Eagles Rewind: The sacks, the run blocking, other notes

In today’s Inquirer we took a look at some key Eagles performances from Sunday’s game. Unfortunately, there’s only so much room in the newspaper so we’re limited in how much detail we can provide. That left me with a bundle of extra notes that may be of interest before we turn our attention to the Jaguars.

Here then, are some more observations from the game, plus some more detail on two of the offensive linemen  we covered in today’s story.

The Sacks
The primary concern to come from the game was pressure on the quarterback. The offensive line did well in the run game, but Michael Vick had Lions closing in on him all day.

Head coach Andy Reid spread the blame around, citing issues with recognition by the offense (presumably meaning the quarterback and center), play calling from coaches and winning individual battles: “We definitely need to handle the blitz better. I didn’t think we did a good job of it. They were giving us overload blitzes. We have to recognize the overload blitzes. We have to make plays. We have to redirect the line. I have to make sure I give the players an opportunity with the play calls where the quarterback can get the ball out of his hand quick in order to hit the receiver.”

A review of the Lions’ six sacks and various QB pressures shows all of those issues.

Sack 1: Turk McBride beat Winston Justice with speed and hit Vick from behind.

Sack 2: Kyle Vanden Bosch beat Jason Peters, forcing Vick to step up right into the path of Sammie Hill. Mike McGlynn had Hill blocked, but Vick was flushed into the defensive tackle.

Sack 3: Ndamukong Suh powered through Nick Cole, who was left one-on-one with Suh for much of the game.

Sack 4: A fumbled snap.

Sack 5: On the next play Suh got through Cole, Vanden Bosch beat Peters and McBride came around Justice. Vick had no chance.

Sack 6: The Lions brought six pass rushers against five blockers. Vick bought time by scrambling, but took a hit on the sideline – and a sack – rather than stepping out of bounds.

There were plenty of other issues, though, including several plays on which Suh or Vanden Bosch simply beat one-on-one blocking to create pressure without a blitz.

Other times blocking assignments – McGlynn’s responsibility -- seemed off.

On the Eagles first drive, the Lions brought five men against five blockers. But McGlynn and Todd Herremans double teamed Vanden Bosch (who came on a stunt), leaving Julian Peterson with a free run at Vick (he got in a hit, but got called for roughing the passer).

On an early third and nine the Eagles had eight men blocking or chipping against seven rushers, but LeSean McCoy went left when the free man came from the right. Vick spun away from pressure and completed a pass to Riley Cooper for a first down.

Just before the Eagles scored at the end of the first half, we saw an example of either a bad play call, bad read, or both. After the Lions had brought six men on first down and forced an incomplete pass, they rushed seven on second down. Vick had a five-step drop on the play and had barely set his feet by the time Lawrence Jackson was on top of him. Either the Eagles need to give him a quicker drop and release, or Vick needs to read the pass rush and check to another play. As it was, he spun out of a sack and ran for 12 yards.

The Eagles left Cole one-on-one with Suh for much of the game. Early on, they instead double-teamed Corey Williams with McGlynn and Herremans. When McGlynn helped Cole they had more success containing Suh.

Run Blocking
Despite some problems protecting Vick, both the McGlynn and Cole played big roles on McCoy’s three touchdown runs.

On McCoy’s first touchdown, McGlynn stopped Vanden Bosch, who had read the play and taken off toward the hole. Cole got downfield and blocked a linebacker out of the play, leaving McCoy free to elude two last tacklers and go the distance.

On the second running score, Cole blocked Suh to the left and McGlynn and Justice got to the Lions linebackers, clearing a path for a four-yard touchdown.

And on McCoy’s 46-yard burst, which provided the winning points, McGlynn and Cole double-teamed Suh out of the play. McGlynn then came off the defensive tackle to get a piece of linebacker Landon Johnson. Johnson, knocked back, had to dive at McCoy, but couldn’t trip him up. McCoy dodged one last defender on his way to the end zone.

Other observations that didn’t make today’s story:

-- On McCoy’s four-yard score, the offensive line blocked to the left, leaving wide receiver Jason Avant to take care of defensive end Turk McBride on the right side of the defense. Avant took him out with a great cut block.

-- Rookie Riley Cooper should easily have grabbed the Lions’ onside kick late in the game. Brent Celek and Kurt Coleman blocked out the Lions trying to recover the kick, giving Riley a chance, all alone, to snag the ball. But he dropped it. Immediately after the play he put his hands to his head. The ball also rolled near the feet of Hank Baskett.

-- If you want to nitpick Vick’s great overall performance, he nearly threw two interceptions. On the first pass, he had good protection but threw to a covered Jackson. Cornerback Jonathan Wade should have made the pick and stopped the drive. Instead, the Eagles drove for a touchdown. The second near interception was excusable: Vick was under pressure and launched a third down prayer. Safety C.C. Brown, wearing a cast on one hand, couldn’t hold the ball, but even if he did, it would have been the equivalent of a punt, which the Eagles did on the next play.

-- Brandon Graham spent roughly two-thirds of his plays at defensive end rather than defensive tackle this week, a contrast to last week when he played playing slightly more snaps on the inside. The Eagles like the idea of Graham creating inside pressure on passing plays, so he plays defensive tackle in nickel situations. He is small for a tackle but pushed back guard Stephen Peterman on several plays, including the one on which Graham notched his first career sack. That’s what the Eagles want to see when he is at tackle.

-- Ellis Hobbs had a solid game. It took the Lions all game to realize that they had a huge height advantage with Calvin Johnson and begin to toss the ball up to him. But even when he did beat Eagles on jump balls, it wasn’t against Hobbs.