Chip Kelly played the starters -- and the Eagles manhandled the Bears, 54-11, on Sunday night in their most lopsided win of his tenure. (USA Today Images)
Play the starters. Don’t play the starters. That was the debate -- for some. Not for Chip Kelly.
Tony Romo and the Cowboys didn’t blow it for once. It shocked a lot of people. Probably Romo and the Cowboys among them. Dallas beat Washington on the road early Sunday (see story), which made the Eagles-Bears game less significant on the surface. Once the Cowboys won, it guaranteed that they’d play the Eagles in Dallas next weekend for the NFC East title. Sure, the Chicago game still had potential seeding implications for the Eagles -- but only if the Birds beat the Bears and then the Cowboys. You can’t seed a team that doesn’t make the playoffs. This just in.
There was some conversation about what the Eagles might do if that exact scenario unfolded -- if the Cowboys won. Some conversation. Not much conversation. And not any at all by the one guy who made the call.
While some people thought it would be wise for the Eagles to rest their starters and avoid angering the fickle football gods -- who might punish the Birds with injuries, and then locusts, and then whatever comes after locusts -- Kelly didn’t consider going that way. Early in the week, he vowed to play his starters regardless of what the Cowboys did. He said the Eagles weren’t in a position to sit back and wait. He wanted his guys to play.
And play they did.
Eagles 54, Bears 11 (see Instant Replay).
After the game, Kelly was asked why he played his starters and why he kept them in until midway through the fourth quarter. Kelly smiled a little before he answered -- and after he answered you got the sense that people in this town were probably smiling a lot.
“Very simply,” Kelly said, “we’re from Philadelphia, and we fight.”
He continued: “If there’s a game on, we’re playing. End of story. All this stuff about backing in, not worrying about things, all these other things, I have no idea. So many different scenarios. Could have been a tie. What if there’s a tie and we go play Dallas next week and then we gave a game away last week? If we’re going to line up and kick off, you tell us what time to show up and we’ll be there.”
Kelly’s thinking -- that they “weren’t in a position to rest anyone” and that they needed to “get back on the winning track” -- made sense. The week before, the Eagles took a five-game winning streak to Minnesota. They left with a loss. The Vikings haven’t been good this year, and they were without their best player in Adrian Peterson. And yet Minnesota mauled the Birds.
Afterward, Cary Williams said it might have been a good thing for the Birds to lose. He put it in a less-than-artful manner (see story), but Williams had a point. The Eagles might have been overconfident before facing the Vikings. Losing to Minnesota reminded the Birds of what they hadn’t yet accomplished -- but still could, if only they would play with urgency and fight.
They did that Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field. The starters stomped the Bears from the very beginning (see 10 observations). The Birds scored on their first drive when Nick Foles hit Riley Cooper for a five-yard touchdown. The Birds scored on their second drive when LeSean McCoy bulled his way into the end zone from a yard out. The Birds scored on their third drive when Foles found Brent Celek for a 10-yard touchdown.
By comparison, the Bears didn’t score on their first drive. Or their second. Or their third. They didn’t get on the scoreboard until Robbie Gould kicked a 50-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. That was their sixth drive.
The defense was excellent. The closest the Bears got to the end zone before intermission was the Eagles' 19-yard line. Cutler was then promptly sacked twice for huge losses, the Bears fell out of field-goal position, and Chicago was forced to punt.
One touchdown and 257 yards of total offense. That’s all the Bears managed for the game. McCoy -- who had 133 rushing yards and two touchdowns -- outscored Chicago all by himself, and the Eagles finished with 514 yards of total offense.
The starters played -- and played well. You know what they couldn’t have done if they were on the sideline instead of on the field? Any of that.
“Coming off a loss, that does build momentum for us going into Dallas,” said Trent Cole, who had three sacks. “That’s the start of our playoffs right there.”
The start of the playoffs. Dallas week. They're from Philadelphia, and they fought.