With the big game taking place tomorrow night, I have spent the last couple of days taking a look at the coaching tape from the Philadelphia Eagle’s big win over Minnesota Vikings in the NFC conference championship game.
This was an interesting to look at as for much of this game if felt like there was not as much between the Vikings defence and the Eagles offence as I felt when first watching the game. However, the Eagles were able to move the ball effectively for a lot of the contest and it was a couple of bad plays in the secondary that really stretched the score line in the Eagles favour alongside the Vikings’ inability to move the ball with their offence.
The Eagles were able to run the ball effectively thanks to a combination of LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi with Corey Clement also chipping in with some nice plays as a third running back. This genuine run threat allowed the Eagles to make effective use of play action and RPO. Now there has been a lot of talk read-pass-option in the NFL recently and so it is clearly an area I need to read up on in it a bit. The basic idea is that you have a play where the quarterback can either throw or handoff the ball depending on how the defence lines up. I certainly saw plays that would fit the bill and you do generally see more quick pass plays with the offensive line run blocking these days that would seem to fit the bill. I am a little hesitant to be too definitive as I don’t have the benefit of knowing the play calls or extensive discussions with coaches to help me pick them out on game tape (these posts are called amateur adventures in film for a reason) but I can see how it would be effective in the hands of the right quarterback.
RPOs are one way to attack a team, as is misdirection and that is definitely something Doug Pederson brought to his offence in this game. There was a lot of pre-snap motion from tight ends or receiver Nelson Agholor who ran as many fake runs as he did taking the ball from Nick Foles.
In fact this seems like a good time to talk about backup quarterback Nick Foles as he was really good in this game and not just from running quick pass plays. The impressive thing was how he was able to hold the ball on third down and find receivers. The pass towards the end of the second half that saw Alshon Jeffery score a fifty-three yard touchdown was nice but thirty-nine year old corner Terance Newman was beaten pretty easily for Jeffery to get behind the defence. However, there were other really nice throws where he had to show good pocket presence or roll out to throw the ball and I think my favourite play was the flea flicker that the Eagles ran in the third quarter to Torrey Smith who beat Trae Waynes on a stop go route, which combined with the hand off of the flea flicker was pretty devastating, and Foles was able to lead Smith into the end zone with the throw so that Harrison Smith playing deep safety on this play couldn’t get across to stop it.
The fourth quarter saw the Eagles run out a lot of clock effectively with a single back formation with an extra offensive lineman and two tight ends, but part of the effectiveness was the ability of Jay Ajayi to attack the edges of the defence although he is a powerful back can make yards go up the middle.
One of the things I’m most curious about for the Super Bowl is to see Pederson and his staff go up against Belichick and his coaches. It should be a really well coached Super Bowl and the Eagles’ offence has a lot of tools that you can use to attack a defence that has given up a lot of yards this season. Much rests on how close to this performance Nick Foles can get, but I saw a lot to like as I will write about tomorrow when I preview the game.
Finally, this is a tough one for the Vikings who had a couple of injuries and a couple of bad plays, but they weren’t so far away from competing in this game but it was a bad timing for their performance level to drop for what has been one of the best defences in the league this year. This is one of the big reasons why they will be sat at home watching with the rest of us tomorrow.