Friday, August 22, 2014
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Eagles-Chiefs: What did we learn?

It didn’t take long for Chip Kelly to suffer the second NFL loss of his career – four days to be exact. While Sunday’s loss could be pinned mostly on the shoulders of the defense, Thursday night’s 26-16 defeat to the Chiefs was mostly on Kelly’s offense and a mistake-filled effort from his quarterback and offensive line. Here are some observations from the game:

Eagles-Chiefs: What did we learn?

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

It didn’t take long for Chip Kelly to suffer the second NFL loss of his career – four days to be exact. While Sunday’s loss could be pinned mostly on the shoulders of the defense, Thursday night’s 26-16 defeat to the Chiefs was mostly on Kelly’s offense and a mistake-filled effort from his quarterback and offensive line. Here are some observations from the game:

-- Kelly faces his first in-season challenge. He has ten days to get his team ready for the Broncos and to show that he can get his players to rebound from what was a sloppy loss. Kelly has never lost two in a row as a head coach. This was a new feeling. Let’s see how much he doesn’t like it. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I think Kelly is too smart to fail, but some things are out of his control. He needs a better quarterback and he needs better talent on defense. The offense can thrive, but the quarterback can’t have three turnovers and take five sacks in one game.

-- The Eagles lost first and foremost because of five turnovers. The Chiefs had zero. It’s actually amazing they lost by only ten. But Kelly’s offense isn’t without its holes, especially with a defense that can’t always get off the field in big spots. The Eagles were nearly doubled in time of possession once again with the Chiefs edging them 39:07 to 20:53. A defense that had played so well for three quarters was taxed by the fourth when the Eagles finally needed a few stops.

-- With the turnovers, mistakes and missed tackles, the game felt a lot like versions from 2011-12. But Andy Reid is gone and he was on the other side of the field and his team, while certainly not perfect, played efficiently. There are still many players left over from those teams and they were the ones that made many of the mistakes – Michael Vick’s two interceptions and fumble, Damaris Johnson’s muffed punt and Jason Kelce’s errant snap that resulted in a fumble. Kelly has changed the culture, but he hasn’t exactly ridded the Eagles of all their old problems.

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-- Kelly’s gets points for aggressiveness, but his two-point conversion made little sense. The Eagles had just scored when Vick hit Jason Avant for a 22-yard touchdown and Kelly had his kicking team line up in a formation you typically only see in college or high school. Kicker Alex Henery was in the shotgun and the Eagles had six men lined up to the far right. “We thought when we scored our first touchdown we were going to try to lineup,” Kelly said. “If the number count was right, we were going to fire it over there and see if we could get it in.” Snapper Jon Dorenbos flung the ball 15 yards or so to Zach Ertz, who had five blockers, but the Chiefs’ Tamba Hali knifed through and dropped him short of the goal line. Kelly said he thought he had favorable numbers. “Yeah, we thought it was,” he said. “Guy came inside and tackled us.” It might be time to bury that play in with the rest of the Oregon trickery that isn’t likely to work at this level.

-- Vick had a rough night. He completed just 13 of 30 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown and had the two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown in the first quarter. His decision making was poor. He could have been picked off a few other times. Vick injured his leg late in the game and had to leave, but he said afterward that he was fine and didn’t appear to be walking with a limp. “I’m good,” he said. “I just got both of my ankles rolled up on. It went away quickly, and I was going to come back in the game.” Vick did rush five times for 95 yards, including a career-high 61-yard tote. “I don’t think Michael was out of sorts,” Kelly said. “I thought Michael did some nice things. We have to do a better job of protecting to set his feet and throw the football.”

-- Kelly seemed to be shifting a lot of the blame away from Vick and onto the offensive line. The unit did not play well after two strong games to open the season. I’ll have to re-watch the game to get a closer look at who did what, but it appeared as if the right side of the line had the most problems. Right tackle Lane Johnson said after the game that he did not play well. The rookie is going to have growing pains. This was just one of what should be many. The Eagles have to remain patient with Johnson. Right guard Todd Herremans has had his struggles this season. I can’t say what he exactly he did wrong in the game, or if his performance was bad overall. But he just doesn’t seem as athletic as he once did. Center Jason Kelce seemed to hold his own one-on-one against nose tackle Dontari Poe, but he had the fumbled snap and another that sailed through Vick’s hands. The first one happened because he said he thought Vick was under center and not in the shotgun.

-- After getting off to the best two-game start of his career, DeSean Jackson floated back to earth. He was targeted seven times and caught only three passes for 62 yards. He said afterward that the Chiefs were playing a lot of single high safety shaded to his side. Jackson said he hardly ever could get beyond the safety. You would have thought that would have opened things up underneath, but only Jason Avant capitalized, grabbing five passes for 87 yards and the one touchdown. Riley Cooper failed to pull in two passes that would have been tough grabs, but ones good receivers make. He finished with just 2 catches for 29 yards.

-- Remember all the talk about the Eagles’ three tight ends and how Kelly was going to throw up three fingers and pound defenses with his three-tight end attack? Well, that hasn’t exactly happened this season. Eagles tight ends combined for just three catches for 23 yards. James Casey, I think, didn’t take an offensive snap. I think I must have written three stories about Eagles tight ends during training camp. The season is still young, but Kelly’s offense either hasn’t exploited the mismatches or the tight ends just haven’t been getting open.

-- Switching over to the defensive side of the ball, Bill Davis came up with a nice game plan to stop Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense. He backed off on the blitzes and forced Smith to throw in tight windows against six, seven and sometimes eight defenders in the secondary. “It worked,” Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said. “That’s Alex Smith. He’s not trying to stick it into tight spots. That’s why he was running around all over the place. Great game plan by Billy, except for a couple of third downs with missed tackles that cost us.” Patrick Chung, Mychal Kendricks and Bradley Fletcher were the most egregious when it came to poor tackling.

-- The Eagles defensive line had a strong outing. Defensive ends Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton were particularly active and got push on run downs and rushes into the backfield. Cox, who isn’t asked to pass rush as much as he did as a rookie, recorded his second sack of the season. Vinny Curry made a mark in his first game. The defensive end was inactive for the first two games, but he got into the backfield a few times, notched a sack and drew a holding penalty in limited action. Outside linebacker Brandon Graham even had a sack.

-- The Eagles safeties continue to be the Achilles heel on defense. Nate Allen wasn’t even the worst safety, which was saying something. He had a sack – his first in three seasons – and didn’t seem to miss any tackles. But Patrick Chung struggled all night. He missed at least four tackles and was out of position a few times. He eventually left with a shoulder injury. Earl Wolff made a few nice stops, but he still has lots to learn.

-- The Eagles special teams had a bad night. The kickoff cover unit allowed a 57-yard return to open the game, Johnson had his muff, the 2-point conversion failed, Donnie Jones didn’t punt all that well, and Henery missed another field goal. He was wide left on a 48-yard attempt a week after missing wide right on a 46-yarder. Kelly said that he wasn’t worried about his kicker, though.

-- A few quickies: LeSean McCoy, despite missing a brief period with an ankle sprain, ran for 158 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. He remains the best player on the team. … Trent Cole recorded his first sack on the season.

Jeff McLane Inquirer Staff Writer
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Birds' Eye View is the Inquirer's blog covering all things Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL.

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