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Eagle Eye: How The Defense Kept The Bears Down


Defensively, the Eagles were utterly dominant in the win over the Bears. The run defense was record-breaking. The pass rush was consistent. The coverage downfield was tight. For the second straight game, the Eagles didn't allow a pass play over 20 yards (they're currently tied for first in the league with just 24 of those plays allowed). Their opposing quarterback rating of 74.0 ranks third in the league. They lead the league in run defense with just 65.1 yards per game allowed on the ground, and rank in the top five in yards per carry (3.46 - fourth), touchdowns allowed (four - second), and 10-plus-yard runs (21 - fourth). They're the second-ranked third down defense in football (28.6 percent), and rank second in turnover differential (plus nine on the year). On Sunday, the Eagles gave up just 140 total yards, their lowest total allowed since 1996. Their six rushing yards allowed was the best in a single game since 1950.

Everything about the performance was good against a team that, frankly, they should have performed well against. The Eagles dotted all of their Is and crossed all their Ts in this game, taking care of business against an inferior opponent. One thing that stood out to me, especially early on, was how prepared this unit was for everything the Bears had to throw at them, especially with their 'gadget' player, rookie running back Tarik Cohen.

Shot 1 - One of the big questions for the #Eagles defense was how they would keep rookie RB Tarik Cohen contained as a gadget player. Watch how the secondary uses 'Robber' coverage to take away Cohen on the shallow crossing route on 3rd down, forcing an incompletion by Trubisky — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 28, 2017

The Bears lined up Cohen all over the formation this season, and on the first third down of the game he's lined up as a wide receiver, running a shallow cross. The Eagles were ready to take this crosser away, as they lined up in 'Cover 1 Robber', a man coverage scheme with one high safety in the deep middle of the field with the other safety in the intermediate area of the field between the hashes, 'robbing' any crossing routes, taking the throw away from the quarterback. That's exactly what happens here as Rodney McLeod jumps this crossing route right as Mitchell Trubisky looks to pull the trigger, forcing the rookie passer to throw an incompletion to the sideline instead.

Shot 2 - Great job by Vinny Curry of staying home and protecting the backside on this reverse to Tarik Cohen. Results in a 12-yard loss. #Eagles were ready for anything Chicago brought to the table and have to be equally ready for Seattle's gadget-friendly offense — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 28, 2017

The Bears also love to use Cohen on Jet Sweeps, Reverses and End-Arounds. Here, they go with a Reverse run, where Trubisky hands the ball off to Jordan Howard on an outside run to the right. Howard pitches the ball to Cohen, who heads back across the grain to the left. Chicago is hoping that defensive end Vinny Curry crashes down on Howard, abandoning his responsibilities as a 'contain' player on the left. Fortunately for the Eagles, Curry does his job, staying home just enough that he's able to bring Cohen down in the backfield for a 12-yard loss.

Shot 3 - #Eagles handed jet motion really well on Sunday. Constant communication at every level of the defense, which was present here on Malcolm Jenkins' interception #FlyEaglesFly — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 28, 2017

The Bears love to use Cohen in Jet motion before the snap, acting as eye candy to draw the attention of second- and third-level defenders, distracting them from their responsibilities in coverage or in the run fit. The Eagles handled these Jet plays extremely well, consistently communicating on the back end to account for the motion while still maintaining the integrity of the coverage or run fit call. On this play, watch as Ronald Darby, Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod all take part in this pre-snap reaction to the motion, and everyone is in position to help create a near turnover for the defense. Jenkins picks off the tipped pass by Darby, and while he ends up fumbling the football on the return it does show their ability to execute on the fly after the pre-snap motion from the Bears. This was a consistent theme from the Eagles defense on Sunday.

Shot 4 - #Eagles have defended the screen well all season long and that continued on Sunday vs Chicago. Great job of 'keeping eyes on their luggage' up front, evernone is where they need to be on these three plays. — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 28, 2017

The Bears are a pretty effective screen team, and the Eagles defended the screen extremely well on Sunday afternoon. There are three plays here where multiple players up front display the eye discipline, quickness, ability to defeat blocks, and competitiveness to defend three different kinds of screens from the Bears. When you play an aggressive style like the Eagles do, offenses will look to run screen passes to try and beat you over the top of the rush, but Jim Schwartz's unit continues to impress in that area.

Shot 5 - Basically every #Eagles opponent will use the 'Trap' run play against them, but this defense refuses to get beat by it. Watch how quickly the LBs both press downhill to help stop this play before it starts. — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 28, 2017

Just like with the screen game, another play concept that offenses consistently run against the Eagles is the 'Trap' run play. Teams will allow Fletcher Cox, and other defensive tackles, to attack upfield just to be blocked from the backside by a pulling guard. This allows multiple opposing offensive linemen to climb to the second level to get on top of the Eagles linebackers quickly. Watch this Trap run play from the Bears on Sunday though, and you'll see how quickly the linebackers recognize the scheme. They fire downhill against the run, making it nearly impossible for the Chicago blockers to knock them backwards. Everyone in the Eagles front seven has performed very well against this style of run all season long, and I expect that to continue moving forward.

