When I re-watched the Eagles' loss to the Cowboys, it seemed pretty obvious that Tony Romo and the Dallas offense had a lot of success against the blitzes Sean McDermott threw at them.
So I took some notes, and here's what I found out.
When the Eagles blitzed:
** Romo was 16-for-23 for 234 yards and an interception.
** The most devastating play against the blitz was the 64-yard completion to Patrick Crayton. Joselio Hanson and Will Witherspoon went after Romo on that play, Tracy White got tripped up in coverage, and the Cowboys had a big play to set up a field goal before halftime.
** As was the case against the Giants, Witherspoon was the most frequent blitzer, rushing the quarterback 13 times. Moise Fokou was behind him, blitzing 10 times. The others: Akeem Jordan (8); Tracy White (6); Sean Jones (3); Quintin Mikell (3); Hanson (1); Sheldon Brown (1).
** Only one of the Eagles' four sacks came on a play where they blitzed.
** The Eagles blitzed cornerbacks twice. One was the 64-yarder to Crayton. The second was a 6-yard completion to Jason Witten when Brown blitzed.
** On one play, Witherspoon rushed off the edge, and Trent Cole and Chris Clemons came up the middle. Romo got rid of the ball for an 8-yard completion to Tashard Choice.
** On another play, they blitzed Fokou, but only rushed three (Mike Patterson and Broderick Bunkley). Cole and Jason Babin dropped back into coverage. Juqua Parker dropped back into coverage on a separate play.
** In short, the Eagles did not have success blitzing Romo. They didn't get there in time, and he made good reads and good throws against the pressure.
When the Eagles didn't blitz:
** Romo wet 5-for-10 for 83 yards and a touchdown.
** Keep in mind that the 49-yard touchdown to Miles Austin came on a play where the Eagles did not blitz. Take that one away, and Romo was just 4-for-9 for 39 yards when the Eagles didn't blitz.
** Notice I categorized this section "When the Eagles didn't blitz" as opposed to "When the Eagles rushed four." That's because McDermott really switched up how many down linemen he had in the game. There were plays when the Eagles had five down linemen, and plays when they had two down linemen.
** On the Austin TD, in fact, the Eagles had five down linemen - Clemons, Darren Howard, Antonio Dixon, Jason Babin, and Cole. Witherspoon was up near the line of scrimmage, and it looked like he was responsible for Choice. I just noticed on that play that Witten blocked Cole one-on-one.
** Three of the Eagles' four sacks came on plays when they didn't blitz. Three of the sacks came from defensive linemen - Juqua Parker, Babin and Cole.
So why am I writing about this now? Four days after the game?
Because with Hanson (and Ellis Hobbs) out of the lineup, pressure on the quarterback is going to be key over the next four games, specifically on third downs. It will be interesting to see if McDermott dials back the blitzes (unlikely) or continues to send guys after the quarterback.
At any rate, when they do blitz, they'll need to have more success against Philip Rivers than they had against Romo if they want to beat the Chargers.
Making this issue even more intriguing is the fact that Jordan's injury could create more musical chairs among the linebackers.
I have the Chargers-Giants game from last week DVR'd and am going to take a look tonight or tomorrow for some observations on San Diego. I'll specifically try to watch how New York went after Rivers, and when he had the most success.
Pick tonight: 49ERS (-3.5) over Chicago