Can Foles continue to be effective?
Chip Kelly has produced the first offense in NFL history to rack up at least 425 yards in each of its first six games. (USA Today Images)
LeSean McCoy likes to call Chip Kelly an offensive “genius.”
A stretch? Maybe. Then again, maybe not.
The Eagles have churned out 2,710 yards on offense, seventh-most in NFL history after six games. In his first NFL coaching stint of any kind, Kelly has produced the first offense in league history to rack up at least 425 yards in each of its first six games.
“Look, Chip is a genius,” McCoy said. “He knows how to put the stuff together. Just like the defense can make adjustments and get what they want, Chip can do the same thing.”
One specific play from the Eagles’ 31-20 win over Tampa illustrated McCoy’s point about Kelly’s ability to get his desired matchup. With Kelly, it’s all about mathematical advantages, and the first Eagles touchdown over the Bucs is an education in simple math.
On the opening drive, Nick Foles marched the offense to Tampa’s 4-yard line, where Kelly not only capitalized on favorable numbers but also the perception that Foles isn’t a threat to run.
When the Eagles came out to the huddle, they saw Tampa in a scheme that looked familiar. The Bucs deployed man coverage out of a nickel defense, with linebackers about three yards behind scrimmage:
Familiar, how? It’s a similar look to the one the Bucs showed in a Week 3 game against the Patriots at their own 5-yard line against a three-wide formation:
With this in mind, and knowing the Bucs didn’t see Foles as a running threat, Kelly’s formation called for tight end Brent Celek and LeSean McCoy to run routes that took both linebackers out of the box and left a big space up the middle. Celek ran a quick out and McCoy released to the right flat:
With no linebacker spying the QB, here’s what the viewpoint looked like for Foles. Notice the gulf between center Jason Kelce (62) and right guard Todd Herremans (79) and all that green in the middle:
“That was a game plan thing based on the past, what they (the Bucs) had done in the red zone,” Kelce said. “It was a play that was called in that was trying to advantage of what they were trying to do in that situation.”
Later, Kelce added, “Everything in this system comes down to math. That’s what it comes down to, where we have numbers. We are always going to try to take advantage of the way defenses are coached, what their assignments have to be, where you can kind of get positive numbers for plays.”
The week before, against the Giants, Kelly had unveiled another new wrinkle designed to create mathematical advantages for the quarterback. Although he’s not big on quarterback keepers, he dialed up two for Michael Vick that gained first downs, one of which set up a touchdown.
The first came with the Eagles at the Giants’ 31. The Eagles came out in “11 personnel” with three receivers to the right and Brent Celek as an in-line tight end, lined up alongside left tackle Jason Peters. The Giants deployed nickel, with one linebacker shadowing running back Bryce Brown and the other crashing the line of scrimmage to help out in run defense.
Kelly takes one linebacker, Spencer Paysinger, out of the play by motioning Brown out to the flat. The other linebacker, Keith Rivers, crashes the “A” gap, which the Giants did frequently:
This playcall sets up an easy run for Vick to the left side, where Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara, with no receiver to defend, drops back at the snap. Celek and Peters seal off right defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and right defensive tackle Mike Patterson, while Kelce and Evan Mathis pull to the left side:
As Vick heads for the left side, he has Celek, Kelce and Mathis out in front, with just two Giants to block, one of them being Amukamara. The Eagles like three-on-two. They like it even more when the 300-pound Mathis is charging toward a 200-pound corner:
Vick bounced outside and went out of bounds at the 20 for an 11-yard gain that set up an Alex Henery field goal.
On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur talked about the importance of “developing a tendency” on successful plays and making adjustments to avoid telegraphing them.
“Then of course you've got to be able to make it look like one thing and do another, as well,” he said. “That's all the fun stuff we worry about when we're not visiting with you guys.”
Kelly ran the basically the same version of the quarterback keeper that Vick gained 11 yards on later in the game, but flipped the direction and changed some personnel.
This time, the Eagles were inside the Giants’ 20. They came out with three receivers to the left (instead of right) and with McCoy in the backfield (instead of Brown). The Giants were in nickel again, with neither safety very close to scrimmage.
McCoy motions out to the left flat, where he’s followed by Paysinger. Rivers again crashes the line of scrimmage:
Once again, the play is intended to match three on two. This time, Kelce and right guard Evan Mathis pull to the right with right tackle Lane Johnson and Celek responsible for sealing off the left side of the Giants’ defensive line.
Celek actually fails to block Mathias Kiwanuka and Kelce has to pick up the slack (yellow circle), but Vick is still able to get to the outside, where Mathis has a free ride to cornerback Trumaine McBride (yellow square):
Here’s how it looks from end zone perspective, with Mathis handling McBride and Vick in full stride:
From there, Vick needs to outrace only safety Ryan Mundy to the end zone. Mundy closes quickly, but can only stop Vick at the 1, after a 14-yard gain. One play later, McCoy rushes for a one-yard touchdown.