Shot 6 - LB Mychal Kendricks had a strong outing against Chicago. Saw things quickly, attacked and closed in a hurry. Made plays in the run and pass game. Really good showing #FlyEaglesFly — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 28, 2017

One player that stood out to me in Sunday's win was linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who has seen an exponentially larger role after Jordan Hicks' injury. Kendricks made plays in every facet of the game against Chicago, making plays at the point of attack in the run game, from the backside in pursuit, and in coverage. Watch him here as he flies from the backside to make a play, showing off that closing speed and play recognition skills to trigger on the outside run and make the tackle from the opposite side of the field. On the second play, he shows good awareness and discipline in coverage, reacting to the most dangerous inside threat against Chicago's bunch set to attack the shallow crossing route, disrupting the timing for an incompletion on fourth down. On the third play, Kendricks again flies downhill to help force a cutback from the runner, who runs directly into the hands of Jenkins and Brandon Graham for no gain.

Shot 7 - Can't talk about the #Eagles run defense without mentioning Tim Jernigan. Used power, hand-use, quickness to win in a number of ways against the #Bears in the run game. — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 28, 2017

One player you can't forget to mention when discussing this Eagles run defense is defensive tackle Tim Jernigan. No. 93 consistently disrupts things on the inside, whether it's against the run or the pass. Here, watch three examples of the former, as Jernigan wins off the ball in a number of ways to make plays at the line of scrimmage.

Shot 8 - Brandon Graham continues his high level of play. Watch him win outside on this sack-fumble from Sunday #FlyEaglesFly — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 28, 2017

Defensive end Brandon Graham got an impressive sack-fumble in this game, blowing by the Chicago right tackle to win high-side before flattening out and attacking Trubisky's throwing arm to nearly force a turnover. Graham has once again been a disruptive force for this Eagles front this year, and while his impact isn't always felt on the stat sheet this play certainly was one of the highlights of the afternoon.

Shot 9 - Two-play sample of why the #Eagles primary sub-package front really gives offensive lines something to think about. Slide to Fletcher Cox? Or slide to 2-DE side? Pick your poison. — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 28, 2017

From a pass rush perspective, nothing gives opposing offenses more of a headache than trying to figure out how to block Fletcher Cox, especially when the Eagles go into their primary subpackage front. This is a two-play sample of exactly why that's the case. With three defensive ends on the field, the offense must choose. Do they slide their protection towards the two-defensive end side? Or do they slide towards Fletcher Cox to prevent him from beating up on a guard one-on-one. Both cases don't work well for Chicago here, as Trubisky takes a pair of hard hits on the back end of the play.

Shot 10 - Take a close look at two young players for this #Eagles defense that will be impact players for a long time: Derek Barnett and Jalen Mills. Love what I saw from both against the Bears. — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 28, 2017

I love watching the young players on this team on both sides of the ball, because the staff has done a great job of allowing them to develop slowly without throwing too much at them. Take Derek Barnett, for example. The rookie first-round pick doesn't have a start to his name yet but has been one of the more disruptive players on defense all year long. Here he almost gets a sack-fumble on Trubisky, nearly missing the quarterback's throwing hand as he unleashes a pass downfield. Barnett looked violent with his hands all day against the Bears, and while the stats don't necessarily show it I thought he had an impressive showing. On the back end of the play, watch Jalen Mills play this perfectly in the air. The second-year corner lines up in off coverage, keeps his eyes on the quarterback, gets in-phase with the receiver, looking and leaning down the field, finding the football and climbing the ladder to disrupt the ball at the catch point for a PBU. That's an impressive play from both Eagles defenders.

Shot 11 - Rasul Douglas has seen less time with the return of Ronald Darby, but good to see him come in late in the game with a couple of good plays from off coverage #FlyEaglesFly — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 28, 2017

The last shot I wanted to look at was a two-play sequence for Rasul Douglas. The rookie corner came in late in the game in garbage time and made a couple of impressive plays in off coverage. Watch the third-round pick break on the first throw and nearly come away with a phenomenal interception. After not being able to come up with the turnover there, he comes back shortly afterwards and creates a pick for teammate Corey Graham. On both plays, you see Douglas come off the bench cold but look wired into the game plan, breaking on throws correctly from depth to disrupt at the catch point for a pair of big plays. This defense is a ton of fun to watch.

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