The Eagles Defensive Game Plan Wasn’t The ProblemBREAKING NEWS, Eagles, General News, News Tuesday, October 1st, 2013
I liked the game plan of Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis because he played nickel for nearly all of the first half, daring Peyton Manning to abandon his passing game and try to run the ball against the Birds nickel defense. The nickel defense was the only way the Birds could match up against the Broncos with their three wide receiver set of Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker. They did a good job of stopping Denver’s running game in the defense.
In the nickel defense alignment, which they played primarily in the first half, Davis moved Trent Cole to defensive end from his linebacker position. He moved defensive end Cedric Thornton to the nose guard position. He took nose guard Isaac Sopoaga off the field and put nickel back Brandon Boykin in there in his place.
Boykin was the nickel back and sometimes he lined up as a linebacker. In most situations he was matched up with Welker. It was a good plan but the Birds didn’t do a good job of executing it. The Broncos didn’t beat the Eagles running the football, they beat them throwing the football. The Broncos ran the football 33 times for 141 yards and one touchdown, but Manning completed 30 out of 37 passes for 321 yards and four touchdowns. The passing game was the element of the Denver offense that killed the Eagles defense not the running game.
In the first half the Broncos ran the ball 11 times for 49 yards. They ran the ball more in the second half once they built a big lead. They did not beat the Birds running the football in the first half against the nickel defense.
Surprisingly, they did a good job against Denver’s running game with the nickel defense on the field. Eventually Manning starting running the ball at Boykin by having the Broncos offensive linemen pull to the side of the Birds nickel back. Davis obviously figured it would be better to have the Broncos running the ball as opposed to throwing it.
In the second half with Denver up by two and three touchdowns, Davis put Sopoaga back in the game and took Boykin out. Surprisingly, the Eagles did a better job against the Denver running game with Boykin in the game as opposed to having Sopaoga and 3-4 personnel on the field in the second half.
The Eagles secondary didn’t challenge the Broncos receivers in the short passing game. Too many times, their alignment made it impossible for them to stop the completion.
Let’s start with Boykin and his matchup with Welker. He let Welker dictate to him where he was going all the time, as opposed to Boykin trying to force him one way or another on some of the plays. Boykin gave him room and tried to just run and cut with him, but it didn’t work because Welker ran pick or rub routes by using tight end Julius Thomas as the pick.
Welker was running picks off of tight end Julius Thomas like point guard Tony Parker and power forward Tim Duncan have been doing for the San Antonio Spurs for years. Boykin must mix it up and at times he should go up and not let Welker release and run him off the pick. He shouldn’t let him run down field on some plays. The former Georgia Bulldog should try to force him outside.
The secondary must also do a much better job of communicating if they are to have any chance of succeeding. At times they should play in and out on the coverage, meaning one guy takes the guy who come inside and other guy takes the guy who goes outside. At least mix it up to keep the quarterback and receiver guessing.
Boykin let Welker attack him, when he came out of the backfield on his second touchdown catch. The veteran wide receiver was lined up in the backfield like a running back. Boykin must go up and attack Welker rather than waiting on him and letting him push off, get open and catch the touchdown. It was much too easy. It was a smart move by the Broncos because Boykin isn’t used to covering a wide receiver coming out of the backfield. It requires a linebacker collision coverage technique.
Far too many times in the game, rookie safety Earl Wolff was lined up too deep to cover his man. On Welker’s first touchdown catch, Wolff was matched up on Welker and sitting inside about eight yards deep with the ball on the six yard line. The Broncos were in a bunch formation. The two other Broncos receivers who were with Welker in the bunch formation, ran routes going straight down field. Welker took a couple of steps forward and cut outside. Wolff had no chance to make the play on Welker when he went outside because of the safety’s alignment. This wasn’t smart football.
On the 52 yard completion to Eric Decker, Wolff was supposed to be in the deep middle third at the end of the first half, but he let Decker get behind him on a simple cover three zone look, where three defensive backs are lined up deep. If he had been in position he could picked the ball off, but Manning wouldn’t have thrown it, if he had seen him back there. It was one of only two long pass plays that Manning connected on.
The future Hall of Famer missed two wide open receivers for touchdowns during the game, so he wasn’t really playing at his very best, but he didn’t to be playing at his best with the Birds beating themselves with bad alignment.
On the second Manning touchdown pass to Thomas, Wolff was lined up outside and in position to make a play on the quick screen, but at the snap of the ball, he foolishly came inside and put himself in position to be blocked by the Broncos left tackler Chris Clark. There were quite a few times when Wolff was out of position and it seemed that each time Manning took advantage of it. Denver probably had a target on the youngster in the meeting room.
The Broncos came into the game with a plan of running crossing routes and pick plays. It was easy picking for them throughout the day.
Early in the game on a 3rd and nine, Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks gave too much room to Broncos tight end Julius Thomas and the big guy ran a simple crossing route for an easy first down. The second-year linebacker didn’t move up on the tight end after the ball was snapped and give himself a chance to compete with the receiver. Kendricks was so far off of him that he had no chance of covering him.
Safety Nate Allen who was lined up ten yards deep was able to get over and make the tackle before Kendricks could get there.
Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher had a good game because he contested the wide receivers for the football. He knocked down a Manning pass intended for Demaryius Thomas early in the game. He was the only Eagles defensive back who was contesting the short throws.
The referees made a bad pass interference call against him as he battled Decker for the football in the end zone. On the next play, Thomas caught a touchdown him on a fade route, but he was in good position and couldn’t do anything about a perfectly thrown pass and a good one-handed catch.
On one play Cary Williams was covering Demaryius Thomas and Manning took the snap, then threw the ball to Thomas with Williams in a one-on-one coverage. Thomas gained 14 yards on the play because Williams was playing so deep. The ball was snapped on the Broncos 42 yard line and Thomas went out of bounds on the Eagles 44. That’s what I call playing scared. Williams was lined up so deep that he didn’t give himself a chance to make a play.
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