To blitz or not to blitz? Eagles have foes questioning

YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Posted: October 03, 2012

After three games in which Michael Vick was blitzed endlessly to great success, Andy Reid was asked last week if he should expect a steady stream of blitzing from opposing defenses. The Eagles coach gave the obvious answer based on his quarterback's 39 passer rating against the blitz: Yes, defensive coordinators around the league would send extra pass rushers until Vick and the Eagles found a way to take advantage of the blitz like many top quarterbacks.

They may have ended the onslaught, or at least made other teams think twice, after negating the blitz in Sunday night's 19-17 victory over the Giants. The Giants, like the Eagles, don't often rely on the blitz. But they attacked Vick for much of the first half and were mildly successful. But the quarterback still hit some big plays - a 32-yard heave to DeSean Jackson, a 17-yard hookup with Damaris Johnson when he was the "hot" receiver, and a 19-yard pickup to Jackson on the Eagles' game-winning drive.

In the end, Vick was 8 of 12 for 125 yards and a touchdown when the Giants blitzed 16 times, according to Pro Football Focus. He also ran twice for positive yards. Vick was sacked twice and still had some issues recognizing the corner blitz, but he was much more decisive when the Giants sent extra men. Most important, he didn't turn the ball over, hence the two sacks he took in the red zone in the fourth quarter.

Conversely, Giants quarterback Eli Manning entered the game with a 114.8 rating against the blitz. But he wasn't able to sustain that level when the Eagles blitzed him nine times. Manning completed five passes for 77 yards and did not toss a touchdown.

Rewind the tape

One way to handle the blitz is to max protect. On the Eagles' lone touchdown, the Giants sent the house after Vick, rushing seven and employing an eighth defender as a spy. The Eagles kept running back LeSean McCoy, fullback Stanley Havili and tight end Brent Celek into block on third down and 9 at the New York 19.

McCoy pushed linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, who rushed off the edge, upfield, while Celek blocked defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul deep. The interior of the line, meanwhile, held off the rush, which allowed Vick to step up in the pocket.

At the snap, Jackson lined up just outside the slot, while receiver Jeremy Maclin was split wide. The Giants had cornerbacks on each and a safety deep. The two Eagles receivers criss-crossed, and Jackson turned cornerback Corey Webster around. Safety Antrel Rolle was late to react, and Vick feathered a pass to a wide-open Jackson in the corner of the end zone.

In the spotlight

1. Fullback is not a glamorous job, but Havili did plenty to warrant some kudos. Most impressive was how he blocked ahead of McCoy in the second half. Havili had a key kick-out block on Giants linebacker Michael Boley during McCoy's 34-yard burst. He then got out in space and decked corner Prince Amukamara on the tailback's 22-yard run on the next play. There were other examples, too, like his straight ahead block for Bryce Brown when he rushed 4 yards for a first down. Havili also showed his running ability, taking two inside handoffs for 15 yards on the game-winning drive.

2. It was another difficult week for Demetress Bell. The left tackle had a difficult assignment fending off Osi Umenyiora and Pierre-Paul for most of the night. But it wasn't just that Bell couldn't contain the ends. There were times when he appeared to flat-out miss an assignment like when Umenyiora raced into the backfield unblocked in the third quarter. Luckily for Bell, Vick scrambled past the Giant and gained 18 yards. He had a few solid moments in pass protection, but his most significant contribution may have been when a blitzing Rolle tripped over Bell's foot in the fourth quarter. The safety had a clear path to Vick, but he fell just before the quarterback tossed a 23-yard pass to Jason Avant.

3. Cullen Jenkins had his best game of the season. The 31-year-old defensive tackle looked his age in the first three games and was in danger of losing playing time. He said after the game that his coaches challenged him last week. Jenkins had the most snaps (46) of the defensive tackles and made good use of them. He recorded four tackles, had the Eagles' only tackle for loss and got great push up the middle for much of the game.

Stat sheet

Jackson's receiving numbers this season as opposed to last don't completely tell the story of how much better he's playing. Jackson opened last season with 16 catches for 324 yards and one touchdown. Here are his numbers through four games this season: 20 catches for 333 yards and one touchdown. The statistics are similar, but Jackson is making the tough catches that he occasionally did not pull in last year. He dropped nine of 67 "catchable" passes last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Jackson hasn't dropped one of 20 this season.

This and that

The Eagles kickoff cover unit was atrocious on Sunday, but the other units haven't been much sharper. The Giants must have seen some cracks on the Eagles punt team. They went after punter Mat McBriar early and nearly blocked two kicks.

DeMeco Ryans delivered another solid outing against the run, but he was exploited a few times in pass coverage. He was late to react to Manning's 14-yard touchdown throw to receiver Victor Cruz and appeared to make the wrong read when tight end Bear Pascoe was wide open for a 6-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

Alex Henery's kickoffs, on average, landed 3 yards deep into the end zone. He did not have a touchback.

The Eagles called for a quarterback draw on third down and 13 in the second quarter with McCoy as Vick's lead blocker. Vick was stopped a yard short.

Giants receiver Domenik Hixon appeared to get away with offensive pass interference when Manning threw an errant pass into the end zone just before the half. The pass went to Eagles Brandon Hughes and Hixon grabbed the cornerback's jersey.

The Giants found some holes in the Eagles' wide-nine defensive front during their opening drive of the second half, gaining 25 yards on five carries. They gained 32 yards on 14 carries the rest of the time.

Point after

Here's a subjective look at the three pass-interference calls on the Giants' final drive:

The first call on Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie was legit. He got beat and put his right arm around receiver Ramses Barden's waist. The Giants receiver did grab Rodgers-Cromartie's face mask as they got tangled up at the line, but it was as egregious as the cornerback's interference.

Nnamdi Asomugha got jobbed three plays later when he was flagged for interfering with Barden, who ran an inside slant. He may have grabbed the receiver a little too long off the line, but illegal contact wasn't the call. Interference was.

Two plays later, the officials may have paid Asomugha back when they called Barden for interference on a second-down corner fade with 25 seconds left. Asomugha boxed Barden toward the sideline, while the receiver retaliated by grabbing his helmet. Both players seemingly committed penalties and the best course would have been a no-call on the incomplete pass.

What Andy said

On whether Rodgers-Cromartie should have kneeled down after intercepting a pass from Eli Manning:

"Well, there's a time and a place for everything, so he'll have a chance to look at it on tape and see the situation."

What Andy meant

"Well, there's a time and place for everything, so he'll have a chance to look at it on tape and see the situation after I make him watch it Clockwork Orange-style with his eyelids forcefully opened by toothpicks."

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|