The Eagles defense has a lot of trouble with lateral movement.
Drags, rub routes, quick slants, gadgety reverses and wide receiver runs – anything from that family of plays seems to be a struggle for the Birds.
It was on display Sunday afternoon, when Ben Roethlisberger completed 17 of his 27 passes just five yards from the line of scrimmage, or behind the line, as the Steelers dinked and dunked their way down the field before opening up for a couple of vertical shots in what amounted to a balanced offensive attack. They hung 38 points on a Jim Schwartz defense that hadn’t conceded that many since the Minnesota game one year ago this month.
On WIP Monday morning, Doug Pederson didn’t have much to say about why his defense struggles with horizontal plays:
“I’m telling you, it’s hard. It is a tough thing; the they they are the best in football at them. They’ve been doing it for years. Everybody knows that they’re coming, and it’s just a matter of us recognizing it, anticipating it, and trying to jump the slant. I can say all that and that will be great, but what’s the next play that’s coming? The next play that’s coming is the shot play off of that. Now you’re gonna go ‘well we’re jumping the slant,’ and then they hit us for a 60-yard touchdown. So it’s a situation where we understand that it’s coming, and we have to do our part to just do our job and try to try to take that away. They’re tough plays to take away.”
We touched on this topic in the morning takeaways column, and I showed this graphic, where the Birds bit so hard on the Ray Ray McLoud reverse that Pittsburgh had four guys in open space with nobody to block, because most of the Eagles were on the other side of the hash marks:
Here’s another play, and this one didn’t get talked about a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it also shows some of the things the Eagles struggle with.
On this sequence, the Steelers use pre-snap motion into trips right, and the Birds are just soft in the coverage, which leads to a slant behind two dummy routes and an easy third down conversion:
It’s a nice play design, similar to bunch formation touchdown they scored. There’s pre-snap motion, some play action to put eyeballs in the backfield, and then it’s just a short slant to the other side of the field. The Birds had six guys up on the line with a single high safety, and were playing soft against that trips look. It’s been a struggle for them to get through traffic, move laterally, and snuff out these short dinky routes.
Here’s the full audio from Doug’s WIP appearance: