Run-to-pass is a very basic strategy, but it works, which is why teams keep using it. Despite his reputation for offensive trickery, Chip Kelly likes smashmouth, run-first football — if his team can pull it off. But his offensive line this year can’t (so far).
So against the Saints, Kelly’s game plan went the less common “pass-to-run” route. DeMarco Murray finally had a decent game, but he didn’t get his first good run until the the second drive after the Eagles had already completed six passes for 55 yards. (Three other throws were broken up but only by excellent coverage.)
Here are the Eagles’ first 12 plays– nine passes, three runs:
[Chip called two runs for Murray on the first drive, but they gained only three yards combined because Matt Tobin missed a block each time– failing to pick up Dannell Ellerbe on a run blitz the first play, and unable to sustain his block on Cameron Jordan on the second.]
The Saints have a big secondary — CB Brandon Browner is 6’4″, 221 — so Chip went to his bigger, more physical receivers (Celek, Ertz, Riley Cooper, Josh Huff, and Murray himself) for those first six receptions. The second drive opened with the two TEs left, Celek split wide and Ertz in the slot, both running short “in” routes. (Ertz gained six.)
On the next play, Celek and Huff ran a mesh (or “rub”) pattern crossing each other three yards down field (on second-and-four). Bradford threw a bullet to Celek, who was covered tightly, for a first down. It was a great throw, the kind Nick Foles never makes, and one of the reasons the Eagles traded for Bradford.
But Josh Huff was wide open going the other way. Given his explosiveness after the catch, that could have been a very big gain if Bradford had thrown to him instead.
So back to that first good run by the Murray– the nine-yard gain on the second drive: Huff was the only receiver on the left, and the defense followed the other receivers to the right side after giving up all that yardage early on. Just before the snap, Huff motioned in tight to the line and blocked his defender, who had followed him. Murray bounced outside left and gained nine yards.
The Eagles ended up with 186 yards rushing, and Murray averaged 4.2 yards a carry for total of 83. It was easily his best game as an Eagle. But it was all set up by passing on nine of the first 12 plays.