With Carson Wentz out, the Philadelphia offense has flourished with the use of a run-pass options. Expertly executed by quarterback Nick Foles, whose misdirections with a fake handoff rivals Steve DeBerg’s mastery of play-action, the Eagles can catch defenses flat-footed as they hesitate to commit to defending the run or defending the pass.
So how will the Patriots handle it? Safety Devin McCourty addressed it on Wednesday.
“You can’t free up and just go to the ball because you still have to cover your guy because he’s not blocking,” McCourty told reporters. “He’s running a route. So for you, it’s a pass play. For the six or seven guys in the box it might be a total run look, so you might not gain any help underneath because they’re playing the run. Individually, matchup-wise, if we’re in man-to-man or it’s a zone and a guy is in our zone we’ve got to be sound and be able to play what we’re getting. It’s a run-pass option, so it could be a run. But if you’re getting a pass play in coverage then you need to play the pass. When the pass comes up you’re ready to play, and the guys up front that play the run have to play the run.”
The explanation demonstrates the brilliant simplicity of the dilemma the run-pass option creates. It takes guesswork that usually happens before the snap and extends it as long as possible after the play begins, giving a guy like Foles a chance to decide whether the defense is leaning one way or the other before finally declaring whether the ball will move on the ground or through the air.
Yes, the Patriots will have a plan for it, given two weeks to prepare. Even if the plan is executed perfectly, a quarterback who executes the option even more perfectly will always have the edge.