It took three quarters, but Philadelphia finally began going to its zone-read rushes in the fourth quarter on Sunday during the Eagles’ 34-20 win against Detroit.
And it changed the game.
Perhaps no play shifted things more than LeSean McCoy's 57-yard run in the fourth quarter, a touchdown where Detroit’s once-stout run defense fell completely apart, part of a fourth quarter when the Lions couldn’t stop anything or any rusher the Eagles used.
It was the second big touchdown rush of the game for Philadelphia, and was the last time the Lions had the lead Sunday.
Everything Detroit tried to do on the play essentially failed.
The Eagles lined up in shotgun with 13:24 left in the fourth quarter and the Lions up, 20-14. They had McCoy to the right of quarterback Nick Foles and three receivers to the left side, the side McCoy would eventually try to run to.
Detroit had its nickel package on the field, including two defensive backs playing within two yards of the line of scrimmage. Foles snapped the ball and used a zone-read to eventually give the ball to McCoy moving forward behind the left side of his offensive line.
At the time the ball was snapped, the Eagles' offensive line also had a good jump on the Detroit defensive front. Nick Fairley was blocked wide to open the hole for McCoy, and he was also blocked into linebacker DeAndre Levy, essentially taking him out of the play as well.
This was only the start of Detroit’s issues on the play.
“It was just a missed run fit, somebody was in the wrong gap and they split us,” Levy said.
This opened up a hole for McCoy, who was already at the second level and almost the third level of the defense. This was what he did much more effectively in the fourth quarter -- he essentially made one cut and then accelerated forward.
Meanwhile, the Lions were struggling with assignments and tackles.
“They lost gap integrity a couple times,” Philadelphia center Jason Kelce said. “That’s when you saw Shady (McCoy) get those big runs.”
Once McCoy got past the initial line, Stephen Tulloch was slow on his read of the run, taking him out of the play. Ndamukong Suh appeared to be held early on the play as well, but he likely wasn’t going to be able to get there fast enough to make the play at the line.
What turned this particular run into a touchdown was receiver Jason Avant. The veteran was downfield and had Detroit nickel back Bill Bentley blocked well. What sealed the touchdown was the angle safety Louis Delmas took to the ball.
It appeared Delmas was heading the opposite direction of McCoy anyway, but then Avant blocked Bentley into Delmas, knocking him off track as well. Delmas then tried to catch McCoy, as did Willie Young from the back side of the run on the line, but neither could catch him.
“Missed tackles, missed tackles,” Delmas said. “You’ve got to find a way to get the ball on the ground. You’ve got to grab cloth or pick up a snowball and hit him in the back of the head with it.
“But you’ve got to find a way and we didn’t.”
Young actually ended up being the closest player to McCoy when he reached the end zone. Delmas dove for him after the mistake and missed, and Rashean Mathis couldn’t catch up with him, either.
It was just part of what Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said were 180 yards after missed tackles Sunday. And part of what was a record-setting day from McCoy.
“The guys up front gave me opportunities one-on-one by blowing those guys off the ball,” McCoy said about his running game in general. “I think everybody was so intimidated and scared up front, but I thought the big guys on my team took the challenge and stepped up.
“The whole week they talked about just running the ball and giving me different matchups one-on-one. Not only myself, but with the backs that we have, I think in one-on-one opportunities, we’re going to win. (Sunday), that’s what happened.”