For the third game in a row the Philadelphia Eagles have scored a touchdown on special teams. For the second week in a row they scored on a blocked punt, this time against the St. Louis Rams. How are the Eagles having so much success blocking punts? Let’s look at the All-22 and find out.
The first thing to notice is the Rams’ punt formation. St. Louis has made two slight adjustments from the traditional spread punt formation. The right end lined up beside the right tackle and the right wing moved over to line up in the left slot.
So why are the Rams doing this? They are attempting to use three gunners and only 7 protectors so they can have better punt coverage. NFL rules state that only the end men on the line of scrimmage can go downfield before the ball is punted. In this formation, the split end and tight end can go downfield. But the Rams also have a third gunner as the left slot. He is lined up seven yards behind the line of scrimmage so he can get a running start and be the third gunner. He will hit the line of scrimmage right as the ball is punted, but, unlike the other Rams, he will have a running start and have no protection responsibilities. So basically, this formation gives the Rams a better chance in coverage, but means there is one less player protecting the punter. (Interesting side note: The Rams never went back to this formation after their first punt was blocked.)The Rams are using a very basic zone protection scheme similar to what most NFL teams use. The left wing is responsible for the D gap, the tackles for the C gaps, and the guards for the B gaps. Basically, each player is going to drop back and protect the gap to their outside. The personal protector makes the call for the long snapper to take the left A gap and will take the right A gap himself.
Because of the unorthodox formation, the tight end is not dropping like the rest of the players. He wants to just chip the first man inside him then get downfield in coverage.The problem for St. Louis is very simple. Right guard Eugene Sims blocks down in the A gap rather than protecting the B gap. This resulted in Eagles linebacker Bryan Braman being double teamed in the A gap and tight end Trey Burton coming unblocked through the B gap.
Personal protector Chase Reynolds is now in an impossible situation. He has Burton and tight end James Casey both running right at the punter. Reynolds was supposed to block Casey in the A gap, but because of Sims’ mistake, Reynolds now has two defenders to block.Reynolds choose to block Burton and left Casey free to block the punt. Safety Chris Maragos was able to scoop the ball up and run it in for an easy touchdownWhat the Eagles did on this play is not anything revolutionary. The play call was just a simple 8 man rush. But for the second week in a row, Philadelphia’s players out-executed the opposition and took advantage of a mistake by the punt protecters to block the punt.
This is the fourth special teams touchdown for the Eagles in three weeks. While other aspects of the team have struggled at times this year, the special teams has certainly been a bright spot for Philadelphia.