I admit I lingered on changing over from the previous article because it was so much fun looking at Eagles 37, Dallas 9…
But the fact is, there are still 6 games to go in the regular season marathon… and we ain’t clinched squat yet.
One thing that jumped out at me whilst watching the Seahawks lose a stupidly-coached game by Pete Carroll against the rising Falcons on MNF was— this NFL game is getting faster and faster in terms of on-field play as the season wears down. I mean, you’d expect the opposite—guys tired, dinged up, worn down, defenses anticipating every move by offenses…but in fact, the execution of plays on both sides of the ball by contending teams seems to be gaining in acceleration.
They say the playoffs are geared up to a higher speed of play…I guess emotional “want to” plays a part in that. But it’s still amazing to me how much faster the guys in contention seem to be moving with the ball and toward the ball right now. And the playoffs are still a month and a half down the road…
Which brings me to our Eagles….
The one thing that stands out to me compared to last year’s edition is that team speed is at an all-time high. You look at the win in Dallas, and the win before that against Denver—and I swear this is the fastest overall unit across the board that I have witnessed in the past eleven years. We have ditched the “big body, long arms” concept shoved down our throats by Chip Kelly in his short tenure here. We have instead invested in quickness and speed—and it’s paying off so far.
What you can’t help but wonder is how much longer can our “smaller, but faster” guys keep pace with the physicality and matching speed of the top teams in the hunt for an NFC title?
Patrick Robinson is a case in point. He’s come out of nowhere to lock down the slot corner responsibility for the Eagles with an amazing display of intuitive coverage and tackling skills. But what happens when we have to ratchet up his somewhat undersized profile to an even higher speed of play?
As one guy who used to comment here once said, “Sumlin’s got to give…”
Or maybe not—maybe we, like the Falcons and Seahawks I saw last night, keep playing faster and faster?
Our offense looked a tad slow in the first half against Dallas. Our guys took a lot of heat for that in the local media. But here’s the part about that which most casual fans and reporters missed:
Doug Pederson, like his mentor Andy Reid, goes into a game with about 15 pre-scripted playcalls on offense…Oh, the calls vary according to down and distance, scoring opportunities, and things of that nature. But in the opening quarter of any game, the offense is probing and testing the opposition based upon what the scouting reports have predicted the opponent will present on defense.
What happened in Dallas was the Cowboys came out with a different look on defense. We expected a speed-rush confrontation backed up by a man-to-man coverage on every receiver. We scripted plays against that—but the Cowboys went off the script.
That kind of mind-game is going to happen more and more as the games wind down closer to the playoffs.
Fortunately our defense dug in with equally impressive confusing looks and solid tackling against the Cowboys offense— and bought the time we needed for our offense to adjust.
Some astute observations by our own Leo Pizzini on what could have made the first half offense in Dallas a lot better:
“So… I can’t see the whole field… but it looks like they were handling our offense with a 3-4 Cover 2 Man Zone hybrid scheme… linebackers are 3/4 in zone… d-line is pinching… corners are in man… safeties are in zone… that’s a tough defense if they execute it right… you gotta run out... power scheme and pull to the unblocked DE… get some outside toss going with pulls to the LBs… need to run power scheme… gotta get [receiver] picks on the underneath passing scheme and use motion to get leverage on the blocks and the routes… intermediate dig routes… side by side slants and post routes… vertical switches… trap draw… run some comeback routes on the outside… gotta do it…”
Doug Pederson must have had Leo in his headset, because he did exactly what Leo prescribed after Doug had exhausted his initial play script.
He went to the power scheme after seeing what Leo saw. A few power tosses to the right, throw in pulling guards and tackles setting up the trap draw, and some timely comeback and post routes, and our offense was finally in charge. With a fast swarming defense, the Eagles held their newfound offensive advantage. The Birds as a team never let up after that.
It was a beautiful thing to witness if you were an Eagles fan. We have a team and a coaching staff that can make meaningful in-game adjustments together. I don’t know if our personnel can play any faster than they are playing now, but it’s great to see the coaching staff “playing fast” for a change. Doug had his “Pete Carroll” moments last season, but it sure seems like he has graduated to a higher level of competitive chess this year.