Week 12: Eagles vs. Panthers

So…a once promising season has devolved into a series of embarrassing performances, which have significantly altered the path of the entire franchise.  My thoughts from the last couple weeks:

– Nick Foles has not shown anything that makes me believe he can be a franchise quarterback.  It’s fair to suggest a full judgment wait until he has some semblance of an NFL-caliber offensive line, but right now i think the odds are much greater for him being a mediocre player rather than a good one.

– Following is a breakdown of the Panthers’ second touchdown.  What went wrong?….the same thing that almost always goes wrong, the defense falls hard for PA.  This has gotten to be so bad that I’m almost convinced they’re doing it on purpose.  Maybe Lurie, realizing that this season is blown, made a deal with NFL films to provide some great teaching film.  Or perhaps there is some sort of bizzaro bounty system in place, with the winner decided by who can take themselves farthest from their correct position.

The Panthers have lined up with 3 WRs and two in the backfield (one of these is a TE that was motioned pre-snap from the left into position to Cam Newton’s right).  In the left slot for the Panthers is Brandon LaFell.

NOTE: Judging from the pre-snap look (the Eagles are in a nickel D, with 5 DBs for 3 WRs), a 43-yard TD pass would be among the least likely plays to happen.

Eagles Panthers 1

So how did they fuck it up?

Step one:  BLITZ!  The slot corner (Boykins I believe) will blitz, as will the weakside safety (Coleman i think).  Something to keep in mind here is that at the snap, Coleman is a full 16-18 yards from Cam Newton.  Forget for a moment that Newton is hard to bring down for anyone, let alone as bad a player as Coleman, but the odds of Coleman even getting to the QB are low given the huge distance he has to cover.  Meanwhile, Boykin blitzing from the slot leaves LaFell without a defender, meaning either on of the LBs or the deep safety has to pick him up.  As you probably guessed, this doesn’t happen.

Step Two: LBs bite hard on PA.  Perhaps feeling left out, the LBs (both of them) decide that they will show everyone that can bite just as hard on PA as the safeties can.  This takes both of them (Ryans and Kendricks) out of the play.  Below, you can see the moment Cam fakes the handoff.   The LBs have barely moved from the pre-snap position, though a moment later they will both take a step forward.  You can also see the safety blitz in progress just above the LBs (and the corner coming from the slot).  At the time of the handoff, Coleman is still roughly 10 yards away (ignoring the fact that there are several 300 lb men in the way).

Eagles Panthers 2

Step 3:  If you look at the above image, you can see the final piece of the puzzle fall into place.  With the corner blitzing, and the LBs eager to show how quickly they can commit to all fakes, the last remaining hope is for Nate Allen, the deep safety, to see the gap in coverage and save the day.  However, he is already rolling over to the weak side WR, ensuring that he too, even after the throw is made, will be out of position to stop a TD let alone break up the pass.

Finally, we can see the “Oh SHIT!” moment below, as LaFell is open to streak down the middle of the field.  The LBs at this point have realized their mistake, but arent close to fast enough to make up the gap.  Nate Allen either hasnt noticed or doesn’t care.  Nnamdi is left as the only DB on the left side of the field, but he has to stick with his man.  Also, anyone see Kurt Coleman?  No?  He’s predictably caught up in the O-Line, still 5 yards from the QB just before the pass is thrown…

Eagles Panthers 3

That gentlemen, is how you throw a football game.  Not a single defensive player made a positive move.  Nobody on the line got any pressure (you can see from the three pictures that there was absolutely no penetration.  Neither blitzer came close to getting home, and Colemans presnap position essentially made this a 11 v. 10 play.   The LBs bit on PA, taking them out of position, and the deep safety didn’t adjust and was too slow to get over and stop a TD even after the throw was made.

Further thoughts:

-The Eagles suddenly look like they can very realistically finish the season at 3-13.  Remaining games are against Dallas, Washington, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay (not in that order).

-Vinny Curry made a few nice plays.

-If you watch the remaining games, the guys to pay attention to are Curry, Graham, Bryce Brown, DeMaris Johnson (I think he’ll start getting some real playing time), Kendricks….thats about it.

– This years draft doesn’t have a can’t-miss QB in it (naturally), so expect the Eagles to be bad (bad = non-contenders) for a couple of years as the new coach essentially starts from scratch.

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