Chip Kelly on battling the weather
Bryce Brown and Lane Johnson celebrate Brown's successful two-point conversion run into the end zone that put the Eagles up 22-20 in the fourth quarter. (USA Today Images)
The forecasters called for an inch, maybe two, when all was said and done.
By kickoff at the Linc on Sunday, one scouting report had already failed. At least three inches of snow had coated the playing surface and stadium workers with portable snow blowers were already clearing away yard lines.
And the heaviest stuff was just beginning to come down.
“It was craaaaaa-zy,” said linebacker Mychal Kendricks, a native of central California -- not exactly a winter wonderland. “You always see games in snow on TV. You play games in Madden in snow. I always thought it would be fun, but I never really wanted it. I had played in rainy games, and they were terrible.”
Consider his mind changed.
“It was so freakin’ fun,” he added.
On a team loaded with players from the Southeast, Texas and California -- including the starting quarterback, star receiver and all three of the three starting defensive linemen -- the blizzard conditions were cause for concern.
And when the Eagles fell behind 14-0 and did nothing offensively for the first half, those concerns intensified.
"I've played in snow, but that -- that's something different. I've never played in that. Backyard ball, but nothing like that," safety Kurt Coleman said.
“I've never played in that many inches of snow. It was just constant. You couldn't really see. I had to take off my visor. It just changed the way you had to approach the game. You had to play a little bit slower, more controlled, and be able to front up a block instead of try to run around it."
But the Eagles, whose resilience since the start of October has been tested in a variety of ways, turned the tables on Detroit, rallied behind LeSean McCoy’s 217 rushing yards (see story) and Nick Foles’ resurgent second half and plowed their way to a 34-20 win over the Lions (see Instant Replay).
As the snow lightened in the second half, the offense heated up. The Eagles outscored the Lions 34-6 in the last 21-and-a-half minutes, winning their fifth straight game and turning the Linc into their own winter haven.
"You don't play too many games in the snow like this,” said right guard Todd Herremans, who got the best of his matchup against All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. “Last game I played when the snow was coming down like that was my rookie year against Seattle. We got our ass kicked. But it didn't stick on the ground like that. It didn't pile up."
"They said it wasn't going to snow until like 2 o'clock, 4 o'clock -- only an inch or something like that? But you’ve just gotta go out there and embrace it when it's like that.”
All week, forecasters called for a moderate amount of snow that wouldn’t start until around halftime. The Eagles practiced outdoors when the weather permitted, but there’s nothing to simulate conditions like Sunday’s.
In the first quarter against Detroit, the snow fell so hard, Kendricks said he had trouble detecting Lions ball carriers because of their white uniforms.
Not to mention that his quickness was nullified by the slippery surface beneath him.
“It was a white-out,” Kendricks said. “You couldn’t see them in-person.”
The Eagles hadn’t played in any bothersome snow since a 2005 home game against Seattle, the night they retired Reggie White’s number and then got avalanched by the Seahawks in a 42-0 loss.
Even that night, the snow didn’t stick.
Just like they were against Seattle, the Eagles were a shipwreck in the first half against the Lions.
Foles hit on just 4 of 10 passes and threw his first interception since last year. McCoy averaged just 3.9 yards per carry. The Eagles had six first downs, zero third-down conversions, and 90 total yards.
Lucky for them, the Lions weren’t much better. Matt Stafford fumbled three snaps on the first drive alone. Detroit went into the break up 8-0.
“At times during a game, the crap is gonna hit the fan,” head coach Chip Kelly said. “You show up here in the morning and our weather report was it wasn’t going to snow until halftime. It didn’t out very well, but we both had the same field.”
So he made adjustments. Kelly nixed some of the read-option, shotgun schemes that comprise the backbone of his offensive attack and leaned heavily on the power running game, with Foles taking snaps behind center, feeding McCoy and then popping some deep passes.
He hit Riley Cooper for 44 yards in the the third, then DeSean Jackson on a 19-yard touchdown. Suddenly, the snow didn’t seem so bad.
“When you’re a kid from California, you dream about playing in weather like this,” said Jackson, who constantly had his hands buried in his hand-warmer, even on punt returns. “It’s always sunny there and it barely rains. As a kid growing up you dream about playing in snow and having fun and [sliding] around. We were able to weather our own storm and get it done.”
Jackson’s touchdown helped the Eagles get their offense going.
McCoy exploded for 166 yards after the break, Foles woke up and passed for 144 more yards and accounted for two touchdowns, and the Eagles turned a 14-0 deficit into a 14-point win.
“It’s not like one team benefitted from it,” Kelly said. “They really enjoyed it. They had a lot of fun. They kind of probably went back to when they were little kids running around out there.”
After McCoy’s second rushing touchdown, right tackle Lane Johnson sprinted into the end zone, tumbled into a pile of snow and worked out a snow angel.
“It’s the first time I’ve done it,” said the native Texan said, admitting that he could have been penalized, “and probably the last time I’ll do it.”
Tight end Brent Celek, who had two catches for 29 yards, said he would always remember this one.
“That was some of the hardest snow I’ve ever seen,” said Celek, who’s from Ohio, and took a slide of his own (see story). “I’ve been around a lot of snow. It just kept coming. It was accumulating so fast on the field. It was crazy.”