How the 49ers exploited an aggressive Eagles defense on Sunday
Yesterday afternoon was one to forget for the Philadelphia Eagles, losing to the San Francisco 49ers, 17-11. Philly got off to a great start in the first quarter, but their offense quickly fell off and couldn’t get anything done for the remainder of the game. Although it wasn’t high scoring, the 49ers’ found an effective game plan to exploit the Eagles’ defense and grab their second win of the season.
The Eagles’ defensive line looked unstoppable early in the first, getting in the backfield on almost every play. Javon Hargrave had two tackles for loss in the first two drives, and Jimmy Garoppolo was forced to consistently get the ball out early. Kyle Shanahan recognized this early and managed to counterattack the Eagles’ front seven beautifully and left them on their heels for the rest of the game.
The 49ers baited them with screen plays that proved to be very effective in combating the Eagles’ defensive line getting upfield. If you’re unaware, running back screens is when the QB throws the football to the running back behind the line of scrimmage while the offensive line releases their blocks and downfield block for the back. The 49ers also used this same play with tight end George Kittle as well.
A well-executed screen is done when the o-line baits the defensive line far into the backfield, allowing a big opening for the back to gain a good chunk of yards. Now, usually, screens aren’t seen much in a game because the defense catches on early, and they’re rendered useless. But in this situation, the Eagles were so aggressive that they got in their own heads and stopped pushing upfield as much.
So when San Francisco wasn’t running screens, often they were running the ball towards the defensive ends. By doing this, they continue to send pressure towards the line and direct the play at them, but it presents a significant gamble. Either run upfield and stop the run short and risk giving up a huge screen pass or sit and wait for the run and give up 3-5 yards per carry.
For the majority of the second half, this is exactly what the 49ers did. Neither play resulted in more than a first down, but these consistent 10-12 play drives they chewed up the clock and got them in scoring range really hurt the Eagles.
The loss of Brandon Graham off the edge hurt even more, but this is a fixable issue and shouldn’t be a major concern for the season. The primary adjustment doesn’t even come from the defense.
Jalen Hurts and the offense need to put together an average game and put points on the board. In week one, Atlanta executed a ground and pound game phenomenally against the Eagles early but had to adjust because the Eagles’ offense was putting up so many points they couldn’t come back in time with that scheme. This game plan only worked so well because the 49ers drained the clock knowing the Eagles’ offense wouldn’t be able to score.
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