More Sports:

December 21, 2015

Eagles' coaching staff got taken to school on 4th-and-1 stop against the Cardinals

Eagles NFL
122115BruceAriansChipKelly Matt Rourke/AP

Fun fact: Bruce Arians' ear is 97% larger than Chip Kelly's.

With 50 seconds left in the second quarter Sunday night against Arizona, the Eagles faced a difficult decision on 4th and 1 from the Cardinals' 8-yard line. Should they go for it, or not? The Eagles faced a 17-10 deficit, and they were playing what is conservatively one of the five best teams in the NFL, which raises the incentive to gamble. They were also at home, so they didn't have to deal with crowd noise.

The decision to go for it was not egregious at all. However, several things that occurred leading up to the play itself show that Chip Kelly and his staff were taken to school by the Cardinals' coaching staff.

The Eagles had a run play called, similar to one that was run by the Cincinnati Bengals against the Cardinals earlier in the season. The Bengals were able to score on their play, so the Eagles ran their own version it.

"We were watching film, and the Bengals had some success on that play, so we tried to emulate it," said Lane Johnson. "Maybe they caught onto it."

Here was the play the Bengals ran in a goal line situation against the Cardinals four weeks ago:

You can see why the Eagles wanted to emulate it. From the end zone view, look at the size of the hole that opened up:

When the Eagles came up to the line on their 4th-and-1 play, here's what their formation looked like. Take note of the Cardinals' safety lined up almost 10 yards off the line of scrimmage, in the end zone. We'll come back to him later in the post:

Cardinals safety

After the Eagles showed their alignment, the Cardinals called a timeout so that they could adjust to what the Eagles were showing, and call a new defensive play accordingly.

If you'll note above, the Eagles came out in a formation in which Sam Bradford was taking a snap from under center. On the season, the Eagles have run 79 total plays from under center. Only eight (10.1%) of them have been pass plays. Of the eight, two resulted in interceptions and three resulted in sacks. In other words, not only have the Eagles not run many pass plays from under center, they have been extremely ineffective when they have tried.

Any opponent the Eagles face will almost certainly be aware of the Eagles' tendencies to run when the quarterback is under center, and they'll know that they have failed when they have tried to pass.

Once the Cardinals called timeout, Chip Kelly and Co. should have immediately recognized that the Cardinals had a beat on the play. Nope. Instead, when the Eagles came out of the break, they came out in the exact same formation. This time, however, the Cardinals took that safety, and everyone else for that matter, and stuck them in the box. Clearly, they expected a run, and were selling out to stop it:

Cardinals safety 2

Because really, put yourself in the Cardinals' situation. Why would you ever respect a pass with Sam Bradford under center, in this formation?

• You already know they are 90% likely to run, based on their season history.

• The Eagles' receivers were Riley Cooper and Nelson Agholor. The Eagles didn't even have their best receiving threat, Jordan Matthews, on the field.

• Want to try to complete a pass for a first down or touchdown to Agholor against Patrick Peterson? Go ahead.

• Want to try to complete a pass for a first down or touchdown to Cooper against... anyone? Be my guest.

And so, the Eagles ran their play, and as we saw, it went nowhere:

"LOL, they still tried to run it," said Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians from the sideline, probably.

After the Eagles motioned Cooper across the formation and into a position in which he was the lead blocker, the Cardinals had 10 guys in the box. In fact, the guy who was covering Cooper (Jerraud Powers) was the guy who made the play.

Cardinals box

The design of the play actually wasn't all that bad, and the Eagles blocked reasonably well. If you block it up reasonably well, it should be a first down. However, because the Cardinals were not respecting the pass at all, the Eagles were at a disadvantage in the numbers game. Cooper stalemated with a linebacker, forcing the 5-10, 192-pound Powers to step up and stop Mathews. Normally, you would hope the 230-pound back would win that matchup.

"We had Ryan in there, who is a 230-pound back," Chip Kelly said after the game.

Well, that's great that he's 230 pounds. He could be 250, 280, or 350 pounds, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's a good short-yardage back. You know who is, despite all his faults? DeMarco Murray. On the season, Murray has been perfect on his 3rd/4th and short opportunities. Mathews, meanwhile, hasn't:

 3rd/4th and shortAtt Yards TD First downs 
 DeMarco Murray15 88 15 
 Ryan Mathews

That would be 15-of-15 for Murray, and just 3-of-8 for Mathews.

So what about Sam Bradford? Should he have checked out of the play into a pass? Kelly has been adamant that the quarterback is allowed to audible, which is easy to say, except, has anyone actually seen him do it?

I have no inside knowledge here, but it feels a lot like the Eagles worked all week on their version of the Bengals' play, and come hell or high water, they were going to run that in a key short-yardage situation no matter what. 

And they got schooled.

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski

Add some PhillyVoice RSS feeds.