After looking at the dominant performance of the Eagles’ defense in Sunday's win over the Pittsburgh, it's now time to look at Carson Wentz and the Eagles' offense. For the third straight game, the Eagles netted points on the opening drive, one of only two teams in the NFL to say that (while 10 teams in the league have yet to score on their first possession). A couple of plays helped move the Eagles down the field on that drive, but the catalyst was a 40-yard screen play to running back Darren Sproles.
Shot 1 - Great design and execution on 40yd screen to Sproles. Misdirection factor and great blocks in space from Kelce & Barbre #Eagles pic.twitter.com/7nLcW8ytoC — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 27, 2016
It's the third play of the game, and the Eagles want to get the ball to Sproles out in space. To do that, they prey on a Pittsburgh defensive front that is hyper-aggressive. The Eagles get the Steelers to first press the line of scrimmage against run-action, then flow to the right against a ghost motion from receiver Nelson Agholor. Look at how that backfield action affects the second-level defenders of the Steelers. Nine Steelers are on the right side of the field when Wentz throws it back to the left. With tons of green space in front, Sproles has plenty of room to operate. Look at the jobs by left guard Allen Barbre and center Jason Kelce out in front to help clear the way for a huge play that leads to a field goal.
The Eagles racked up a huge amount of yards after the catch on Sunday - 229 of Wentz's 301 passing yards came after his receivers caught the ball. How big of a number is that? It was the highest number of any team in Week 3, the third highest of any NFL team this season, and the most by an Eagles team since the team's 2014 Monday Night Football win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Eagles receivers averaged 10 yards after the catch per reception on Sunday, by far the highest number of any team in any game so far this season (the second highest was 8.9). Should all the credit go to Sproles and his two long receptions? They are definitely a big reason for it, but you have to give credit to Wentz and some of the other receivers as well.
Shot 2 - #Eagles had a huge YAC game Sunday. Not just because of Sproles, but Wentz threw with proper ball placement and WRs got upfield pic.twitter.com/Hrc5xnKcqv — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 27, 2016
It's first-and-10 in the second quarter, and the Eagles are running a packaged play concept. Wide receiver Josh Huff runs a bubble screen to the left. Up front, the Eagles have a counter run on the ground. On this type of play, Wentz is asked to read the defense and either throw the screen or hand the ball off based off of a pre-snap or a post-snap read. Here, Wentz looks like he's initially going to hand this ball off to Wendell Smallwood. The blitzer coming from the slot forces Wentz to quickly zip this throw out to Huff, who catches this pass 1 yard behind the line of scrimmage. Credit Huff for spinning off a tackle from the cornerback and decisively getting downhill quickly as he ends up with an 11-yard gain on the play. The ball was well placed by Wentz, as Huff did not have to slow down his forward momentum. Huff used his natural ability to pick up the first down.
On the first play of the next series, the Eagles are in a similar situation. It's first-and-10, and while this isn't a "Run Pass Option" play, Wentz gets this ball out on the money and on the right shoulder for wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who is able to take this pass an extra 7 yards for a first down. A lot of smart coaches will tell you that picking up yards after the catch are just as much on the quarterback as they are on the receiver. Hitting targets in stride and on time are a huge part of picking up free yards, something the Eagles did at a high rate against the Steelers.
Coming into the game, the big task facing Wentz with this Steelers defense was not the pressure they'd bring, but beating the coverage concepts on the back end. Pittsburgh plays pretty basic Cover 2 and Cover 3, asking its defenders to play fast and execute the scheme. The Steelers do a pretty good job of disguising coverages and baiting quarterbacks (even veterans) into poor throws. I thought Wentz and the Eagles' offense did a great job of attacking the zone coverage schemes all afternoon, and it started early on.
Shot 4 - Perfectly executed Dagger concept on 3rd-and-12 vs Quarters coverage. Dagger is a great zone beater; wide open window for Wentz pic.twitter.com/nAExv5fcG8 — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 27, 2016
It's third-and-12, a situation that had not been kind to the Eagles through the first two weeks. The Eagles come out in 11 personnel with one back (Sproles), one tight end (Trey Burton) and three receivers. This is a classic dagger concept, a play that works really well against a variety of zone coverages. It was executed to perfection here. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews clears out the middle of the field, removing the safety. Burton, running a drag route, takes not one but two underneath defenders away toward the sideline. This creates a wide open throwing lane for Wentz to unleash this ball to Green-Beckham on a dig route. Give a ton of credit to the interior offensive line as well, picking up this twist inside from the Steelers to maintain a clean pocket for the quarterback to deliver this throw unscathed.
