Let's take a look at the Eagles' offense and their performance against Atlanta. In case you missed it, here's my full breakdown of the defense against the Falcons.
Overall, Monday night was an up-and-down night for the offense, especially early on. I was interested to see how the Eagles would attack the Falcons' Cover 3 defense on the back end, seeing how they had done it in the past. We’ve seen four verticals, the Switch concept and the Flood concept in years past with the Eagles against defenses similar to what Atlanta presented on Monday. What did Chip Kelly bust out on Monday night? Let's take a look.
On first-and-10 in the second quarter, the Eagles come out and run a Switch concept against the Falcons, a play designed to put the deep-third defenders in a bind. Here, Desmond Trufant actually reacts pretty quickly to the play, but Sam Bradford's arm strength allows him to make throws into tight spaces. This a great example of just that. He fits this ball in where only Jordan Matthews, who also adjusts to the ball well on his back shoulder, can get it.
I brought up the four verticals concept as well, a play the Eagles have always had a lot of success with. They called it a few times on Monday night against Atlanta. Some were completed and others weren't, but they ran it a few times in a way they hadn't shown before.
NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell hit on the four verticals concept and how it matches up against Cover 3 this past week on Eagles Game Plan. In that piece, Greg brought up how in 3x1 sets it's really easy to hit that No. 3 receiver inside on a vertical route because three deep defenders struggle to defend four wideouts running down the field. The Eagles lined up in a 3x1 on Monday, but it wasn't the No. 3 receiver getting the love.
With tight end Zach Ertz running down the seam and Darren Sproles running a wheel route out of the backfield, the Eagles get the same look as the concept we previewed last week - four vertical routes against three deep defenders. Except instead of the heat being put on the single-high safety to defend two routes, the pressure is now being put on that boundary corner at the top of the screen. At the snap, he's going to see Ertz as the most immediate threat and run with him. But Sproles' speed in the open field allows him to get past the curl defender (linebacker Kroy Biermann) and he becomes the fourth receiver downfield. The corner can't defend both routes, and it ends in a 24-yard gain for the running back. On the same drive, two plays later, they went back to that same exact play.
On this shot, the curl defender was in place to defend Sproles, and the cornerback to that side played it a bit softer, knowing he had a vertical route behind him. What did Bradford do? He hit Ertz down the seam as the tight end made a beautiful diving catch for a gain of 21. This way of running the Four Verticals concept was really interesting to watch on Monday night.
The last concept I mentioned when breaking down Cover 3 and how the Eagles could attack it was the Flood route, or the three-level stretch. We saw that from the Eagles on Monday night as well.
It's first-and-10 in the third quarter. The Eagles call one of their naked pass plays off play-action, with Bradford rolling to his left. He has three options on this play - a vertical route from Miles Austin on the outside, a crossing route from Nelson Agholor from the backside slot and an underneath route from tight end Brent Celek. As you can see in the diagram, that's three routes to one side of the field where only two players are in zone coverage. The Eagles are "flooding" the zone, and Bradford just has to decide which of the three receivers is open and deliver the ball.
Austin, seeing that the cornerback was playing over top of him in zone coverage, converted his route into a comeback. This was a great route by the veteran, who executes a subtle shoulder fake inside, then breaks it back toward the sideline and keeps both feet in to finish the catch for a first down.
Other than Cover 3, the other coverage we saw from the Falcons was a different version of Cover 1, with one high safety and man coverage underneath. Late in the game, there was a good amount of "man free," with that high safety and a hole player underneath in the form of a linebacker.
The Eagles attacked that in a number of ways, including one of their most effective concepts, the Mesh.
A great concept against man coverage, the Eagles dialed this up a few times, particularly in the second half, and connected on it for big gains. Here, Matthews' man gets stuck in the traffic jam in the middle of the field, and the second-year receiver breaks free for a 12-yard gain and a first down.
Here it is again, on the same drive two plays later. Look at the defender in charge of covering Matthews in man coverage. He gets caught up in the middle of the field from the routes run by Josh Huff and Brent Celek. Matthews picks up 19 yards on the play and a near touchdown down at the pylon.
On the ground, it was tough sledding, especially early in the game. Chip Kelly mentioned in his day-after press conference on Tuesday that Atlanta was winning some one-on-one battles up front, and it became tough to run against inside. One play that worked for them in the second half, however, was the sweep play. Greg hit on it in the All-22 Review with DeMarco Murray's touchdown run, and they ran it several other times as well.
On this play, you're almost always going to see two linemen pull to the play side. The alignment of the defensive front dictates who pulls, but the purpose of the play is to create an alley for the running back to explode through.
Here, the Falcons are in their 4-3 Under front, with a nose tackle to the strong side of the formation. That means that right guard Andrew Gardner will seal the nose tackle inside with Brent Celek taking care of the 5-technique defensive end. That leaves Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson as pullers.
On this play, Johnson is responsible for the force defender, the linebacker lined up outside the tight end. Kelce, on the other hand, is going to be a lead blocker and work up to that safety on the play side. From the back side, Allen Barbre has to get to that backside linebacker and keep him from chasing this play down.
Go through the play as I described it above and see how everyone executed. You get great seals by Celek and Gardner at the point of attack. Johnson takes out the force defender and kicks him out of the play. You can see Kelce's outstanding athleticism to get out in front and take out not one, but two guys. The reason he gets two is because Barbre does just enough to keep the instinctive Paul Worrilow from chasing this play down from the back side. That's a tough play for an offensive lineman, and Barbre did his job well. This resulted in a 32-yard pickup and the Eagles' longest rushing gain of the evening.
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.