By Tom Ignudo
Chip Kelly’s play calling restrained the Philadelphia Eagles early, but his adjustments and willingness to take chances triumphed the Eagles over the Dallas Cowboys 33-27 in overtime Nov. 8.
The two fourth-down runs and Caleb Sturgis’ 53-yard field goal – all were risks – improved the Eagles to second place in the NFC East at 4-4.
Despite the overall production from Kelly’s offense, the first quarter featured three of the Eagles’ first four drives resulting in three and outs.
Even with TWO WEEKS to prepare, Kelly the, “offensive genius,” started the game with the same swing pass to DeMarco Murray we’ve seen every game this season.
Considering the Eagles have been outscored 40-10 in the first quarter this season, Kelly must throw away his first quarter game plan like he did with his star players or to put it in simpler terms: adjust.
For instance, in the beginning of the second quarter a 13-play 80-yard drive featured the Eagles leaning on their running game in different variations.
Six of the nine runs called on the drive were run with Sam Bradford under center. While that may seem meaningless, the Eagles have had success running under center this season. Plus, it helps them utilize different formations, be less predictable, and allows running backs to gain momentum before hitting the hole.
Murray, Ryan Mathews, and Darren Sproles all contributed on the drive, which ended in a 1 TD run by Murray.
“I think we just executed and blocked up front,” Kelly said in a press conference after the game. “I’m really proud about how those guys played. Especially with Lane bumping over and Dennis getting his first start at right tackle.”
Lane Johnson, who filled in for Jason Peters at left tackle, told reporters that the offense hasn’t moved that fast in a while.
The Eagles totaled 172 rushing yards on 35 carries in the win.
Since starting out 1-3, the Eagles have 157 rushing yards plus every game the last four weeks, which has resulted in winning three of their last four.
More importantly, Matt Cassel, Cole Beasley, and faulty O-line play didn’t spoil Murray’s homecoming, where he racked up 161 total yards from scrimmage (83 rushing & 78 receiving) on 18 carries and six catches.
After pathetically rushing for 2 yards against Dallas in week two, Murray had three big time plays in the overtime series: a 14-yard reception, a 20-yard rush and a 9-yard run.
Three plays later, Bradford connected with Jordan Matthews on a game winning 41-yard TD pass.
“It’s not like some miraculous thing happened,” Matthews said. “I did what I supposed to do today. I went out. I played hard. I made plays for my team. That’s what they’ve been needing from me this whole season.”
And he’s right. It’s what we’ve been waiting for all season – for receivers to CATCH the ball.
Matthews hauled in nine catches for 133-yards on 12 targets against Dallas. It’s the first time he gained over 100 receiving yards in a game since playing the Atlanta Falcons in week one.
“It’s huge,” Bradford said. “You can’t say enough about Jordan. The way he worked this week in practice, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone work as hard as he did, and it paid off tonight.”
In the victory Bradford went 25/36, for 295 yards, and one TD.
“I got the call from Chip and I came into the huddle, and said ‘Hey I’m coming to you. Win right here’ and sure enough he ran a great route,” Bradford said. “And obviously the run after the catch was huge.”
Even though Bradford had an accurate 15/19 second-half, it’s the sixth time this season the Eagles’ offense has scored zero points in the first quarter.
Not to mention, Matthews is the only Eagles wideout to eclipse 100 receiving yards in a game this year.
Therefore, Bradford better have more “I’m-coming-to-you” moments with other wide receivers this season, especially with the upcoming schedule.
The Eagles’ next three opponents (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, & Detroit Lions) are all placed last in their divisions, rank in the bottom-10 of opposing points per game, and have a combined record of 7-17.
“Our guys battled,” Kelly said. “They battled right to the last – I’m proud of them. I think they had a really good week, this week, as good as we’ve had around here, and it showed in our play tonight.”