So much for the idea that, by season's end, the league would be renamed the CKFL (That's Chip Kelly Football League). The media did a whole lot of squawking all week, but we Eagles fans that follow the team understood that this was a work in progress and that last week was just one step in that progress.
And while the offense this week looked very different from last week's (almost no bubble screening, very few designed runs by Vick, and less Shady out of the backfield) it was still a high octane and ultimately successful scheme. Which is promising. 30+ points against NFL opponents in consecutive weeks speaks highly of what this offense can do.
I led with that pleasant paragraph because I am going to talk about the defense now. If you like homer-talk and and an all around celebratory attitude about everything Eagle... you maybe wanna stop reading now:
They stunk. This was a performance that left me longing for the good old days of 2012 when the Eagles were prone to giving up massive, backbreaking plays. At least it spared me the Sisyphean task of hoping for the best on set-of-downs after set-of-downs after set-of-downs all the while knowing there was no chance. That someone would be open. That that someone would be beyond the yellow line. Reliving it now is making me angry. I digress.
SOME (bad) NOTICINGS:
1. WANTED: NFL SAFETY. Someone, after my last week's debriefing, actually commented that I was wrong about our group of safeties (I singled them out as a weak point in Week 1). I'd like to see if that commenter's sentiment stands. Not only was Nate Allen's performance one of the worst I can remember from an Eagle at any position at any time, but Patrick Chung and Earl Wolff weren't worlds ahead. After the game, Coach Kelly commented on the dearth of free agent talent at the position. If your head coach even utters a thought about the free agents available at your position in the middle of the season... you must not be doing very well. I think it's time to stop looking for talent and just start looking for a safety who has played an NFL snap. Or one who hasn't, but really thinks he could. Or one who isn't even sure he could. Anything, really.
2. Chip misplayed another challenge, challenging a fairly obviously caught ball. He'll get the hang, I'm sure, of the little nuances that aren't part of the college game. He just needs to go ahead and make it happen. The blown challenge wasn't the most egregious: It was Chip's misuse of the two-minute warning (another device Coach never had to work with in college.) We love the pace. We love it, we really do. But the safe (and correct) play in that situation is to let the clock run to the warning, run some time off the clock, and prepare to score with so little time that, if you are forced to settle for a field goal (which they were) you do it with just enough time that the other team has no choice but to kneel and head to OT. In the hurry to get a play off before the warning, the players seemed unsure which they would do: let it run? Call a play? The play was called, it was hectic, and it got Mike Vick and Brent Celek banged up. Which led to a rather meaningless Nick Foles snap (I say meaningless because with no warming up and no practice snaps and no warning there is no way they Eagles were going to let Foles throw anything other than the risk free, deep fade which he was probably told to throw erring toward the sideline so as not to risk anything). Which then brought the two-minute warning... and Mike Vick came back.... and instead of First and 10 with 2:00 (had Chip gone the traditional way) we had 3rd and 10 with 1:58 remaining. Not a great trade, really.
3. The penalties sure do need to stop soon. The unforced ones (like illegal procedures that bring back touchdowns) are truly infuriating to see.
4. I've mentioned the safeties. But the entire defense needs to be called out a bit. The total lack of pressure (kudos to the Chargers for picking up every blitz as if they had watched the tape of this game all week) was disheartening. And how, when rushing three (read: dropping 8 into coverage) do men get as wide open as Eddie Royal was on his second TD? Or was it his third? First? Ninth? All a blur, really. The combination of no pressure and no coverage on the back-end led a game wherein Philip Rivers was essentially able to drive the Chargers down the field not just as he pleased, but also when he pleased, at what pace he pleased, and so forth. There were times when I swear he was just hesitating in the pocket trying to decide which open receiver to toss the ball to this time.
I want to point out that, despite all the bad, a lot of credit has to go to Philip Rivers and the Chargers. They were terrific. If you watch a full slate of games on Sunday, you will hardly see any with fewer poor throws, miscommunications, missed blocking assignments, etc than the Chargers produced. The opportunities were there because of the Eagles' defense playing very poorly... but credit to the Chargers for taking advantage of nearly every opportunity they had.
OKAY, THERE WERE SOME (good) NOTICINGS:
Heck. It wasn't all bad. In fact a lot of it was quite reassuring.
1. Get that ball! Another day where the Eagles proved effective at taking the ball away from folks. After last year's laughable 13 takeaways it's nice to see the Eagles on pace for 40. If you can't stop em with, you know, tackles or coverage or whatnot... take that ball!
2. Brandon Boykin looks good. Good coverage, comparatively. Great hustle on the strip of Gates. He just looks like one of those ball players who knows how to play the game and plays it the right way. Great to see him on the field as much as he was and I hope his play, in this stint, convinces the staff that he needs to be out there pretty much all the time. Between he and Cary Williams (these refs today didn't like physical cornerback play... but that's another topic) I think the corners are in better shape than they were a year ago.
3. Mike Vick remains a delight in this offense. It's hard to imagine, right now, that there was a time when it was very realistic to people that he'd lose his job.
4. The biggest positive of all is that another week has gone by where it looks like the Eagles offense is going to be one of the most potent in football. So long as the scheme develops, the Eagles are a mediocre defense away from contending.
We've got a few short days before Big(ger) Red(der) comes to town with his band of very talented Chiefs. For whatever reason, this game feels like a real litmus test to me: If the Eagles look good on short rest against a talented team on Thursday... I'm feeling good about where we are three games into the Chip Kelly era.
Until then... 1-1.