Shot 5 - Another zone beater 3 plays later vs Cover 3, this time #Eagles put LB in a bind. He stays with Sproles, opens up throw to Celek pic.twitter.com/5fkizJvy8P — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 27, 2016
Three plays later, it's second-and-10 from the 39-yard line and the Steelers are in Cover 3. Lucky for the Eagles, they have a perfect route combination in the middle of the field to attack an underneath defender in this coverage. Wentz brings Sproles in motion as a stacked receiver directly behind tight end Brent Celek, who is running a quick curl route over the ball in the middle of the field. Sproles is running a much shorter route underneath. The hope is that the linebacker will attack Sproles, leaving a window behind him for Wentz to fit this ball into his tight end, which he does here for a 15-yard gain and a first down. Really well done by the coaching staff and the players on the field to execute this simple concept attacking the zone schemes.
Shot 6 - Similar concept to Dagger down in the red zone for #Eagles first TD. Clear out inside, bring Matthews in on in-breaker for 6 points pic.twitter.com/k8FBLmOefR — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 27, 2016
A few plays later, the Eagles go back to the play that got this drive going with a concept very similar to the Dagger we saw to DGB on third-and-12. This time it's second-and-9 down on the goal line, and Celek runs a clear out route down the seam, removing the linebacker from the middle of the field. This creates a void for Jordan Matthews to run through on his way to the end zone to get the Eagles their first touchdown of the day.
I would say the biggest criticism of Wentz in his first two starts, and for good reason, was his propensity to take on unnecessary hits outside the pocket. Whether he was running the ball or if he held it too long while waiting for receivers to uncover as a scrambler, he took more than a couple of shots that were cringeworthy to say the least. The coaching staff said that was a point of emphasis for the rookie during the week of preparation for Pittsburgh, and he seemed to get the message.
Shot 7 - Biggest criticism of Wentz was taking unnecessary hits outside the pocket through 2 games - message seems to be received here! pic.twitter.com/x1WH0ev0GX — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 27, 2016
It's first-and-10, and the Eagles call a shot play off play-action, looking for a deep ball down the field. Wentz immediately sees the safety over top, knows that the throw is taken away, and runs for a first down. He gets past the sticks and, seeing a defender closing in his peripheral vision, gets out of bounds without taking a hit. Message received. That seems like a pretty simple play, but what we saw from Wentz early in the third quarter? Not so simple.
Shot 8 - Awesome play by Wentz. 3-Level Stretch taken away, sidesteps pressure, keeps eyes downfield, throws beautiful touch throw for TD pic.twitter.com/EyAYRdXRg3 — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 27, 2016
It's third-and-8 from the Eagles' 27-yard line, and Wentz drops back looking to his left. The Eagles have a three-level stretch play called to that side of the field, but Pittsburgh defends it perfectly, taking away the two throws that would've resulted in a first down. Just as he's ready to work back side to Burton on a dig route, he feels pressure in his face. The rookie side steps the free rusher and finds an escape route from the pocket. As he climbs, he hits the line of scrimmage and, like he knew it was there, immediately worked parallel to it while keeping his eyes downfield. Pittsburgh's safety is slow to run the alley, putting linebacker Ryan Shazier in a bind. Should he crash down on Wentz as a runner, or should he stay with Sproles in space? The hesitation is just what Sproles and Wentz needs, as the quarterback floats a beautiful pass on the run to the running back, who does his best Bo Jackson Tecmo Bowl impression on his way to a 73-yard touchdown. This was a truly awesome play by the rookie quarterback. And how about the blocking from Green-Beckham!? Great effort from the second-year player down the field on this long touchdown.
When people think of Sproles, they usually think of his abilities as a receiver. That's fine, but he brings much more than that to the table. All during the draft process, analysts talk about college running backs as potential "three-down backs" because of their ability to catch the football, but you need something else to be considered a true three-down back in the passing game - you need to block!
