The Eagles went into Lambeau Field and came away with a crucial September victory over the Green Bay Packers. There were plenty of factors that led to the win, but the focus on today's piece will be the dominant run game featuring both Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders, two new additions to the Eagles for 2019.
Let's start with Howard, who starred in the victory with a trio of touchdowns, two on the ground and one through the air, and his downhill, physical style of play. It was evident early on that the Eagles wanted to establish the run against a Green Bay team that leads the NFC in sacks.
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The Eagles did creative things schematically. They ran more than a handful of different run concepts. They used misdirection, they used smash-mouth, and they got out to the perimeter. RPOs were successful. Screens were successful. Play-action was successful. The entire smattering worked, and when you get the kind of dominant performance that the team got from the offensive line in the trenches, that only will help propel you to victory. I thought the entire line performed well in this game, but if I had to pick one player who stood out most, it would be right guard Brandon Brooks, who got great movement time and time again up front. The Milwaukee native was a sixth captain for Thursday night's game.
Brooks was pivotal in getting Howard into the end zone on that second touchdown run, but don't forget about the effort from all three tight ends either. Zach Ertz might be off to the best start of his career from a blocking standpoint, and Dallas Goedert has become one of the best in the league at his position at the point of attack, regularly handling defensive ends (and even a defensive tackle or two, which we'll get to in a second). Alex Ellis, the team's third tight end, chipped in as well, helping escort Howard into the end zone for a second time in as many weeks with a physical block on the back side of a zone run play as well.
The Eagles were 4-for-4 in the red zone on Thursday night, which was a HUGE contributing factor to the win.
Late in the game, after the first goal-line stand on defense, the Eagles had the ball with the lead on their own 1-yard line. This is what is called a "four-minute drill."
A four-minute drill is the opposite of a two-minute drill. Instead of going into hurry-up mode and rushing downfield as quickly as possible to get points on the board, the offense's goal in this situation is to bleed the clock. You're letting the clock get inside of five seconds before snapping the ball, and you're either running the rock or completing very high-percentage passes to stay in bounds. In this situation, the defense KNOWS that you want to run the ball, especially when you're backed up on your 1-yard line. Doug Pederson and the coaches leaned on Howard on Thursday night in this spot, and he came through.
This drive didn't end in a touchdown, and the Eagles were forced to punt one last time, but the field position was flipped in a big way as the Eagles got the ball off their goal line and out to midfield. Howard and these run schemes were a big part of it. I love the fact that this run play worked once on first down, and the coaches responded by calling it two more times to keep moving the ball downhill and eating up the clock.
One last Howard play before I leave you with my favorite Sanders run of the night. Last week, it was the rookie who starred in the passing game with a handful of vertical routes that went for big plays against the Detroit Lions. This week, it was Howard's turn, and he delivered once again.
This is the same play concept that got Nelson Agholor into the end zone last week against Detroit. This time Carson Wentz drops back and makes a great read of the defense, understanding who has Howard out of the backfield. He sees that Blake Martinez is going to get caught up in those shallow crossing routes. If he doesn't play over the top of those routes, he's going to have a tough time getting in position to defend this throw. Wentz drops back, sees Martinez step forward, checks to make sure no other defender fell off into the flat, and then lofts a pass to the sideline for Howard, who does the rest for the score (the second receiving touchdown of his career). Howard also caught a screen pass for a solid gain in this game. He's not going to be the vertical receiver that Sanders is in this offense, but it was great to see the young veteran prove that he can catch the ball in this offense.
Sanders had a huge kickoff return in this game to give the entire team a spark (I'll break that play down next week), but this run play was outstanding as well. Not only did Sanders trust the run scheme and hit the hole hard on this play, but the blocking was perfectly executed up front. This "wham" concept is one of my favorite plays in all of football, and the key to it all is the block from Goedert, who erases the defensive tackle on that side, Dean Lowry.
By using a tight end to block a defensive tackle, the Eagles are now able to get a mismatch at the second level with Isaac Seumalo up on the linebacker. Jason Peters releases immediately up to the safety. Ertz washes out the outside linebacker. Look at the crease that opens up just as Sanders is getting the handoff from Wentz! This is a thing of beauty, and it turned into a huge gain for the Eagles on a drive-opening play that resulted in points.
I can't say enough how important this win was for the Eagles, and it was a great way to go into a short break before preparing for the New York Jets (who are coming off their actual bye week) next Sunday. We'll start our breakdowns for that matchup next week.
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.