In many respects the Eagles’ first preseason game under head coach Chip Kelly probably met a lot of expectations. Philly’s offense was potent, be it by quick strike or methodical march. The defense on the other hand is still a work in progress. And not surprisingly, an opponent that’s reached the playoffs nine times in the last 10 years looks far sharper in August than a club that is essentially starting over.
The Birds ultimately fell to the New England Patriots by a final of 31-22, although the result doesn’t matter. The biggest initial take-away from this exhibition is Chip’s squad should be entertaining in 2013. They looked like they can “hang,” at least they did for a quarter or so until the starters began exiting.
Oh, it was shaky during the early-goings for sure. When Stevan Ridley broke off a 62-yard run on the first play from scrimmage for New England, it was shades of last year all over again. That sinking here-we-go-again feeling continued to creep in while the Patriots were finishing off their six-play touchdown drive – all runs. A short few minutes later, the Eagles’ offense were immediately into 3rd and long on their opening possession.
This was worst nightmare stuff. Then they came to life.
Michael Vick found Jason Avant down the seam for 23 yards, a big conversion to keep the series alive. Two plays later he hooked Pats safety Steve Gregory with a ball-fake, then unloaded a perfect 47-yard strike into the hands of DeSean Jackson, who had gained a stride on talented corner Aqib Talib. That connection unofficially went for the first touchdown of the Chip Kelly era.
Things seemed to loosen up from there. Tom Brady took it personally, forcing New England to paydirt once more before hitting the showers. Hey, what did you expect? The guy is amazing.
Then after some back-and-forth, Nick Foles would lead the Eagles on a long scoring drive of his own early in the second quarter, knotting the score at 14 apiece less than 20 minutes into the fray.
You don’t always see that kind of pace in a preseason game, and certainly not the first one of the summer. Brady played for two series. Chip got his up-tempo offense going. For a large portion of the first half, this contest resembled actual football.
As far as the Eagles’ quarterbacks are concerned, Vick did edge out Foles for the night. The four-time Pro Bowler was 4/5 for 94 yards and the score, with one stalled drive. Foles finished 5/6 for 43 ticks, moving the offense into the end zone once, but also had a fumble lost – albeit largely due to a protection breakdown.
Matt Barkely also saw plenty of work. While the rookie was largely unimpressive, he did improve as he got acclimated to the speed of the game, posting an 11/22 for 103 and a TD.
We’ll be exploring more of this game, including individual player evaluations and a look at some of the vanilla schemes we saw over the next couple of days. By and large though we’re already tempted to say this was a successful introduction into the Chip Kelly era.
If you caught the game, as I’m sure many of you did, what are your thoughts? Who or what stood out to you from Chip’s debut?