For three months, all anyone wrote about (rightfully) was Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense and how great it was (and still is). But lose a game because said offense is too good, too efficient… well, it’s time to question that strategy, because there are columns inches to fill, old sport!
We live in a world in which we’re constantly bombarded by messages that tell us faster is better. The truth is that sometimes slower is better, especially when faster means you’re going to have to count on the leaky Eagles defense to win the game. We all saw how that worked out during Sunday’s loss in the final seconds to the San Diego Chargers at Lincoln Financial Field.
Kelly was asked if the offense should have slowed down on its final possession of the game.
“Yeah, when you look at it in hindsight, we didn’t score,” he said.
That’s another insight into the rookie coach’s mind. The Eagles actually did score. Alex Henery’s 32-yard field goal tied the game at 30-30, but Kelly’s offensive mentality is all about touchdowns. Field goals are a defeat, and this one certainly led to Sunday’s loss.
No… the Eagles’ terrible defense led to the loss. So did DeSean Jackson taking a dumb penalty on the previous drive, which led to the Chargers getting great field position.
The Eagles offense being too good is not a real problem. Could they have gone slower, more rhythmically with a focus placed on her pleasure? Yes, in fact they could have. But they didn’t. They did what they do best and the drove the field for a game-tying field goal in a pressure situation.
We should really talk to the players about this, Bob. Get their thoughts. Oh, good:
His players didn’t feel that way. They have been programmed to go fast, and it made no sense to them to slow down when they were down by three points.
“Why would we milk the clock when we’re not winning?” wide receiver Jason Avant asked. “We’re a firm believer that you win games in this league. You don’t try not to lose. The teams that play scared, they usually lose.”
Astute observation by Avant. Agree, old sport?
The Eagles were playing to win, and you really shouldn’t be thinking too much about the clock when you’re behind. It would have been different if the Eagles were tied as they embarked on that final drive.
You do agree. So… then… why write a column questioning the Eagles for scoring too quickly on Sunday if that’s what they should have done?
At some point, going slower is going to be better for the Eagles because they’re going to need to drain those precious final minutes from the clock when they do have a lead. They weren’t very good at doing that in the season opener at Washington, but Kelly said it will not be a problem for an offense that loves to go fast.
“It’s not difficult at all,” he said.
Time will tell.
I’m convinced that no football coach will ever succeed in this town precisely because of stuff like this. This an entire column questioning a strategy that is widely regarded as a strength. In this particular case, the author himself agrees with it. The Eagles were losing. You can’t run down the clock when you’re losing, save for perhaps when there’s under a minute remaining and a game-winning field goal is in range. If the Eagles would’ve slowed things down and not scored, you know how this column would’ve read. You also know how it would’ve read during the Reid era, because Reid couldn’t muster a late-game drive if a box of helpless doughnuts stranded on a lone counter depended on it. People would have been (rightfully) killing Reid because he has no idea how to draw up a successful two-minute drill.
Kelly admitted that he could’ve, perhaps, been more situationally aware, and Brookover made a good point about how if Reid admitted to not knowing a timeout rule that would’ve allowed Michael Vick to come back into the game during a crucial play, which Kelly did at his press conference yesterday, there would have been pitchforks at the NovaCare Complex. But focusing on whether the Eagles are too efficient for their own good is crazy. They put up over 500 yards of total offense and drove the field in the final minutes to tie the game. You can’t complain about that.
Complain about the defense.
Which Brookover did on Monday. But he again focused on the clock management issues, which slightly misses the mark:
Kelly routinely dismisses time of possession as an important statistic, but on this day the Chargers had the ball twice as long (40:17 to 19:43) as the Eagles.
“Yeah, but I think it’s also our responsibility to get them off the field,” he said. “You can’t just sit there and say we were on the field too long. Part of our responsibility is we’ve got to get them off the field.”
If you can’t, then there is some relevance to time of possession whether Kelly wants to admit it or not. The Chargers went 10 for 14 on third-down conversions, excluding their final possession, when they simply used third down to place the ball where Novak wanted it for the game-winning kick.
It’s not about the time of possession– it’s about the snaps. Indeed there is usually a strong correlation between the two. And indeed the Chargers smoked the Eagles in that department on Sunday– 79-58. But merely looking at the time of possession figures will not always be telling. Kelly knows that he’ll often lose that battle but win the snaps battle thanks to his up-tempo offense. That’s what matters. The Eagles are built to score a lot and score quickly. They’ll be successful doing that as long as they A) don’t squander opportunities, like they did on Sunday, and B) FORCE MORE THAN ONE PUNT IN A GAME! But you can’t change the offense to compensate for the defense.