As bad as last season was, Andy Reid’s offense was never shut out. Chip Kelly wasn’t working with a full deck, but that was no excuse for how ineffective his offense was in the Eagles’ 15-7 loss to the Giants on Sunday. For the second straight week, he wasted a strong effort by the defense and now the Eagles have more uncertainty at quarterback after Michael Vick re-injured his hamstring. Here are some observations off the game:
-- At first, I was hard on Kelly after last week’s 17-3 loss to the Cowboys. But after watching the coach’s tape it was fairly clear that his play-calling did a fine job getting receivers open. Nick Foles just kept missing guys with both his arm and eyes. This week, I was a little harder on Kelly and his scheme, but I held back again because I’m not sure how much was his fault and how much fell on the quarterback’s shoulders. But this is two weeks now that the Eagles have failed to score a touchdown against defenses that aren’t exactly strong. Coordinators are catching onto Kelly’s tendencies and he has to find a way to counter their moves. I delved deeper into that topic in my column for the newspaper. But Vick injury or no Vick injury and Matt Barkley or no Matt Barkley, Kelly’s offense should be able to score at least in double figures with LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and a decent offensive line.
-- Kelly made a number of dubious decisions that others have done a fine job of dissecting, including colleague Mike Sielski. Here’s my quick take on the most obvious ones: Fourth down and 10 at the Giants 32 early in the third quarter and Kelly elected to go for it. A week earlier when the Eagles faced fourth down at the 42 before the half, Kelly had Alex Henery trot out and try a 60 yard field goal. He missed. An attempt on this occasion would have been around 50 yards, but it would have been into the wind. “There was pretty good wind there,” Kelly said. He said special teams coach Dave Fipp suggested that Henery wouldn’t have been able to make it based on pre-game warm-ups. The Eagles trailed, 12-0, at the time. The odds of Henery making a 50 yarder would seem better than Barkley converting on 4th and 10, but I can’t kill Kelly for his decision. A quarter later, the Eagles trailed, 15-0, and faced fourth down and four at the Giants 47 with 10:21 left. “It was a two‑score game,” Kelly said. “So I knew we were going to stop them. I have great confidence in our defense.” I don’t like this decision one bit. Imagine how the offense felt when Kelly opted to punt? The offense had traveled into Giants territory only a few times up until that point and this was an opportunity to get something going. The Eagles defense got the ball back to the offense with just under seven minutes remaining and Barkley moved them back across the 50. But the drive stalled again and Kelly had no other choice but to go for it on 4th and 20 and they failed.
-- There’s been some talk that this could have been the last time we see Vick in Eagles green. Bob Ford made a strong case. I’m not so sure, considering the quarterback situation with Foles still out with a concussion and Barkley obviously not the answer right now. The Eagles are also only one game back in the NFC East after the Cowboys lost. They’re still in this thing. So for those wishing that Kelly would tank the season to get a high draft pick, it’s not going to happen. The Eagles may lose out on their own accord, but as long as the team is in the hunt, there’s a strong chance Vick will be back under center. He still gives the offense its best chance. But he has to be 100 percent. Who knows how long the aging quarterback is healthy again.
-- Barkley did some nice things. He made some good decisions. And many of his throws were on time. But sometimes it feels like an eternity watching his throws sail to their targets. When he was sacked, each time it was because he held onto the ball too long. The sack that forced a fumble after the Eagles had first down and goal showed his limitations as a runner and that he wasn’t very aware of his surroundings. I’m not going to kill the rookie, because he once again was asked to jump in without little preparation. Let’s see how Barkley does next week against the Raiders – and it’s looking like he will start – with a full week of first-team reps.
-- Getting back to Kelly’s decision making, having Barkley drop back on first down at the 2 was a mistake. He said he needed to burn a timeout to relax his quarterback’s nerves, and then he has him roll out on a naked bootleg? Wha-wha-what?
-- A positive: Bill Davis’ defense delivered another strong outing. The Giants kept shooting themselves in the foot in the red zone, but the Eagles certainly had something to do with five field goals and no touchdowns. I’ll have to watch the replay to see who really had the best day, but Connor Barwin and Mychal Kendricks stood out initially. Barwin was credited with only one tackle, but he got into the Giants backfield several times. He forced Eli Manning to ground the ball and batted three passes to the ground. Kendricks had his best game since the opener and registered a team-high 12 tackles
-- Back to the offense, LeSean McCoy is starting to look mortal. His greatness is not in question, but he’s been a different running back with and without Vick during his career. DeSean Jackson finished with eight catches for 63 yards, but he could have picked up a first down in the third quarter when flopping forward probably would have been enough. James Casey caught his second pass of the season, but Brent Celek and Zach Ertz combined for only three more catches for 22 yards. Weren’t Eagles tight ends supposed to be a weapon in Kelly’s offense?
-- A few quickies … Bryce Brown ran three times for -1 yards. What happened to this guy? He hasn’t done squat for most of the season. … Jason Avant was called for pass interference after he caught an 11-yard pass for a first down late in the fourth quarter. The call looked legit. … Riley Cooper caught two passes for 13 yards. … Fletcher Cox had a late sack – his third of the season, tying him with Barwin for the team lead. … Najee Goode recovered a fumble and scored a touchdown after a high Giants snap sailed over the punter's head in the fourth quarter. It was the only highlight of the day and it came courtesy of Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie.