Would Chip Kelly purposely call a 's*!#ty' play?
LeSean McCoy, the league's No. 2 rusher, faces a tough test in Ndamukong Suh and the Lions' No. 3 run defense. (AP)
What the Eagles do well offensively should be the perfect counteraction to the strength of Detroit’s defense.
LeSean McCoy’s ability to exploit small running lanes and Nick Foles’ height and deft touch on the screen set up well for the Eagles to remedy the Lions’ dominant front four. The Lions have a top-five rushing defense, but they sell out against the run and invite teams to pass in the face of tremendous pressure.
The beauty of Chip Kelly’s spread-option offense is its ability to exploit the outsides against teams that cram the box. When the Lions sell out, Foles can work bubble screens to DeSean Jackson and wheel routes to McCoy to capitalize on open space and man advantages on the perimeter. Kelly will get his tight ends involved to keep linebackers from cheating up.
If the Eagles can force the Lions to play their safeties deep and get their linebackers off the line, there should be plenty of running lanes for McCoy, who recently fell behind Adrian Peterson in the race for the league’s rushing title.
The key is the offensive line neutralizing the powerful rush from Detroit’s front four, especially the interior tackle tandem of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Left guard Evan Mathis will lock up against Fairley and right guard Todd Herremans will draw Suh. Center Jason Kelce will help both, but he needs to be mindful of the Lions’ rampant inside stunts.
Left tackle Jason Peters has his hands full with rookie defensive end Ziggy Ansah, the No. 5 pick in the draft. Ansah, who has great strength, has four sacks in his past two games. Lions linemen do a lot of east-west movement up front to avoid double teams and find faster paths to the quarterback.
Foles’ mobility will be important. He can capitalize on the open space up the middle created by the spread alignment of Detroit’s front four. If Kelce, Herremans and Mathis can get their hands on Suh and Fairley, Foles can step up to either buy time or scramble ahead for positive gains.
If the Lions don’t get to Foles, the Eagles should have no problems making plays downfield. Detroit lacks the speed in the secondary to keep pace with Jackson, and its poor back-end tackling should allow Riley Cooper, Brent Celek and Zach Ertz to extend some receptions for extra yards. This is the kind of matchup that sets up well for Ertz, who’s route-running has improved, along with his ability to make tough catches.
The Lions have allowed 13 plays of 40 or more yards this season, tied for second-most in the NFL. You can hit the long ball against them if you can establish the run and keep the quarterback upright.
The Lions are the kind of old-fashioned, stubborn defense of your father’s era. They’ll hit hard and take some cheap shots, but they’ll also get frustrated by Kelly’s new-wave, up-tempo, spread attack and the plays Foles can make in a collapsed pocket.
For Geoff Mosher's scouting report on how the Eagles' defense stacks up against the Lions' offense, click here.