The Philadelphia Eagles had a big night on Monday, defeating the Carolina Panthers 45-21. In his first start in Philadelphia, quarterback Mark Sanchez threw for 332 yards and 2 touchdowns. Almost a third of those yards came on one passing concept. Head coach Chip Kelly called for the Eagles to run Y Cross 6 times. The results were very good. Sanchez was 5/6 for 108 yards (18 yd average) and a touchdown. So let’s look at how Philadelphia was so successful with this concept.
So what is Y Cross? It originated back at BYU with LaVell Edwards in the old west coast offense, but it was made widely popular by Hal Mumme and Mike Leach in the air raid offense. Back before Leach really opened up the offense at Texas Tech, this was the go-to play when Leach and Mumme wanted a deep downfield pass. The concept is good versus both man coverage, with the crosser and backside dig/post. It’s also good versus zone coverage, because it is basically a weakside flood. Here is how Leach ran it in 1999 with Oklahoma; this is his last written playbook.
Over time, the versatility of this concept has made it a favorite for coaches all over the nation. Now, Y Cross is mostly used as a playaction pass concept, with the hope of getting the crosser isolated on a defender in man coverage or wide open if the zone linebackers bite on the run fake. This is how Kelly uses it. Kelly also likes to have a playside slot receiver run a bubble screen rather than an option route. This helps sell the playaction fake even more than normal, because the Eagles package bubble screens with runs so often.
So let’s take a look at how Kelly and the Eagles succeeded with this play versus Carolina.
On their second possession of the game, Kelly called for Y Cross out of a double stack formation on a 2nd and 10.
Here, the Panthers were playing cover 3 defense. This means the two “hole” defenders will be responsible for Brent Celek. The key here was pass protection. Sanchez has plenty of time to stand in the pocket and survey his options.
When Sanchez realized he didn’t have anyone open immediately. He stepped up and to the left in the pocket. This action manipulated the linebackers, and they moved to the right with Sanchez. This movement from the linebackers enabled Celek to come open on the opposite side for a 21 yard gain. Sanchez did a great job to “move” the linebackers to get Celek open. Early in the second quarter, Kelly went back to this play. This time, the Panthers decided to play cover 1: man coverage. Celek was again the crosser. The man defending him was attempting to face guard him.
Sanchez read the defender and threw the ball back shoulder. The pass was perfect and Celek did a good job of finding the ball for a 20 yard gain. On a side note, take a look at the block Chris Polk made. After the playfake, Polk was one on one with an edge rusher. Polk was able to make the block and drive the pass rusher back. This gave Sanchez the time he needed to step up in the pocket and make the pass. Great job by Polk. Later in the same drive, Kelly called for Y Cross once again. This time, Kelly called for Sanchez to roll out to the left after faking the handoff. Here, the Panthers were in what appears to be a form of quarters coverage. The strong safety is responsible for picking up slot receiver Jordan Matthews, the crosser, but he was moved by the run fake and was not ready to cover his man. The flat defender stepped up towards Sanchez to prevent a scramble, so he could not drop to pick up Matthews either. By the time the safety recovered, Matthews was past him and caught a great pass for a score. In the second half, the Eagles came back to this same play. This time they ran it from the double stack formation as before. It appears there was some coverage bust here on the right side of the Panthers defense. The weakside linebacker chased after LeSean McCoy, the back, in man coverage, but the rest of the defense appeared to be playing cover 3 zone.
Also, note the middle linebacker step down on the run fake.With the weakside linebacker chasing McCoy, the Eagles crosser, tight end Zach Ertz, was wide open. The middle linebacker reacted well, but Ertz sat down in the open spot and caught the pass for a gain of 17.
Philadelphia tried the play again on the next snap, but an incomplete pass was ruled intentional grounding and the Eagles were penalized.
Later in the fourth quarter, Kelly called Y Cross for a sixth and final time.Carolina again decided to defend this with cover 1. Celek, once again the crosser, had the favorable matchup. The linebacker guarding him had his hips turned in the wrong direction, as if he was expecting an out breaking route.
Celek was able to cross the defender’s face and get open. Sanchez once again put the ball right on the money and Celek ended up gaining 34 yards.As we see, the Eagles had great success with this play, scoring once and averaging nearly 20 yards per play. Carolina attempted to stop this with multiple coverage schemes, but Sanchez was always able to hit the open crosser.