Looking back on the 2013 season, one of the most exciting aspects was Chip Kelly and Nick Foles' ability to transform this Philadelphia Eagles offense from a lackluster red zone team to a very good one. No question this is the part of Nick Foles' 2013 that will be positioned heavily in his campaign to be the next franchise QB of the Philadelphia Eagles. In almost all types of football, the team that scores TDs instead of Field Goals is generally the team that wins. The Eagles went 3-5 in the red zone against the Saints on Saturday and unfortunately it wasn't quite enough. Rob Ryan's strategy against our red zone offense was to rush only 3 and drop 8. A strategy that worked just well enough to allow the Saints to pull out of Philly with a win.
We took a look back at the biggest red zone failure of the night in a post yesterday. On that particular play, the Saints only rushed 3 and dropped 8 defender in coverage. Nick's decision to hold the ball too long and wait for a play to develop in the red zone not only cost the Eagles a TD, but ultimately cost them 3 points, which would have been the difference in the game.
However, while we knock Nick for holding the ball too long in that instance, we have to understand that holding the ball and not settling for the checkdown was one of the things that made 2013 Nick Foles. Interestingly, this idea was a huge factor in 2 additional red zone opportunities the Eagles had later in the game.
The first one was the TD to Riley Cooper. We can criticize Nick for holding the ball too long on the earlier drive, but if he didn't do that on a subsequent drive, we would have had to settle for 3 instead of 7. On 3rd down in the red zone the Saints rushed only 3 (like they did on the sack Foles surrendered). As you can see everyone is covered:
As Nick waits, it appears he has a dump-off underneath available to McCoy but that is essentially giving up on the play. Cooper is now waving for the ball but isn't really open.
Nick wisely chooses to wait a little longer. 5.5 seconds in the pocket in fact:
and makes a great throw for Riley Cooper for the TD. If you are going to knock Foles for holding the ball too long on that first TD, this one wouldn't have happened if he didn't hold it in this instance. Although it should be noted that he held it for 7 seconds on the sack. That internal clock has to be off by then.
However, looking ahead to another red zone opportunity later in the game, Foles found himself in familiar territory. 3rd and 5 in the red zone. Here are the routes that are going to be run:
Once again, the Saints rush 3 and drop 8. Foles wants to go to Cooper as the first option. He tries to bowl over the DB covering him. Looks to me that perhaps this is a pick attempt to free Avant to get behind the LBs to the corner:
Nick has no pressure on him whatsoever, but elects to just get rid of the ball on the checkdown underneath to McCoy that is 2 yards short of the first down marker. Meanwhile Avant looks to be coming free to the corner of the end zone on a play we've scored on before. He also has Desean Jackson in single coverage on the bottom of the screen but not sure you can throw that pass. You'd like to see McCoy get to the sticks on his route, but he's likely not open if he does that.
Here's the pressure Foles had on him from the 3 man rush when he released the football. One pass rusher is on the ground. The other 2 have 4 Eagles on them. One can certainly argue that Nick should have held the ball a little longer to see if a play opened up. Eagles elected to kick the Field Goal on 4th and short.
Finishing up with some good highlights. Our next TD we went back to the old bread and butter. Standard inside zone read. Eagles leave the edge defender unblocked who gets read by Foles. This allows Johnson to Herremans to downblock on a double team. You can see how Foles freezes the edge defender. One additional wrinkle on this play is that we lined up Casey at TE and had him seal off the second-level LB. A design to take away the scrape exchage, although the LB did not cheat on this one. The Saints made a poor decision to leave their edge defender to make the right read. As we've shown over and over again on this blog, it's almost impossible to stop that in short yardage:
Should point out that McCoy does a great job of staying inside and scraping off the backs of his OL. You want as much distance from that edge defender as possible. Easy TD:
The 2013 Eagles swan song came on a beautifully designed play that was a bit of a tendency breaker on a red zone play call we've had lots of success on this season. The Eagles scored several TDs this year on shallow crosses that involved natural picks underneath also known as mesh concepts. This post highlights TDs we scored against the Raiders and Cardinals using these principles.
However, 2 weeks ago in Dallas we ran an additional wrinkle on this. We lined up both Desean Jackson and Lesean McCoy in the backfield and essentially ran a double mesh. Cooper and Ertz run shallow criss-crossing patterns in the end zone. Desean and Lesean cross in the backfield.
McCoy breaks free in the flat for an easy TD:
On our final TD of the 2013 season, the Eagles showed the exact same look, only he flipped the direction of the field in which Lesean and Desean would go to contrast what they did against the Cowboys. You have to believe Rob Ryan and the Saints were ready for this having only seen it a week before against the Cowboys. But Chip Kelly adds a tendency breaker. After running the strong side TE across the field on a shallow crossing pattern all season long, he has Ertz fake the downblock. The defense reacts to Desean and Lesean in different directions, and Ertz sneaks out to trail Lesean:
Absolutely brilliant play design, and Ertz is wide open for an easy TD:
Disappointing end to the year, but at least Chip Kelly left us with one more lasting bit of evidence demonstrating his offensive genius and creativity.