I don’t know why that term makes me laugh, “flying around.” It’s just such a basic thing to say, like something that your high school coach would use to describe 11 meat heads shutting down Methacton’s offense on a Friday night in October.
“I’m proud of my guys. They were really flying around out there!”
All jokes aside, the Eagles defense was doing just that on Sunday night. They were flying around. They were all over the place, just bowling over offensive linemen and frustrating receivers and coming up with a pair of key takeaways on the evening.
It was, by far, the most enjoyable defensive performance of the season. They did it on the road against a top-three NFL offense and they did it with a bunch of backups playing important roles.
Coordinator Jim Schwartz did his weekly press conference today and he was asked something like four questions about Avonte Maddox, who had a couple of big tackles and a game-changing interception on the evening.
“I don’t know if we win that game without Avonte though. Not just making the interception but he played really good in the passing game. That tackle he made in the two-minute drive at the end, that’s a big time play. The plays that you’ll see from him, if you’re watching the highlights of the game, are the last play of the game and his interception. But that tackle had every bit as much to do with us winning the game. It’s really encouraging to see. We’ve talked a lot about Avonte but he played a major part in that win.”
This is the tackle Schwartz is talking about, after the jump:
It’s a great tackle, for sure, but Todd Gurley had an opportunity to run out of bounds there and instead tried to pick up a few more yards. Maddox did a nice job wrapping and holding him in and the Rams lost 10 seconds spiking the ball and left themselves with only one end zone shot.
I also really liked the decision to blitz on the final play of the game, which I mentioned in Monday’s takeaways column. Schwartz said Tuesday, however, that he actually didn’t do too much blitzing:
Yeah, you know, we blitzed more than a couple of those games where we blitzed zero (times), or once. I don’t think seven (blitzes) really makes the radar as far as blitzing a lot. It’s a little bit more – some of those weren’t, truth be told, they’re not technically blitzes; they’re just sort of exchange rushes and things like that. Whether you blitz or play man or rush four, the whole key is getting pressure on the quarterback. I think the thing that was key in this game wasn’t the blitzes we called, it was the ability to create pressure with our four man pass rush. That allowed us to be able to blitz on our terms. They were trying to do some things to double Fletcher Cox and take care of him, and that opened up some opportunity. So they both sort of worked hand in hand.
This I think is an example of what Schwartz is talking about:
See the left guard totally blow that play? He goes down to double Cox and Nigel Bradham basically just walks right into the backfield, unblocked. The running back touches nobody in pass protection.
Back now to the final play once more, where Schwartz brought six guys and dropped his five defensive backs to the goal line:
The delayed rush from Nate Gerry makes this play.
I’m actually not sure if it was supposed to be delayed or if it was a miscommunication (you can see him talking to Malcolm Jenkins before the snap), but it forced Jared Goff to release the ball with his five receivers still 10 yards from the end zone.
Here’s another view of Gerry coming off the edge and the right tackle trying to put him off course. The receivers were still a way’s off from the end zone.
One other thing that jumped out to me on the “film” was the Cox third down sack. I put “film” in quotation marks because I’m watching the same NFL Game Pass video that you’re watching. We’re all football experts on the internet.
Anyway, remember the “Wide 9?” It always brings back bad memories from the twilight of the Andy Reid years, but it’s actually a very effective scheme if used correctly and/or sparingly. In this case, the Eagles run a DT stunt with Michael Bennett and Fletcher Cox and just squash Goff on a third and 11:
It’s the wide start that allows Bennett to slip the guard, and then Cox rolls right through the gap. They tried to double him again there and still allowed the sack.
Bennett has been so good this year, and his ability to play tackle on third and long situations is usually very effective. The Eagles love to stack their ends at DT on obvious passing downs, which is what Brandon Graham did on the Super Bowl-winning strip sack last season.