After looking at the offense's performance against the San Francisco 49ers (in a game that already feels like it was over a week ago), let's analyze how the defense looked in that game.
TURNING UP THE HEAT
Shot 1 - #Eagles continue to create 1-on-1 matchups for Fletcher Cox by mugging a LB on the LOS. Wins with great getoff here vs center pic.twitter.com/rlFrM1guy5 — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 1, 2017
The Eagles continue to create one-on-one matchups for Fletcher Cox and it keeps paying dividends. One of their favorite ways to accomplish this is by lining Cox head up over the center, with one defensive tackle lined up over one guard and a linebacker over the other. By having both guards occupied by defenders, the center has no help against Cox, who is one of the hardest defenders to block one-on-one in the NFL. Cox bulls his way into the backfield and brings rookie C.J. Beathard down for the sack.
Shot 2 - #Eagles DEs winning 1-on-1 as well. Great job at the top of the rush by Brandon Graham. Vinny Curry takes advantage of wide B gap pic.twitter.com/O9Ed46VQmD — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 1, 2017
The rest of the Eagles' defensive linemen continue to win their respective one-on-one matchups as well. That was especially the case on Sunday against a depleted San Francisco front. On the two reps here, Brandon Graham beats the right tackle, Zane Beadles, with a well-timed hand swipe at the top of the rush, as he runs the hoop and gets home for a sack. Vinny Curry gets in on the action late in the game by taking advantage of an overload look. The 49ers slide the protection in the direction of Graham, Cox, and Beau Allen. There is still a very wide B gap thanks to the slide as the left guard's eyes are watching for anyone extra joining in on the pressure. Curry has a two-way go here and beats the tackle on the inside to get Beathard to the ground.
Shot 3 - #Eagles peppered CJ Beathard with a handful of different pressure looks. Some Cover 0 blitzes & odd reduced fronts. Lot of variety pic.twitter.com/fBVJmbxEvh — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 1, 2017
The Eagles brought a few different pressure looks against the rookie quarterback in just his second start. There's a Cover 0 look in the red zone, which the Eagles have done throughout the season, but there were a variety of pressures in this game. There were a couple of "odd" looks with three down linemen in a "reduced front." The Eagles sent a defender right up the gut out of that look, which is the equivalent of a Triple A-Gap blitz. No one is around to pick up that extra rusher coming from depth, and the ball has to come out sooner than the quarterback would have wanted. Cornerback Patrick Robinson came off the edge on a Corner Cat blitz to rush the passer as well. With so many different looks to confuse Beathard, it's no wonder the defense was able to come away with 10 hits and four sacks on Sunday.
THE GREEN GOBLIN
Jalen Mills won the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award for his performance against the 49ers, and it was well deserved. One of the big reasons was this play that helped spark the Eagles to victory.
Shot 4 - Great play by Jalen Mills on this pick six. Reads the QB through the WR, jumps this throw before it leaves QB's hand #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/DPCYSicCj5 — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 1, 2017
Mills does an outstanding job as a Cover 3 cornerback on this interception that he returned for a touchdown. From off coverage, Mills gets into his pedal and read the quarterback while also keeping a watchful eye on the receiver. He sees the receiver break off his route and by studying his body language on film all week long, knows the route that's coming. He jumps into the passing lane, breaking on this throw before it even leaves the quarterback's hands, and takes it to the house on a great return. Give credit to a lot of Eagles for helping lead Mills to the end zone, as several defenders became blockers after the pick.
Shot 5 - The INT wasn't the only great play by @greengoblin - disciplined in coverage all day long on Sunday. Don't see these on TV copy. pic.twitter.com/ZbPYyU1P4P — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 1, 2017
That wasn't the only time Mills stood out in this game because I thought he did an excellent job downfield all afternoon long. There are three plays in the shot above and on the first he's in zone coverage defending the corner route off the boot-action. Some corners may have bitten too hard on the fake or simply would've gotten back into his landmark after the play, but not Mills. He gets into the passing lane and forces a poor throw. In the plays after that, Mills stays disciplined against San Francisco's double moves, taking away vertical shots from Beathard and forcing him to either run or check the ball down. Mills may not have great top-end speed, but his mental approach is outstanding and that shows up on film each week.