Shot 8 - Perfect 3-lvl stretch. Great poise by Wentz (subtle move in pocket) & great block by Sproles - not just caching passes on 3rd down! pic.twitter.com/SGztA8xZCG — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 27, 2016
The Eagles run a true three-level stretch play here. Celek comes across the field as the intermediate receiver, Green-Beckham goes deep and Matthews runs underneath. The seas part perfectly for Celek, and Wentz gets him the ball, but look in the backfield. Sproles steps up perfectly and takes on this blitzer. He doesn't completely obliterate him, but he clears him out of the way to keep his quarterback clean. Wentz senses the pressure coming. He stays completely calm, subtly steps up in the pocket and delivers this throw on time for a first down. This is great all around because it was a well-designed way to get to one of their favorite route concepts. It was a great job by Sproles in pass pro, and an awesome job by Wentz showing off a trait that very, very few rookie quarterbacks display at this stage of their career.
In the run game, there were a lot of positive signs on Sunday against Pittsburgh. The blocking up front was fantastic from top to bottom, the backs all carried the rock well and the offense really asserted its will in the second half on the ground, which was great to see.
Shot 10 - Run game got going Sunday. Great blocks by Kelce, Barbre and Peters. Motion from Agholor holds 2 backside defenders. #Eagles pic.twitter.com/P0HF2CdejI — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 27, 2016
The first play I wanted to show was in the second quarter on first-and-10 in the high red zone. This is a stretch run play to the left, and look at the job by really everyone up front. First, this is an excellent job by Kelce, who gets leverage on the nose tackle by getting him on the move before burying him into the dirt. Barbre scoops the 4-Technique to his side, a really tough block by him, starting the seal for Smallwood. Left tackle Jason Peters clears the way up front, and a double team from the tight ends works to perfection to the play side. The Eagles brought Agholor in motion before the snap. From the sideline angle, you can really see how that motion holds two Pittsburgh defenders from the back side, keeping them from pursuing the ball for a half second to give Smallwood more room to work. This play works exactly how the coaches drew it up, leaving Smallwood one on one with a safety. If he makes that defender miss, he's off for a 24-yard touchdown. Still, this was the type of run that helped to set the tone for the second half.
Shot 11 - Outstanding job by Kelce of reading this stunt up front from PIT DL and taking 3-tech where he wants to go out of harm's way pic.twitter.com/pkRov5JogQ — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 27, 2016
On the next series, the Eagles are in a similar part of the field and run a similar play with Kenjon Barner in the backfield. This time, the Steelers run a twist up front. This type of stunt from the defensive line can sometimes blow up perimeter run plays with an unblocked defender penetrating. Look at the job Kelce does here of recognizing this twist and taking the 3-technique out of harm's way. Barbre also does the same, cutting off the nose tackle and getting him to the ground. Really, really great job by both of the veteran interior offensive linemen on that play. Notice the job by Peters here, as he blocks not one, but two Steelers on the play that results in a first down.
Shot 13 - 2 straight Counter plays from #Eagles on drive that put this game on Ice. Outstanding job from LG Barbre, RG Brooks and RT Johnson pic.twitter.com/Chl0Av3CEH — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 27, 2016
This was a really impressive drive that I thought iced the game. With the score 20-3 early in the third quarter, the Eagles ran back-to-back counter runs with Smallwood in the backfield. With counter, the misdirection gets the defenders flowing to the wrong side, giving one side of the line good angles to block down and steer them away from the direction of the run. Two pullers coming from the back side to clear a path for the back. Watch Smallwood take these two carries between the tackles for 26 yards on two plays. I absolutely loved the job by Barbre coming from the back side, both times scooping out the edge rusher on the play side. Look at the movement on both plays from right guard Brandon Brooks and right tackle Lane Johnson, who completely change the line of scrimmage and open up holes for the rookie running back. Smallwood finished this drive up with a 1-yard touchdown drive to put the Eagles up 27-3 midway through the third quarter.
Shot 14 - Icing on the cake on this Sweep play. Great Pin block by Celek, pulls by Brooks/Lane, and a finish by Kelce for the TD #Eagles pic.twitter.com/5gdMmU1cA2 — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 27, 2016
On the next drive, they put the final nail in the coffin with a sweep play down in the low red zone. Celek gets a great pin block on defensive end Stephon Tuitt (not an easy assignment for a tight end). Johnson and Brooks pull to the playside linebackers, and Kelce delivers the final blow on Shazier, peeling back to get him just out of Barner's reach. Barner makes a great read a couple of steps later, cutting back against the grain on his way to the end zone. I loved seeing this Eagles ground game get going against a run defense that was ranked as one of the best in the league coming into the weekend.
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.