September 19, 2023   6 MIN READ

Mass Kicked Ass

All 22 Review: Birds Feasted Off Light Boxes To Overwhelm Vikings' Front


Big people beat up little people.

Chip Kelly might not be a popular figure in Philadelphia – justifiably so – but it’s hard to watch the tape of the Eagles’ 34-28 win over the Vikings last Thursday at the Linc and not think about the former Eagles head coach’s favorite simple-but-sound motto.

The Eagles steamrolled the Vikings’ defensive front, churning out 259 yards and average 5.4 yards per carry, with D’Andre Swift carrying 28 times for 175 yards.

Unlike a Shanahan-style offense that comes with all sorts of motions, misdirections and splashy eye candy to keep defenses off balance, the Eagles took a more old-school, ground-and-pound approach that countered Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores’ plan of eliminating the deep ball.

The Vikings played almost exclusively deep zones and positioned their safeties about three miles from the line of scrimmage. Flores threw some zone pressures at the Eagles early before settling into a three-man rush.

Here’s an example from the Eagles’ first offensive possession of how deep Vikings safeties generally played:

For the first 15 minutes, Flores saw success.

Hurts didn’t find his usual 1-on-1 opportunities downfield – save for an under-thrown ball to DeVonta Smith that Smith caught anyway – and struggled to see open targets on intermediary routes.

Sometime in the second quarter, the Eagles’ offensive braintrust got tired of trying to force the passing game, especially as the Vikings kept showcasing light boxes with few down linemen.

The coaches shifted into Chip Kelly mode and powered forward behind the “mass kicks ass” mantra, putting the game plan into the hands of Jeff Stoutland’s running game.

Stoutland was, after all, brought to the Eagles by Kelly.

One of the simplest runs plays in football is inside zone, and with the Vikings having such light boxes and defensive backs nowhere near scrimmage, the Eagles took direct aim at the heart of Minnesota’s defensive front over and over again.

The Eagles used their weight advantage, along with the numerical 8-on-6 mismatch and some curious Vikings alignments, to create huge lanes for their ball carriers.

This first example shows the Vikings rolling out the red carpet as they positioned two linebackers – Jordan Hicks (58) and Ivan Pace Jr. (40) into the A gaps – with just one defensive linemen and two edge defenders in their nickel look.

Watch how moveable the light Vikings’ front is for the left side of the Eagles’ O-line:

Massive left gaurd Landon Dickerson washes down on Pace while massive left tackle Jordan Mailata jumps into the second level to smother another small guy – Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah (33) – while tight end Dallas Goedert seals the edge defender just enough to let Swift scamper through a hole as big as the Red Sea.

This Eagles ran this variation, or a very similar one, again and again and again.

Strangely enough, Flores allowed it to happen, very little adjustments.

Flores’ “amoeba” defense featured a bunch of standup rushers and linebackers manning the gaps, with only a few actual down linemen.

Trying to stop the Eagles run game with lightweight fronts – and with DBs about 20 yards off the line – wasn’t exactly a recipe for success.

Here’s another formation in which the running back – this time Boston Scott – and offensive line capitalized on six Vikings in the box, and linebackers in the A gaps.

Watch again how easily the interior offensive line resets the line of scrimmage while Scott’s path – like Swift’s in the first example – is a simple inside zone.

Again, Dickerson and Mailata – two guys well over 350 pounds – generate push against Vikings LBs as Goedert seals off the back-side defender.

Did anyone even touch Scott for the first five yards?

On this next run design, the Vikings finally put a big guy – nose tackle Khyiris Tonga (95) – over center Jason Kelce, with two other defensive linemen playing with their hands in the dirt.

But .. it’s still just a five-man box against six blockers, giving the Eagles both a numbers advantage and weight advantage.

Nice job by tight Jack Stoll (89) executing a double team on the 5 technique – D.J. Wonnum (98) – before climbing to smother Hicks (58).

Remember, the threat of Hurts to run limits how aggressive the defense can be at the mesh point. You can see Hicks (58) doesn’t immediately swarm as his eyes are on Hurts, giving the Eagles another mathematical advantage and Stoll the opportunity to catch Hicks flat-footed.

Also, right guard Cam Jurgens executed his down block on the nose tackle Tonga as Scott, once again, wasn’t touched for the first eight yards of the carry.

This next Vikings alignment had to have the Eagles’ offensive staff feeling giddy.

It’s another six-man box, with just three on the line, and just two down linemen. On the left side for the Vikings is just one standup rusher – Pat Jones (91) head-up on Lane Johnson, waiting to get double-teamed.

And that’s exactly what happens, even as Jones (91) slides over pre-snap to Johnson’s outside shoulder.

Goedert and Johnson double-team Jones before Goedert leaves to cover up Hicks (58), who again is trying to defend the inside and outside. Hicks is quick, but he’s no match for Swift’s lightning-quick break to the outside.

After he slips past Hicks, Swift has about five more yards of green before the safety can get him.

It’s really amazing how often the Eagles executed simple inside zones against light boxes with deep coverages, and how the Vikings just stuck to the script.

Here’s another six-man box, with three defenders at the line, two overhangs, and a 230-pound MIKE – Pace Jr. – playing off the ball, without the next-closest defender – free safety Cam Bynum (24) – a good 10 yards behind scrimmage.

This is a “dollar” defensive look, with Pace as the only second-level defender.

The Eagles are again going to strike against the ridiculous amount of space on their left side between the 4i – Dean Lowry (94), who lined up across Mailata’s inside shoulder – and Danielle Hunter (99), who’s in a wide-9 stance.

It’s almost too easy, as Mailata washes down on Lowry and Goedert motions in-line to wall off Hunter – really good execution by Goedert – to open another mile-wide lane for Swift, who shows great lateral footwork to picked up at least five extra yards with a cut to his left.

– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for

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