Like a good many spread-happy NFL offenses, the Eagles favor three-wide receiver sets. In the six games leading up to their Week 10 bye, they had used 11 personnel – one running back, one tight end, and three wides – on 75.7 percent of their offensive plays (305 of 403).
But when tight end Dallas Goedert fractured his right forearm against the Cowboys in Week 9 trying to stiff-arm safety Markquese Bell, head coach Nick Sirianni and his first-year offensive coordinator, Brian Johnson, had a decision to make. Should they just rotate in Goedert’s two backups – Jack Stoll (a better blocker) and Grant Calcaterra (a better pass-catcher), and stick with a heavy dose of 11P? Or should they expand their personnel-grouping repertoire?
When Goedert missed five games with a shoulder injury last season, the Eagles just plugged in Stoll and stuck with 11P. In fact, in the five games without Goedert – all of which the Eagles managed to win – they actually used 11P more (73.8%) than they did when Goedert was healthy (70.9%).
That’s not what they did in Monday night’s exciting 21-17 come-from-behind win over the Chiefs, though. Sirianni and Johnson cut back a bit on the 11P and sprinkled in a pair of other personnel groupings that ended up being a big factor in their victory over the defending Super Bowl champs.
The Eagles hadn’t used a four-wide receiver personnel grouping a single time in their first nine games. But they used them 12 times on Monday night, most of them after Calcaterra left the game with an ankle injury.
Jalen Hurts’ 41-yard fourth-quarter completion to DeVonta Smith, which set up the Eagles’ game-winning touchdown, came with 10 personnel (1RB, 0TE, 4WR). So did the beautifully executed 20-yard middle screen to running back DeVonta Smith on a second-and-10 earlier in that game-changing drive.
Hurts, who has been very effective throwing the ball with 11 personnel this season, was just 8-for-14 for 65 yards with 11P against the Chiefs. All five of his sacks and his lone interception were with 11P.
But he was 6-for-7 for 85 yards throwing with 10P. Wide receiver Julio Jones, who signed with the Eagles five weeks ago, played a season-high 32 snaps against the Chiefs, though he only had two catches for five yards.
The Eagles had used 21 personnel – 2 running backs, 1 tight end, 2 wide receivers – only five times in their first nine games – three times in their Week 6 loss to the Jets and twice in their Week 9 win over the Cowboys.
They used it three times Monday night. Boston Scott had a pair of four-yard runs with it. But the biggest play with 21P was D’Andre Swift’s 35-yard jet sweep in the third quarter. It gave the Eagles a first down at the Kansas City 15. Three plays later, Hurts scored on a 10-yard draw.
On Swift’s run, Scott had lined up in the backfield, while Swift lined up wide right, came in motion across the formation, and took a handoff from Hurts, who had lined up behind the center on the play.
“D’Andre is a special back in the sense that he can line up different places and be an issue to the defense at different places where he lines up,’’ Sirianni said.
“Whether it’s in the backfield with another back, whether that’s in the backfield with himself, whether that’s in the backfield with like, DeVonta, which we had this week, or whether that’s in the slot or outside, that just makes him harder to defend and more of a problem.’’
The Eagles lined up Smith in the backfield a half-dozen times, which made it more difficult for the Chiefs to pick him up in coverage.
Power of the Tush Push
The Eagles were 3-for-3 on Tush Pushes against the Chiefs. That included Hurts’ one-yard touchdown run with 6:20 left in the game which put the Eagles in front. Seven of Hurts’ nine rushing touchdowns this season have come on Tush Push plays.
The Eagles are 24-for-26 on Tush Pushes this season, not including Swift’s seven-yard TD out of the formation v. Washington. Over the last two seasons, Hurts is 52-for-57 on Tush Push sneaks. But they’ve turned it into an art form this season
Sean Lets His Hair Down
Defensive coordinator Sean Desai blitzed Patrick Mahomes on 10 of 44 pass plays (22.7%) Monday night. That percentage is pretty much in line with the Eagles’ blitz percentage for the season (23.2%). But it’s how Desai blitzed the two-time league MVP that was interesting.
Desai isn’t a Tora! Tora! Tora! Type of blitzer like the Vikings’ Brian Flores or the Giants’ Wink Martindale. Like his mentor, Vic Fangio, he’s a more conservative blitzer.
Prior to Monday night, 79 of his 91 blitzes this season had been with just five rushers. Twelve had been with six rushers, and six of those 12 had been in the Eagles’ two games against Washington and their second-year quarterback, Sam Howell. Desai hadn’t called a zero blitz (seven rushers) at all in the first nine games.
