of the field and is as open as open gets. Unfortunately, Bradford is unable to deliver the ball because the offensive line couldn't protect against a three-man stunt from Washington. Pressure forces a rushed throw from Bradford, and the Eagles are forced to punt.
In the third quarter another big play was left on the field in the passing game. This time, the Eagles run a deep post route with wide receiver Riley Cooper on a three-level stretch play. Bradford has his shot, steps up in the pocket against pressure, side steps the rest of the action in front of him and delivers a perfect throw on the opposite hash downfield. The ball can't be secured for the catch, however, and the Eagles can't capitalize on the big play through the air. This was a big-time throw by Bradford, who exhibited great pocket movement and ball placement downfield on the pass to Cooper.
On the next drive in the opposite end of the field, the Eagles again couldn't connect on a big play in the passing game. This time, Agholor runs a little Sluggo route down in the red zone, and he's wide open in the corner. Bradford's touch pass falls incomplete outside of the back pylon, and points are left on the board (for the time being).
The Bradford debate will wage on for the next couple of months in Philadelphia. At times, he was very good, but there were others where you were left wanting more. Seeing how his contract situation progresses will be one of the top storylines in the NFL this offseason.
Fran Duffy is the producer of "Eagles Game Plan" which can be seen on Saturdays during the season. Be sure to also check out the "Eagle Eye In The Sky" podcast on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. 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.