Nick Sirianni called it the “grimiest, longest meeting” the Eagles have every week.
And he loves it.
“You might have to ask some of the other guys if they love that meeting,” Sirianni joked, “because it can be a grind.”
Every Wednesday night, Sirianni sits down with his coaching staff for sometimes 3 or 4 hours in a meeting completely dedicated to what he calls the “low red zone,” the area of the field near the goal line where space is at a minimum and the importance of every detail is magnified.
Everything matters in that area of the field and it’s so important. Which is why they spend so much time on it during this meeting.
“We all come out of there with our eyes wide open and like, that was a long meeting, but we know it’s going to be worth it,” Sirianni said. “Shoot, if we can score from 30 yards out, we’ll do that. Then you might not have to use that plan. But when stuff like that happens it’s so exciting, because just the amount of time and the grind that it is. Man, I love that meeting. I love that meeting.”
It’s a lot of work for a situation that doesn’t come up as often as you might expect based on the time devoted to it. But these are huge, game-changing, season-changing plays. Sirianni pointed out that these are really four-point plays, the difference between a touchdown and a field goal. And sometimes they’re worth even more.
Like on Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis, when late in the fourth quarter the Eagles converted on a 3rd-and-goal from the Colts’ 7-yard line. The game-winning touchdown run from Jalen Hurts was set up from some plays earlier in the game but that wrinkle was set up in those Wednesday meetings.
“Obviously, our job is to put the players in position to succeed and to get the ball to the players that we believe will help us succeed the most,” Sirianni said. “Jalen was on fire right then at that point and made a great play to get in and the guys blocked their butts off.”
While the Eagles have had plenty of offensive struggles the last two weeks — a lot to clean up — they have pulled off two incredibly impressive plays in that low red zone area. Last week was the jump pass to Dallas Goedert and this week was the QB draw from Hurts.
On both of those plays, the Eagles utilized Hurts’ ability/threat as a runner and were able to fool the defense because of what they had already put on tape.
The game-winner on Sunday was beautifully designed. Earlier in the game, the Eagles ran a couple QB draws with the running back as the lead blocker and a pulling Jason Kelce out in front. But on the game-winner, the Eagles got the Colts to cheat to where they expected Hurts to run. The D-lineman and linebacker flowed to the defensive left.
The middle of the field completely opened up for Hurts, who was able to scamper through for the touchdown.
The Eagles’ Fran Duffy did a great job breaking down these plays and in the process saved me a lot of time. (Thanks, Fran!):
Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin noted that the Eagles normally run their QB draw plays out of an empty set. So this game was already a little different. And once the Colts thought they caught up to it, the Eagles added another wrinkle when Hurts didn’t follow his blockers.
“We scouted them,” Franklin said. “Against us they use the back as a lead blocker and swinging Kelce as well for two lead blockers. It’s tough because against [Washington], he did the jump pass. So, I didn’t want to leave three and give up the touchdown. Really, just a good call by them. Just have to better in that situation.”
Franklin on this play had to respect the chance of a pass, which is why he couldn’t fill the middle of the field. And with the other linebacker flowing, there was a lot of space. Like Franklin, veteran defensive end Yannick Ngakoue also tipped his cap to the Eagles’ coaching staff for calling something that caught them off guard.
On Sunday against the Colts, the Eagles were just 1-for-2 in the red zone, settling for a field goal in the second quarter. But they made their second trip count with that impressive play on 3rd-and-goal from the 7.
“Yeah, that was one that was in the bag and we pulled it out, and I think we pulled it out at the right time, at the right game,” Hurts said. “You know, we work really hard to try and get on the same page, go out there, execute. One, knowing what we’re going to execute, knowing how we’re going to execute it, and knowing why we want to execute the play. And hell of a call by coach. Hell of an execution by the O-linemen. We found a way.”
For the season, the Eagles have scored touchdowns on 71.4% of their trips to the red zone, which ranks fourth in the NFL. And they’re also scoring touchdowns 85.7% of the time when the reach a goal-to-go scenario, tied for fifth in the league. Both of those success rates are considerably higher than the league averages — 57.0% and 72.4%.
Who cares if some of the coaches are a little sleepy after a 4-hour meeting?
All that hard work has been paying off.
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