If you were to look at the box score from the Eagles’ decimation of the Cowboys last Sunday, you might notice that DeMarcus Ware had 4 sacks and think, “Well at least DeMarcus Ware came to play.”
DeMarcus Ware is a great player, and perhaps THE premier pass rusher in the NFL. However, he’s often useless in the run game, and the Eagles have repeatedly burned Ware on the same exact play.
Last season, with the Eagles trying to bleed the clock in the 4th quarter, Marty Mornhinweg and Andy Reid continuously went back to the well and ran the same running play over and over and over. They continued to pick up first downs and successfully killed more than 4 minutes. The play was simple – Have Jason Peters seal the the DE and push him down the line, leaving the OLB (Ware) momentarily unblocked. Clay Harbor, coming from the opposite side of the formation, would trap Ware, leaving a cutback lane for LeSean McCoy. Here are portions of that drive from last year:
Play 1 (0:00) – Ware lined up top of the screen. Ware sees it coming, waits for the block to come to him, and Clay Harbor successfully cuts him.
Play 2 (0:09) – Ware bottom of the screen. Harbor comes across again and easily blocks Ware, who falls to the ground, opening up an enormous hole and a big gain for LeSean McCoy.
Play 3 (0:45) – Ware bottom of the screen. Harbor comes across again and cuts Ware again. 3rd time Ware wound up on the ground so far in one drive.
Play 4 (0:58) – Ware bottom of the screen. OK, so now Ware is ready for the little TE trap block and decides he’s going to attack up the line and try to get inside Harbor, except this time, Vick keeps the ball and easily runs around the end, in the area vacated by Ware.
Play 5 (1:13) – Ware bottom of the screen. If the Eagles get a yard, they can just kneel on the ball and run out the clock. Same play again. Ware sees it coming, waits for Harbor to come block him, Harbor easily gets him on the ground for the 4th time on the drive, huge hole, ballgame.
Fast forward to last Sunday night. Since the Eagles had so much success exploiting Ware last year, why not go right back to it? Well, they did:
Play 1 (0:00) – Ware bottom of the screen. Marty Mornihinweg and Andy Reid must have assumed Rob Ryan watched the game tape from last year and noticed that the Eagles exploited the Cowboys D on the same play over and over again, so they added a little wrinkle. They send Harbor in motion at Ware, and then away from him, and at the snap, Harbor runs back across for the trap block. Ware hopes that the Eagles are running play action and runs himself out of the play on his own by going after Vick. Harbor gets a piece of Ware (although he didn’t even need to), and there’s a monster hole for McCoy. Undisciplined football.
Play 2 (0:42) – Ware bottom of the screen. The Eagles run a fake sprint draw here. In the audio you’ll hear Cris Collinsworth say that it’s a designed run by Vick. Ignore that. It’s not. The idea for the fake to McCoy is to slow Ware’s pass rush, but Ware completely ignores the fake, and continues his wide rush. Seeing nothing but open space in front of him, Vick basically says “Wanna run yourself completely out of the play? No problem. I’ll gladly take 15 easy yards.”
Play 3 (1:19) – Ware bottom of the screen. This time the Eagles use Celek to come across to block Ware instead of Ware, and Celek barely even has to breath on Ware to open up the hole. Ware concedes that he’s blocked and basically just lets McCoy scoot right past him.
DeMarcus Ware is on pace for 27 sacks this year. Again, there’s no disputing he’s an absolutely elite pass rusher. But it’s odd to hear analysts praise his ability against the run. On tape, I’m just not seeing it.