On the second drive of the preseason game last week against Carolina, the Eagles faced a 3rd and 4 at the Panthers' 33 yard line. They ran it, picked up 5 yards, and got a first down.
Huh? You're allowed to do that?
The play was broken down by Sheil Kapadia of Philly Mag, although his focus was on the Eagles' usage of 4 tight ends on the play, which is absolutely worth checking out. Within that post, Sheil noted that the Panthers only had 5 players in the box, which he counted off here:
Sheil explained that the Eagles had the option to either run or pass, depending on the numbers:
The decision-making process for the quarterback here is simple. He has the option to hand the ball off or throw a screen to either side, depending on the numbers. In the box, Nick Foles is looking for a 5-on-5 matchup to run the ball. And that’s exactly what he gets.
So they ran it. Chip Kelly's offense is often thought of as complex, and in some ways it is, but in terms of just taking what the defense is giving, it's very simple. Here's something I noted about that game:
It was fun (& easy) guessing if the Eagles were going to run or pass last night. All you had to do was look at the # of defenders in the box
— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) August 16, 2013
This way of thinking is of course in contrast to the way Andy and Marty attacked 3rd and mid-to-short situations. During Reid's tenure, if the Eagles got into 3rd and 4 or 3rd and 3, you could pretty much count on a pass. Here's a breakdown of Reid's tendency to pass on 3rd and 4 and 3rd and 3:
Those numbers are high, especially considering a number of the times the Eagles ran in those situations were likely runs by Donovan McNabb or Michael Vick, as opposed to situations in which the Eagles were taking advantage of the numbers and just physically getting first downs with their OL beating defenders in front of LeSean McCoy and Brian Westbrook.
This season, if the offensive line has a "hat-on-hat" advantage, there's a good chance the Eagles are going to run it. That will ultimately make defenses respect the run threat, which will make passing in those situations much easier.