The Eagles' offense stayed on course against the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon with an efficient performance. In his first start of the season, Nick Foles was, dare I say, really good at the helm of an attack that continued to feature a wide array of weapons. Four different players caught touchdowns, four different backs took handoffs, and Foles played the role of point guard in an offense that moved the ball when it needed to in all areas of the field and finished drives with touchdowns instead of field goals. To start this breakdown, it's best to look at all four of those scores, courtesy of Foles and his right arm.
Shot 1 - Nick Foles first TD came by targeting Alshon Jeffery on the backside of a 2-man route concept. Saw that was taken away, got to his next progression and was perfectly in-sync with Jeffery for a score in the back of the end zone #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/Z7fEQCozio — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 18, 2017
Note that there is audio commentary for each of the video clips.
The first touchdown on the Eagles' opening drive, to me, was one of my favorite plays of the game for a number of reasons. It was great to get Foles on the board on his opening drive, and to see him finish for a touchdown on a play where he had good protection up front, had to get late in the progression (he started to his left where the Eagles ran a high-low read with Mack Hollins and Zach Ertz before he worked to Jeffery on the back side), and then make an accurate throw in the back of the end zone was huge. That was a confidence boost for most Eagles fans, and the other thing I liked about that play was the fact that he was so in-sync with Jeffery. These two haven’t spent a ton of time working together on the field, and that was a mid-route adjustment from Jeffery late in the down. The way the defender played the route, Jeffery is taught to stick his foot in the ground and break back to the sideline. Alshon saw it, and so did Foles, and he placed it perfectly up high in the back of the end zone for six points. It was a great way to start the game, and gave Jeffery his team-leading ninth receiving touchdown.
Shot 2 - #Eagles just doing what they've done all year long in the red zone, creating space for Zach Ertz to work and win a 1-on-1 matchup. Vs #Giants Cover 0 look he runs a great corner post, using his body to win at the catch point. Great timing from Foles vs pressure as well pic.twitter.com/t3pTS76cG4 — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 18, 2017
The best part of the second touchdown is that it was a great example of how the Eagles' offensive train isn’t stopping now that Wentz had to get off. They’re calling the same kinds of plays and running the same kinds of concepts that worked when No. 11 was in the ballgame. The Eagles have excelled at getting one-on-one opportunities for Ertz all season long, and that’s exactly what happened here. Ertz ran a great route, undercutting the defender and getting him on his back to outmuscle him at the catch point for a touchdown. Again, the protection held up against a Cover 0 blitz from the Giants to allow Foles to deliver this football accurately and on time for a score.
Shot 3 - Great design from #Eagles coaching staff here in the red zone. Nelson Agholor takes 2 defenders towards the post, you get the slot corner to bite on Alshon's slant route, and Trey Burton runs a wide open fade route for an easy six points #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/H9lKe7vDkd — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 18, 2017
On the third touchdown, the Eagles just out-schemed the Giants. It’s a 3x1 set in 12 personnel (one running back and two tight ends). From left to right on the three-receiver side, it's Jeffery (running a slant), Trey Burton (fade route), and Nelson Agholor (crossing route right at the post). Agholor’s route is very important because not only does he occupy the cornerback over top of him, but he holds that safety in the middle of the field. Jeffery’s slant route takes two defenders as well, as former Eagle Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie bites on that route. Burton is left wide open in the end zone for six points. Great design from the Eagles, who showed an understanding of the kinds of players that they were up against with this aggressive Giants secondary.
Shot 4 - Similar concept here against what looked like Cover 0 initially from #Giants. Great catch from Agholor going up and over the defender for the TD. Has the look of a 'rub route' early to Torrey, but Nelson runs the fade for six. #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/94tJLan1QQ — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 18, 2017
The Eagles ran a similar concept on the fourth Foles touchdown, except this time you have Agholor running the fade and Torrey Smith working the slant on the outside. The Giants are showing pressure pre-snap, but they fall out with two defenders in the middle of the field in coverage. Honestly, the look of the routes between Agholor and Smith make it almost appear that there will be a "rub route" at the bottom of the screen. Agholor isn’t picking off the corner, however, as he instead runs into the end zone and then high-points the football, going up and over the defender to reel in this pass for a touchdown.
The production for the Eagles' quarterbacks this year has been downright silly down inside the 20-yard line. Between Wentz and Foles, the Eagles have 27 red zone touchdowns with no interceptions. The combined quarterback rating of 117.5 is good for first in the NFL. The completion percentage of 67.1 is second, and the touchdown efficiency of 67.3 is also first in the league. Agholor actually leads the offense with 18 targets inside the 20-yard line, turning them into 13 catches for four touchdowns. Ertz ranks second in the NFL with eight touchdowns in the red zone.
So situationally, the Eagles executed at a very high level in the red zone, just like they have all year long. The team wasn’t AS proficient on third down, where their numbers were a little bit below what they normally churn out in terms of conversion rate (they currently rank second in the league with a 45.4 percent conversion rate), but they still made some big-time plays in clutch situations. Here are two examples.
