It’s only preseason, and believe me, the Eagles still have plenty of kinks to work out. A pair of turnovers cost the offense an opportunity to jump all over the opponent early, an opponent that may have left the defense off the hook a few times due to their own inefficiency.
When the gun sounded though, Chip Kelly had his first win as an NFL head coach – unofficially of course. While the Birds gave some points away, they were able to move the ball up and down the field with ease, and what they did manage to score was enough for a defense that ultimately did not allow the Carolina Panthers to cross the goal line once. After a very encouraging first half, the backups were able to come in and salt away a 14-9 victory.
Where Thursday’s game was a major departure from the Eagles’ first exhibition last week was defensively. The Patriots may have been able to march right down the field on their opening two possessions, but the Panthers had no such luck, punting the first couple times they saw the ball. That set up Nick Foles to get off to a fast start, and he was looking good dinking and dunking his way down the field.
The second-year quarterback was having some trouble handling the shotgun snaps on his first series however, which would eventually result in a turnover. Foles bobbled another Jason Kelce delivery at Carolina’s 8-yard line, and before he could recover and go through his progressions, the rush was on. He tried to throw the ball away out of the back of the end zone, but couldn’t get enough on it with Greg Hardy draped around his body, his attempt snared by Josh Thomas in the back of the end zone.
Foles shook off the mistake on his second try, leading the Eagles on a five-play scoring drive. He ran the ball in himself on a seven-yard keeper, beating stud linebacker Luke Kuechly to the perimeter.
Vick was up next, and in the midst of moving the offense down the field for another shot at six. This time it was running back Chris Polk – not one of the QBs – with the costly mistake. Polk was stripped by Thomas Davis on an inside run, and Charles Johnson dove on the loose pigskin for the Panthers.
Like Foles before him, Vick was undaunted as well. He got the Eagles right back on the move, first through the air, then with his legs. The 10-year veteran stayed on the attack, setting up LeSean McCoy for an easy one-yard waltz into the end zone.
Foles finished 6-for-8 for 53 yards and the pick, and ran twice for 13 and the TD. Vick was nearly perfect, going 9-for-10 for 105 yards, plus two carries for 20. He did toss an interception on the final play of the half, a hopeless heave as time expired – no harm, no foul. It’s beginning to become clear the latter is the front-runner for the job, although both players have looked more than capable.
In the meantime, the first-team defense had held Carolina to a pair of field goals, and the second string limited them to just one more. For the game, the Panthers managed less than 300 yards from scrimmage. Also telling, they were 4-for-14 on third downs, which means the Birds’ D was getting off the field. Cam Newton undoubtedly missed a few throws, and his offensive line didn’t always hold up in protection, but it was a strong rebound considering where defensive coordinator Billy Davis’ unit was a week ago.
Then again, as we stated heading into the game, the Carolina Panthers are not exactly the New England Patriots.
We’ll get into more in-depth evaluations in the coming days, but on the whole it was a positive experience from almost every angle. We should probably give props to the special teams as well, as they’ve been nothing short of superb through two preseason games. Looking forward to going over this game tape a lot more than last week’s, that’s for sure.
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