All-22: Front Seven Brings the Pressure Against the Rams

The front seven for the Philadelphia Eagles defense had their best game of the season this past Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. They racked up four sacks, forced and recovered three fumbles, and were in quarterback Austin Davis’ face for much of the day. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis did a good job of dialing up blitzes to free up rushers, and the players did an excellent job of executing and making plays when called upon. Let’s go to the tape…

On this play, Connor Barwin and Trent Cole run a stunt on the left side. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans initially looks like he’s going to blitz, but then ends up covering running back Benjamin Cunningham out of the backfield. This allows Fletcher Cox to be one on one with center Scott Wells as right guard Davin Joseph has his eyes on Ryans. Cole and Cox are able to get pressure up the middle, and this forces Davis to have to scramble to his left where Barwin is there waiting for him. Barwin then does an excellent job of breaking down in his stance and tripping up the athletic Davis for the sack.
01 barwin sack

Bill Davis does an excellent job of disguising a blitz on this play, which gives Vinny Curry a free path to Austin Davis. Cornerback Nolan Carroll shows blitz at the beginning of the play and takes a jab step forward before dropping back into coverage. This leaves Curry unblocked on a free rush from the outside. The Rams have five blockers to match up with the Eagles five rushers, but center Scott Wells ends up blocking no one on this play because he was fooled by the fake blitz of Carroll. Curry finishes the play by attacking the throwing arm of Davis, knocking the ball loose for a fumble which Fletcher Cox recovers.
02 curry sack fumble

Here is a close-up of Curry sacking Davis. Look at how he gets his left hand to the ball to knock it out of Davis’ hand. That is an amazing display of hand-eye coordination.
02a curry attack ball

On this next play, Trent Cole gets a strip-sack of his own. Cole uses his speed and athleticism to explode by left tackle Jake Long with an inside move. Like Curry, Cole does a great job of attacking the throwing hand of Davis while making the tackle. This forces a fumble which gets recovered in the end zone by Cedric Thornton for a touchdown.
03 cole sack fumble

Here is a close-up of the sack so you can see how Cole gets his right hand to the ball to knock it out of Davis’┬áhand for the fumble. Once again, another great display of hand-eye coordination.
03a cole attack ball

Malcolm Jenkins comes free on this blitz as once again Bill Davis does a good job of scheming to confuse the Rams offensive line. The Rams and Eagles have an even number of rushers and blockers, but the left side of the Rams offensive line ends up having two players blocking one. This leaves Jenkins unblocked. While he doesn’t get the sack, he forces Davis to have to throw this ball before he wants to and off his back foot and the result is an incomplete pass.
04 jenkins blitz incomplete

Connor Barwin ends up being left unblocked on this play and is able to bat this ball down as we’ve seen him do so many times since he was signed last season.
05 barwin bat ball

This play is from the last play of the game. It’s fourth down with 13 yards to go. Billy Davis dials up a blitz that gives the Eagles seven rushers to the Rams six blockers. Cornerback Brandon Boykin ends up being left unblocked as he races towards Austin Davis. This forces Davis to have to throw this ball up for grabs downfield, and it falls incomplete. This was a good aggressive play call from Bill Davis to end the game.
06 last play boykin blitz

Getting pressure will be key in the Eagles upcoming game against the New York Giants. Eli Manning is dangerous when he has a clean pocket, and with the Giants new look West Coast Offense, he’s been getting rid of the ball more quickly than ever. Manning still has a penchant for turning the ball over in the face of pressure though, so if the Eagles are able to pressure Manning like they did Davis, they could force him to make some ill-advised throws.


All 22 Review: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Indianapolis Colts

For the second straight week, the Philadelphia Eagles found themselves trailing in a game going into halftime, and for the second straight week the Eagles pulled off a dramatic fourth quarter comeback. Unlike last week’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars where the Eagles couldn’t move the ball in the first half, the Eagles put up 228 yards of offense Monday night against the Colts. The “tale of two halves” theme this week in the end came down to red zone efficiency.

In the first half the Eagles and Colts offenses both got into scoring range three times. However, the Eagles came away with 6 points on those three drives while the Colts came away with 17 points. In the second half, leading up to each team’s final drive they once again got into scoring range three times. This time, the Eagles came away with 21 points while the Colts scored 10, making it a 27-27 game. And then on the Colt’s last drive the Eagles defense forced them to go three and out, and subsequently the Eagles offense drove down the field for the game winning field goal to win 30-27.

This week, I’ll take a look at some of the key factors of the game that lead to the Eagles’ victory.

As noted above, the Eagles had difficulties in the red zone in the first half as they failed to finish drives with touchdowns. In the red zone, the importance of good playcalling and execution are heightened as the slightest mistake can result in a negative play and be the difference between scoring seven points or three.