Shot 6 - Great job in coverage by Mychal Kendricks on Sunday as well. Stays home on bootleg and anticipates the Texas route in the red zone pic.twitter.com/c3DQL1Vx8C — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 1, 2017
Mills wasn't the only one who stood out in coverage because I thought Mychal Kendricks had one of his best games as an Eagle against the pass. No. 95 was disciplined, patient, and he made a couple of plays at the catch point that caught my eye. I loved how he didn't bite too hard on the play-action fake on this bootleg pass by the 49ers, and later he does a great job defending the Texas route down in the red zone, a play that has given him issues throughout his career. The Eagles need Kendricks to be a three-down player with Jordan Hicks out for the year, so this performance was really good to see.
SHUTTING DOWN THE RUN
The Eagles continue to stifle opposing ground attacks, and Sunday was no different. Whether it's from individual efforts or team-wide, well-executed reps, the Eagles have been outstanding against the run for most of this season.
Shot 7 - Outstanding run defense on these three plays featuring some individual efforts. Derek Barnett, Tim Jernigan and Vinny Curry #Eagles pic.twitter.com/YTO60moNp1 — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 1, 2017
Here are a few examples of some great individual efforts. Derek Barnett does an outstanding job of beating Joe Staley at the point of attack, striking him inside with tight hands and then snatching him to the ground, ripping through contact, and finding the ballcarrier with a violent finish. That's the second week in a row Barnett made a play like this against an accomplished tackle in the NFL (he did it against Trent Williams last week). Tim Jernigan does what he does on a weekly basis, whipping the guard in front of him, clubbing him to the side as he flashes to the football on the next play. Curry keeps up his energetic play with a tackle for loss as well from early in the game. Curry wins with a swim move off the ball, beating Staley early and bringing the ballcarrier down behind the line of scrimmage.
Shot 8 - Great team effort on these three plays. Run blitzes or four-man fronts, #Eagles are gap-sound and physical in run game up front pic.twitter.com/bA6zMuzRzV — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 1, 2017
Individual efforts are great, but I love the plays where the full team does its job to lead to a stop in the run game. The first play is from the very first rep against the 49ers. Graham sets a violent edge. Nigel Bradham and Cox both stand their men up at the line of scrimmage. Kendricks comes from the back side as a run blitzer, and the Niners are stopped for a loss. On the second play, Malcolm Jenkins stands his blocker up at the line of scrimmage, forcing the run to stretch a bit more outside. Robinson flies downhill to submarine the lead blocker, and the ball is stopped behind the line for a loss. On the third rep, a run blitz from the back side helps close in on the ballcarrier after Jernigan completely jacks his man up at the snap to force the action back inside. The Eagles have played sound run defense all year, and they'll need to continue that moving forward as the quality of competition increases and the weather gets colder.
Shot 9 - Derek Barnett's blocked kick; great getoff by Vinny Curry threatening B gap. Helps widen lane for DB to fly thru. Finishes for blk pic.twitter.com/vHw3AKyvUE — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 1, 2017
The last play I wanted to share was that of Barnett's field goal block. Everyone on the right side of the line gets a great get-off on this play, and that's what helps make this happen. You need complete buy-in where the group knows that it's going to be a block, and that's what happens here. The key defender to watch is Curry, who threatens the inside gap of the left tackle enough so that he forces the blocker to lean too far inside. That allows the gap on his outside number to widen, and Barnett gets skinny through the hole to explode into the backfield. Barnett gets 3 yards in the backfield, stretches out to block the ball, then has the effort and determination to prevent the 49ers from recovering the ball before picking it up himself. It was a great play from the rookie in the second half as he compiles a few impressive outings in a row.
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.