Let's Dive into 3rd and 30 Before we Burn the Film and Never Speak of it Again
Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Festivus for the rest of us. I’ve got a lot of problems with you people, aka the Eagles responsible for 3rd and 30.
Here’s the best angle, the all-22:
what an incredible throw from Dak on 3rd & 30.
ball doesn't even get *that* much arc and the camera just keeps panning. pic.twitter.com/W3rh7BxxXd
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) December 27, 2022
Josiah Scott noted after the game that the defensive call came in late and that he was a bit caught off guard by how quickly Dallas got up to the line. It’s a disguised version of a cover 2, so when you see Darius Slay trailing behind T.Y. Hilton, he’s only supposed to go with him to a certain point, and then there’s expected help over the top. Scott does actually get there but isn’t able to make a play on the ball, so it goes down as a back-breaking 52-yard gain.
A couple of points worth mentioning here:
- The Eagles are in dime on this play. Six DBs and one linebacker. K’Von Wallace and Kyzir White are out there and assigned to the middle/deep hook.
- This is basically a 3 vs. 7 down the field. The running back does leak out eventually, but they’ve got the flat more than covered on that side. That’s why it’s hard for me to blame Jonathan Gannon more than the players because when it’s 3rd and 30 you can call pretty much anything and these guys should be able to keep 75 year old T.Y. Hilton in front of them. Quarters, Cover 2, whatever – that completion should never happen regardless of the call and whether or not it was disguised. Gannon didn’t have a good game, but on this specific play, I blame the backup nickel.
- There’s a larger point to be made about Josiah Scott in the slot and Gannon finding better ways to protect him, because the drop off from Avonte Maddox is STEEP. They really should play CJGJ in the slot when he comes back and keep Marcus Epps and Reed Blankenship back there because the trio of CJGJ/Epps/Blankenship is better than Scott/CJGJ/Epps.
- I saw someone ask why they didn’t just play a version of that old “sticks” defense that Jim Schwartz used to run. Fair question. Problem is that if they stood seven guys on the marker and Dallas gained 24 or 25, they’d be in plus-territory and likely would have gone for it on 4th and 6 or 4th and 5. Schwartz only played sticks when field position dictated that there would be no 4th down attempt.
- The way the Birds were moving the ball, forcing a punt here would have gained back possession in their territory with less than eight minutes remaining. Tack on a field goal and Dallas is down two scores with something like 3-5 minutes remaining, give or take. I think it’s okay to say that this play determined the outcome.
- If Maddox stays in this game, they win it. I seriously do believe that. His absence was notable.
- My biggest problem with Gannon in this game was going conservative after Maddox should have sacked Dak on 3rd and 5. Too much soft shit after that sequence didn’t go in their favor.
- The only reason they got to 3rd and 30 in the first place is because of two great sacks on 1st and 2nd down, one on a 5-man rush and the other on a 4-man. If Linval Joseph falls on that fumble, the Eagles likely put that game to bed.
That guy “Honest NFL” on Twitter is a former scout who I think had ties to the Eagles at one point. I’ll have to triple check. This was his take on the play:
Looks like this was what the call was for the 3rd & 30 play. I don’t have any issue with a coverage that has players in the right position to make plays. This one simply wasn’t executed correctly, but that’s not a feature of the Eagles defense this season so it’ll be corrected. pic.twitter.com/hDPM8ChYMy
— Honest NFL (@TheHonestNFL) December 25, 2022
One of the stats floating around out there was shared by Sheil Kapadia, who noted that Dak Prescott went 24-24 against zone. Nick Sirianni was asked about that Monday and drew a distinction between generic zone and matchup zone, which contains hybrid principals:
“As far as the zone, I think all zones are a little different, right? I mean, some match zones are going to play out like man and be labeled as a zone as far as the way they — you know, cover three really you can play multiple different ways. You can play a zone; you can play a true zone; you can play a match zone; a match zone on one side; a zone on the other with the safety cheated to the other side; you can play it with zone all the way across with the corners playing man.
So, there are a lot of different variations of that zone that could be played, and then obviously that’s the same thing in cover two, same thing in cover four.
So, I think just looking at that stat in that world is, hey, we didn’t coach good enough and play good enough, and that’s why it was 24-24, not necessarily that it was zone, because, again, some zones play out like man anyway and all the zones are a little bit different.
And so, hey, we have to play better in that aspect. We have to coach better in that aspect, and I guess that’s my way of saying that. We have to coach better and play better.”
There’s a lot of depth to all of this. It’s much more complicated than “person X deserves the blame for situation Y.” Generically speaking, there were too many mistakes and a lot of plays left on the field for both the offense and the defense, so we can chalk it up to that and move on to NOLA. The Birds played well enough to win down in Dallas but shot themselves in the foot repeatedly. It’s a rational Tuesday, keep the faith.