Video breakdown – How the Eagles created a severe mismatch against the Rams in the passing game

There was one play that really stood out to me in the Eagles-Rams game where Marty Mornhinweg and Andy Reid creatively exposed a flaw in Steve Spagnuolo’s defensive scheme.  It came on a 26 yard cross from Michael Vick to DeSean Jackson that couldn’t have possibly looked any easier.

For years, the late Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson adhered to the philosophy that one corner played LCB, while the other corner played RCB.  They covered whatever receiver came to their side.  Johnson never had his “best corner” always follow the opposition’s “#1 receiver,” a la Darrelle Revis.  If your best corner follows the best receiver around, it becomes much more difficult for the defense to disguise man or zone coverage.  Spagnuolo, a Jim Johnson disciple, employed Johnson’s approach on Sunday, and it played right into the Eagles’ hands.

Here’s a formation with a bit of an exotic look:

– Brent Celek is lined up wide by himself to the near side of the screen.  Covering Celek is the Rams’ best corner, Ron Bartell.  The Eagles, knowing Spagnuolo’s scheme, effectively wasted the Rams’ best corner on their TE.  Big win for the Eagles there.

– Lined up in a bunch formation to the top of the screen is DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Steve Smith.

– Standing next to Vick in the backfield is not one of the running backs.  It’s Jason Avant.  Avant will go in motion past the 3 WRs in the bunch formation to the top of the screen, where he’ll be picked up by the Rams’ other starting corner, Bradley Fletcher.  The Eagles have now wasted the Rams best two cover players on Brent Celek and Jason Avant.  Win.

At the snap, Celek and Avant will run go routes, clearing Bartell and Fletcher out of the play.  With the Rams’ two best corners out of the play, they’re now left with SS Quintin Mikell, nickle back Justin King, and a third Rams DB I can’t identify covering Jackson, Maclin, and Smith.  Good luck with that.

Confused by the bunch formation, Mikell and King both cover Smith (with Smith drawing an illegal contact call on Mikell), leaving Jackson completely uncovered and wide open for the easy catch and run for 26 yards.  Let’s watch them dance:

That’s just not fair.


  1. […] week, we looked at how the Eagles exploited Steve Spagnuolo’s defense on one particular play in which Michael Vick hit DeSean Jackson on an easy 26 yard catch and […]

  2. ICDogg says:

    Love these breakdowns. Excellent.

  3. D3Keith says:

    This is a pretty good insight into the games behind the game though. So much of this stuff is well-designed and well-executed to the point it looks easy to the naked eye, but it’s often based on such clever stuff.

  4. D3Keith says:

    Yes, I enjoy these kind of breakdowns. Even if you only have time to pick out one play a week and analyze it, it’s appreciated. (I remember the Kolb vs. Saints/Chiefs. Those might have taken longer).

    As well-designed as this play is, isn’t the blown coverage (I actually noticed the two guys go with Smith in fast motion or first-rewatch, but not all the other cool details like Celek v. Bartell) more responsible for the play’s success.

    I remember playing DB and to defend the bunch, even in man coverge, we had a particular call where if you were furthest inside you took whoever released furthest inside, etc. That way they can’t run you into each other with picks or confuse you with blown coverages. You didn’t pick up your man til he gave away which way he released. The only way to beat that is to initially run two guys into the same spot, then have one break off the route.

    Anyway, I still love the analysis. Just wondering if it could have been, say, an 8-yard gain if the Rams had defended it properly. As it were, they didn’t, and you schooled us on why & how.

  5. Rob says:

    awesome breakdown. keep it up

  6. sparki says:

    Best CB covering our TE.. looks like the Eagles learned something from that GB loss last year.

  7. Rickydiculous says:

    This is indeed an awesome post. I had a read through Tommy’s Game Review the other day and was wondering why Avant motioned out of the backfield… and now I know. Nice one Jimmy!

  8. ian says:

    wow excellent breakdown. i was wondering how they left jackson so wide open!

  9. Kulp says:

    This is an awesome post.

  10. Wikileeks says:

    Stop spreading our secrets. Consider yourself warned

  11. richrath says:

    Seconding Euler up there. More of this kind of stuff. From you, and AndyMarty.

  12. cwel87 says:

    I never understood the reasoning behind *not* having your best corner following the opposition’s best receiver. Do it if it’s zone and man, and the scenario Jimmy highlighted doesn’t exist!

    On the play itself – that’s some kind of scheming.

  13. JBL says:

    I’m glad we learned something from that playoff loss to GB. I seem to remember thinking our best CB (Asante) was often pulled from the most viable threats and I hoped we’d adjust. I wonder if we are still so stubborn, though it seems the upgraded corners would allow us to be.

  14. bsencore says:

    Interesting. This could also explain why the Eagles put DeSean in the slot in the red zone. Worked on the TD reception – he matched up with Mikell.

  15. says:

    These are my favorite kinds of features. Keep em coming please.

    1. Begatts says:

      Love these video breakdowns! Thank you! May I have another?!

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