Shot 5 - Wasn't always perfect for the #Eagles on third down but they executed when they needed to. Great job by Foles on both plays of getting the ball out quickly to help create YAC. OL was outstanding on both reps as well. #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/rXn1EXM0Uc — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 18, 2017
This is a play from early in the game, when the Eagles hadn’t converted a third down yet, and a play from late in the fourth quarter when the Eagles were holding a lead and needed to continue eating clock. On both plays, I love that Foles gets the ball out quickly, reading the defense, taking what it gives him, and not forcing the issue. By getting it out as quickly as he did, he was able to help create an opportunity for yards after the catch, and he let his receivers do the work to move the sticks. The offensive line did a great job of holding up in protection on both of these third-down plays as well, particularly on the second rep, where Brandon Brooks recognized a blitzer late and came off of his assignment to help keep Foles clean in the pocket.
Shot 6 - Nick Foles can't run RPOs? Nick Foles can't make throws on the run? Didn't take long to squash that. Again - not saying he's Wentz - but he can make the throws needed in this offense #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/oXNWK3Ilcg — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 18, 2017
A lot was written a week ago about the types of throws Foles can (and more importantly, can’t) make, but I think he helped quiet some doubters in this game. I love that Doug Pederson called an RPO (run-pass option) on the very first play of the game, as Foles dished the ball out against a blitzing slot corner to kick things off for the offense. We also got to see Foles roll out of the pocket a bit in this game, both by design as well as by nature of the play, and make throws on the run both to the right and to the left. He’s clearly not Carson Wentz from a movement standpoint, but Foles can make all the throws necessary in this offense.
Shot 7 - #Eagles had success out of Empty set against the Giants. Got matchups and situations they liked in space. Great execution across the board. pic.twitter.com/K32swo8Efw — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 18, 2017
One phase of the game that was fun to study was the Eagles' Empty sets, where the offense spread things out and left Foles all alone in the backfield. I’m always intrigued by watching how different coaches choose to defend Empty sets, and in this game Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo chose to pressure those looks from the Eagles.
In an Empty set, the quarterback only has five men in to block, so if the defense brings six (or pretends like they’re going to bring six), someone is likely going to come free. That defender is the quarterback’s man to beat. Foles did that on a consistent basis in this game, and it resulted in a couple of positive plays for the Eagles' offense.
The stats in the run game weren’t particularly eye-popping, but there were some really good flashes across the board. From start to finish, it was one of the best games from the Eagles' offensive line all season long. I know the stats don’t really play out this way, but that New York defensive line is stout and it’s not an easy group to run against. Across the board, I thought the five starters had some of their best individual games of the year.
Shot 8 - Good flashes from the #Eagles run game on Sunday. Lane Johnson was really good all day long. Great job by Brandon Brooks as well. Big V with some nice blocks here. This isn't an easy group to run the ball on for the #Giants, regardless of what the numbers say pic.twitter.com/VleqrRR5zA — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 18, 2017
Here are some great blocks in the run game out on the perimeter. Check out both offensive tackles on some of these plays, as well as guys like Brooks and Chance Warmack making plays on the back side and on the play side. The block by Lane Johnson on Damon Harrison was one of my favorites of this season.
Shot 9 - Really liked the effort from TE Zach Ertz all day long in the run game. Loved seeing this second rep in the run game where he blocks Olivier Vernon 1-on-1, pinning him down at the point of attack #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/DlGP1FF271 — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 18, 2017
It wasn’t just the offensive line getting in on the fun because I thought it was also one of Ertz’s best games as a blocker this season as well. Ertz was left alone to block defensive end Olivier Vernon (a fierce competitor between the lines) one-on-one numerous times, and he held up well. It was a good game for Ertz in terms of the "dirty work" at the tight end spot. He ran good routes and stood out as a blocker.
Shot 10 - Closing out with a handful of plays from Jason Kelce who was just RIDICULOUS in this game vs the Giants. Look at some of these blocks from this game and you can see the impact he has on the #Eagles offense. #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/sTJJ9KexSp — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 18, 2017
The real standout in the trenches, however, was center Jason Kelce. The term "trenches" is a bit out of place because he made a ton of plays at the second and third levels as well. These are a handful of his best blocks from Sunday, and I could’ve thrown in a couple more for good measure. Kelce’s athleticism is the best in the league along the offensive line. There’s no question to me about that. He makes blocks that some linemen couldn’t dream of executing. It wasn’t just about his athleticism in this game. Kelce was a bit of a bulldog against the Giants' bigger defensive tackles as well, sticking to defenders like glue and driving them backward when needed. Kelce was outstanding against the Giants. In my opinion, he’s one of the most valuable players on this football team down the home stretch on the way to the postseason.
For the first time since that magical season of 2004, the Eagles have secured a bye in the first round of the playoffs. They’re 5-0 in the division for the first time since that Super Bowl run. Offensively, they continue the winning formula of controlling the football, winning on third down and in the red zone, and not turning the ball over. If they can continue to do that, there’s no reason to think why this team can’t make a deep postseason run.
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.