But he was uncharacteristically aggressive against Mahomes. Five of the Eagles’ 10 blitzes were with six rushers. On a third-and-nine at the Kansas City 38 midway through the fourth quarter, he dialed up his first zero blitz of the season.
It almost worked. Safety Reed Blankenship had a free run at Mahomes and was in his face as he threw. But there’s a reason Mahomes is considered the best quarterback in the league. He ignored the pressure and lofted a perfect pass to wide receiver Justin Watson for a 17-yard gain and a first down.
Mahomes’ 177 passing yards against the Eagles were his fewest of the season. He averaged a season-low 4.1 yards per attempt and completed just 55.8 percent of his passes, his lowest completion percentage since Week 1. His receivers were accomplices in all of those numbers. They had five drops, including a critical deep-ball drop by Marquez Valdes-Scantling on the Chiefs’ final possession. But the Eagles defense deserves a lot of credit for the job they did on Mahomes
Mahomes was 5-for-9 for 56 yards when the Eagles blitzed him. The Eagles’ lone sack of the Chiefs’ quarterback, by Haason Reddick, came on a six-man blitz on the second play of the game.
Mahomes was 19-for-34 for 121 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception against a four-man rush. Four of the Chiefs’ five dropped passes came against a four-man rush.
Jalen Hurts’ passing numbers against the Chiefs weren’t very good. Had his second-lowest passer rating of the season (64.6). Sacked a season-high five times, all in the first half. Failed to throw at least one touchdown pass for the first time this season. Had his third-lowest completion percentage (63.6) and yards-per-attempt average (6.8) of the season.
But Hurts made big plays when the Eagles needed them. Connected with DeVonta Smith on a 13-yard completion over the middle on a fourth-quarter third-and-five play. On the next play, he completed a 41-yard pass to Smith that gave the Eagles a first down at the Chiefs one-yard line.
Hurts had two rushing touchdowns, one on a 10-yard draw, the other on a Tush Push right after the deep ball completion to Smith. That brings his season total to nine rushing TDs. He’s tied for third in rush TDs with the 49ers’ Christian McCaffrey, two behind the Dolphins’ Raheem Mostert, and one behind the Ravens’ Gus Edwards.
Hurts had five rushing first downs against the Chiefs, bringing his season total to 44. Only McCaffrey, with 48, has more. Twenty-four of Hurts’ 44 rushing first downs have come on Tush Push sneaks.
The Chiefs converted just one of nine third-down opportunities against the Eagles in the second half Monday night but were 7-for-8 in the first half. Through 10 games, the Eagles’ 43.2 opponent success rate on third down is the sixth worst in the league and the highest by an Eagles defense since, drum roll, please, 1982 (43.6).
The Chiefs converted three third-and-longs against the Eagles (7, 9 and 15 yards). Through the first 10 games, opponents have converted 19 of 66 third downs of seven yards or more (28.8%). That’s the fifth-highest rate in the NFL.
Opposing quarterbacks have a 105.9 passer rating against the Eagles on third down. Last year, it was 69.3. They have a 61.8 third-down completion percentage against them. Last year it was 54.7. They already have thrown nine touchdown passes and just two interceptions on third down. Last year, the Eagles gave up just seven TD passes and had eight interceptions on third down in 17 games.
Just six of the Eagles’ 31 quarterback sacks this season have come on third down. Last year, 32 of their 70 sacks were third-down sacks.
By the Numbers
–Punt returner Britain Covey is having a very good year. He’s fourth in the league in punt return average (14.6). Six of his 19 returns have gained 20 or more yards. His 26-yard return in the third quarter Monday gave the Eagles the ball at their own 39-yard line and led to their second touchdown. His 19-yard return with 5 ½ minutes left in the game gave the Eagles the ball at their own 44 and allowed them to force the Chiefs to start from their own nine-yard line on their final possession.
–Hurts completed two of three deep-ball throws (passes that travel 20 or more yards in the air) against the Chiefs, including the 41-yard completion to Devonta Smith that set up the Eagles’ game-winning touchdown. In the last seven games, Hurts has completed an impressive 15 of 29 deep-ball attempts (51.7%). That’s the sixth-best deep-ball completion rate in the league over that period.
–The Eagles had just one sack against the Chiefs. They are tied for ninth in sacks with 31, but are tied for second with the Jets in hurry percentage (11.3), per Pro Football Reference. The Patriots are first (11.4).