Welcome to a new series I’m planning to run this year called Amateur adventures in Film. Rather than waiting until Sunday morning and trying to rush through the Thursday night game, I am going to look back at a game or plays that took my fancy from the last week as we build up to the Sunday night action.
I chose the Eagles at Falcons game to look at as I wanted to take a proper look at the Eagles offence on tape, without missing the start due to their tempo and I was fascinated by Chip Kelly’s scheme.
The first thing I noticed looking at this game compared to last year is that between reading coaching books in the offseason and listening to Greg Cosell talk about film, I was paying a lot more attention to the safety look of the defences and the personnel on offence. So let us take a look at the main four groups in the game. I confess that I tend to skip the kicking games as they still are a bit of a mystery to me and it already takes me a couple of hours to go through a game like this.
I’ll start with the Eagles offence as they are what drew me to this game, and I did really love what I saw in this game. Apart from their tempo, the Eagles spend most of their time playing with at least three receivers and constantly running crossing routes, and route combinations to set picks for defenders, scheming receivers open. It was a lot of fun to watch and I was impressed with receiver Jordan Mathews who picked up one hundred and two yards on ten receptions. It was also interesting to see how Kelly’s scheme obviously used a combination of spacing and routes to get players open in the pass game, but this spacing was also fundamental in the run game. When the running the ball the Eagles didn’t just line up and go, but kept their spacing and used all kinds of linemen pulls to cause defence problems. I am looking forward to seeing if any other teams pull their centre as much as the Eagles, but I’m guessing not as I would imagine this places a premium on mobility at this position that is probably not that easy to find. The Eagles also used a lot less read option style action with the quarterback than they did in the offseason, which I would imagine that as teams are now scheming, they didn’t want to risk Bradford taking too many of the kind of hits that Terrell Suggs gave him in the preseason.
In contrast, the Falcons offence seemed to move the ball a lot better when they were in 21 or 12 personnel, as having that extra running back or tight end near the line of scrimmage helped them protect, relying on the fewer receivers they sent to either get themselves open, or the Falcons used similar pick concepts or crossing patterns to get their players open. The other route you saw repeatedly work for the Falcons was a short slants to receivers lined up close to the line of scrimmage, relying on timing and the precision with which Matt Ryan gets the ball out of his hands. It seems a more conservative option, but one that was working for them and when you have Julio Jones getting himself open, you don’t have to do as much work with the scheme to manufacture passing opportunities. In fact, Jones had a monster game, and pretty much won it for the Falcons when he managed to get an easy inside release on corner Byron Maxwell against a single high safety look from the Eagles, and caught a deep pass down the right sideline as the safety couldn’t get across in time. This gained the Falcons forty-four yards and although the drive stalled, put them in range for the field goal that regained the lead that the Falcons kept until the end. That said, the Eagles missed a forty-four yard field goal at the end that could have equally won them the game.
So if this is what I saw in the offences, what about the defences? The Falcons are talked about as moving to 4-3 under Dan Quinn, the scheme following him from the Seahawks. However, it was hard for me to see this as they spent most of the game in substitution sets accounting for the Eagles multiple receiver sets. It looked to me they were using a similar three deep zone as the Seahawks, which looks like a single high safety with the corners a zone where they trail their man and hand them off, but I will need to get more practice at looking at this over the season to be sure. It will be interesting to see how their pass rush improves over the season, but they didn’t get a sack in this game, and no one leapt off the tape for me in the pass rush.
If I was struggling to identify the defences of the Falcons, thanks to their more traditional offensive groupings, it was much easier to spot the Eagles 3-4 base defence and their switches into nickel/dime formations. Their front seven looked good, with Fletcher Cox really catching the eye from defensive end as he frequently penetrated into the back field, getting a sack and a couple of quarter back hits, but always causing disruption. However, as a team they did concede nearly four hundred yards of offence, so they will want to toughen up in the upcoming weeks, and will want tighter coverage from their corners.
Overall this was a really close game that could have been won by either side, which give the season the Falcons had last year, is a big improvement for them. If the Falcons have hope, I wouldn’t be too worried about the Eagles either, they really could have won this game and once the offence got going it looked really good. It will be interesting to see if the Giants borrow some of the Falcons’ personnel groupings as they play the Eagles without Dez Bryant, but we will just have to see what happens tonight.