The following play comes on the Eagles’ first drive on second and goal from the twelve yard line. The Eagles have a numbers advantage on this play as the Colts only have four defenders in the box compared to the Eagles’ five blockers. This is the perfect scenario for the Eagles’ run game and should result in a sizable gain. However, a miscue along the offensive line results in middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson being left unblocked, and he makes the tackle on LeSean McCoy in the backfield.
01 redzone middle

Midway through the second quarter, the Eagles once gain found themselves down by the goal line, and once again a negative run on second down sets up a long third and goal situation. The Eagles run a toss play to McCoy, but this time the Colts have the numbers advantage as they have seven players to the strong side of the play and the Eagles only have six blockers. As a result, outside linebacker Erik Walden is going to be left unblocked to tackle McCoy for a four yard loss.
04 mccoy toss left redzone

In the first half, good playcalling and scheming got the Colts run game going as they ran multiple counters from behind an unbalanced line. As you’ll see on this play, the Colts have tight end Dwayne Allen lined up at left tackle and have moved left tackle Anthony Castonzo to the right side of the line. The Eagles respond by loading up the strong side of the line, leaving only Brandon Bair and Trent Cole to the weakside. However, the Colts end up running a counter to the weakside and open up a huge hole for running back Trent Richardson to run through for a 15 yard gain.
02 colts run unbalanced line 15 yard gain

Here is another example of the Colts getting a large gain off of a counter play with an unbalanced line. Once again the Eagles only have two players lined up on the weakside of the line. On this play, tight ends Dwayne Allen (83) and Jack Doyle (84) do a great job of sealing off linebackers Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans to allow Richardson to surge through the hole and pick up another 15 yard gain.
05 colts run unbalanced line 15 yards

The Eagles run defense settled down in the second half thanks to some halftime adjustments and great execution along the defensive line. As CSN Philly’s Geoff Mosher pointed out, the Colts picked up 100 yards on the ground on their first 18 carries (5.5 yards per carry), as compared to 49 yards on their last 16 carries (3 yards per carry).

On this play, nose tackle Benny Logan does an excellent job of getting penetration, shoving right guard Hugh Thornton into the backfield and then making the tackle on Richardson for a loss.
06 benny logan run stuff

Fletcher Cox displays some excellent effort and playmaking skills on this play as he forces a fumble on Trent Richardson. Once again, the Colts are in an unbalanced line and run a counter to the weakside. The Eagles are lined up just as they were in the first half, but this time Fletcher Cox is ready for the play that is about to happen. Watch as he throws left guard Jack Mewhort aside and then keeps his balance and fights through the block attempt from Dwayne Allen before getting into the backfield and punching the ball out of Richardson’s hands. This was an amazing play by Cox.
07 fletcher cox forced fumble

On this next play, the Colts are again lined up in an unbalanced line, but this time they run a counter play to the strong side of the line. As the play develops, it looks like the Colts have a numbers advantage as they have seven blockers to the Eagles five defenders, but Cedric Thornton and Benny Logan do a great job of holding their ground and Mychal Kendricks crashes into guard Jack Mewhort to clog up the hole.
09 thornton and logan stuff

I’ll finish up this week’s review by focusing on the star of the Eagles’ offense from Monday night, newly acquired running back Darren Sproles.

This play shows why Darren Sproles is such a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. The Eagles come out with two tight ends, two receivers, and Sproles in the backfield. The Colts respond by coming out in their base 3-4 defense and are in man coverage. This leaves Sproles one on one with linebacker Josh McNary. Sproles is going to come out of the backfield and run an angle route across the field and Foles does a great job of being able to hit him in stride even as he’s being tackled around the legs. Look at how much space Sproles has in front of him as he catches this pass. The two closest defenders to Sproles who are actually aware that Sproles even has the ball are over 20 yards away. Wide receiver Riley Cooper continues his route downfield which causes the cornerback covering him to follow him all the way, effectively taking himself out of the play.

03 sproles 57 yard catch

Sproles scores a touchdown on this 19 yard run off an inside zone play to make it a 20-20 game late in the third quarter. The Colts over commit to the play side leaving the back side wide open for Sproles to bounce this run outside. Sproles puts a move on safety Mike Adams and then is able to run to the inside of Jeremy Maclin as he does a great job of blocking cornerback Greg Toler. Sproles then pinballs his way to the end zone bouncing off five tackle attempts.
08 sproles td run

Sproles set up the game tying touchdown on this play as he takes a screen pass 51 yards down to the Colts six yard line. This play all starts with the offensive line and Sproles not selling the fact that they are about to run a screen. The offensive line gets the defensive line behind them and out of the play. This leaves center Jason Kelce and guards Todd Herramins and Dennis Kelly to get down the field, and the Colts only have two defenders in position to make a play. This frees up Kelce to get further downfield to lay a block on D’Qwell Jackson to spring Sproles for even more yards. Great playcall and great execution.

10 sproles screen

The last play of this week’s All-22 review is the screen pass to Sproles that sets up the game winning touchdown. The Eagles put McCoy and Sproles on the field at the same time on this play, forcing the Colts to play a game of pick your poison. As you can see, at the snap of the ball all six Colts defenders are focused on McCoy in the backfield. This leaves only linebacker Josh McNary to focus on Sproles. Tight end Zach Ertz puts a block on McNary, allowing Sproles to burst by the line of scrimmage and Jason Kelce gets downfield to block cornerback/safety Darius Butler to pick up an additional 10 yards.
11 sproles quick screen

That does it for this week’s All-22 review. The Washington Redskins come to Philadelphia this Sunday as the Eagles try to extend their record to 3-0 in their first NFC East game of the season.

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