Kelly: 'We're not running enough plays on offense'
Since 2000, only nine two-point conversions have been tried in the first quarter. (USA Today Images)
Don’t like going for two early in the game?
Get used to it.
Rookie Eagles coach Chip Kelly, unsuccessful Thursday night in a first-quarter two-point conversion, said he’ll continue to go for two when the situation and the matchup calls for it.
Even though early two-point conversion failures can be quite costly.
The Eagles trailed 10-0 with 5:06 left in the first quarter Thursday night when Michael Vick’s touchdown pass to Jason Avant made it a 10-6 game.
Conventional wisdom says kick the PAT.
Kelly does not believe in conventional wisdom.
“It was a situation, we practiced it for a while,” Kelly said Friday. “In this game, every game's close. If you get a chance to steal a point here or there, in the long run, it can really benefit you.”
Out of a bizarre formation that is supposed to create a favorable blocking pattern, the Eagles threw a direct snap to the left side of the field to Zach Ertz, who was tackled short of the goal line by former Penn State linebacker Tamba Hali, leaving the Chiefs with a 10-6 lead on the way to a 26-16 win.
“We wanted to start the game out fast,” said Ertz, a rookie tight end from Stanford. “We didn't have it at first, but we had that touchdown on Jason's catch, and we kind of wanted to set the tempo for the rest of the game, and unfortunately it didn't happen."
Kelly frequently went for two at Oregon, but he also had a team that could score at will, so a failed two-point try wasn’t a big deal.
At this level, an early two-point conversion is a huge risk, which is why there have been only nine attempted two-point conversions in the first quarter in the NFL since 2000.
“That's always been our philosophy,” Kelly said. “The ball's on the 2-yard line. It's almost if we get a hat on a hat and Zach falls forward, you're in and you get two points instead of one point. That's really been our philosophy.
“Does it mean we're going to do it all the time? No. I think you pick and choose it.”
Historically, a two-point conversion is about a 50-percent play. Since the inception of the two-point conversion in the NFL in 1994, 49 percent of attempts league-wide have been successful.
Last year, NFL teams attempted 50 two-point conversions and converted 27, or 54 percent.
The PAT is a 99 percent play.
So the math says if you go for two every time, you’ll score about as many points as if you kick the PAT.
But when you miss early, you can also wind up chasing points. If you’re down by nine instead of eight, you’re in a two-possession game instead of a one-possession game.
A missed two-point conversion could easily lead to a situation in a game’s final minutes where a team needs a touchdown to tie instead of a field goal.
There’s a reason NFL teams rarely go for two early.
But Kelly fiercely defended his go-for-two philosophy Friday, a day after the Eagles lost for the second time in five days to fall to 1-2. And he said just because the Eagles’ Thursday two-point try failed doesn’t mean he’ll re-think his philosophy.
“If we block that, we're 5-on-5, we score,” he said. “No different than if someone were to onside kick, but you decided to onside kick because the left tackle always bails quickly when you watch film. If he doesn't bail quickly, you called the onside kick, are you going to change all your tactics?
“No, you're going to study film and say, ‘Do the numbers match up and can we do something here?’”
Kelly still believes going for two after Avant’s touchdown was the right call Thursday night.
The Eagles just didn’t execute.
"We had the numbers on the play,” Ertz said. “Unfortunately, we didn't get it blocked up right, and I didn't run into the end zone. It's on all of us as a field goal team that when we get our number called like that, we've got to put it in.”
Kelly rejects the idea that using the two-point conversion in the NFL won’t work in the NFL like it worked for him at Oregon.
To him, it’s just part of the game.
“It's not a tactic that worked at one level but doesn't at another level,” he said. “Whether you play Pop Warner football, high school football, college or the NFL, if you don't block your guy at the point of attack, he's probably going to make the tackle.”