PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles are beginning to see the advantages created by Chip Kelly’s go-go offense. They just have to stay sharp enough to take advantage of them.
In Thursday night’s 14-9 preseason victory over Carolina, the Eagles scored just two touchdowns and missed their lone field goal attempt. But they ran 69 offensive plays, 11 more than the Panthers, and began to see the impact their up-tempo, no-huddle approach has on defenses.
“I think everything coach Kelly told us about this offense is correct,” running back LeSean McCoy said. “It’s hard for them to get their defensive calls on because we’re going, we’re going. We’re fast. The tempo is definitely effective. It’s crazy, because I saw how tired the defense was.
“Wow, imagine what it will be like for four quarters.”
Quarterback Michael Vick didn’t run the no-huddle in the preseason opener against New England. He got his first chance with less than 3 minutes left in the first half Thursday. That drive resulted in the only touchdown scored on Vick’s shift.
“We can go a lot faster,” Vick said. “I see what it does to a defense. The concepts and the things we do, it really puts this team in a position to succeed. But it has to be done right.”
It turns out that running the offense at a pace designed to tire out defenders also tires out the offensive players.
“There’s a couple challenges that rise up,” guard Todd Herremans said. “There’s some growing pains that we’re going through. Sometimes we’re out there and we’re tired, and you hear things differently when you’re tired. It’s something we have to adapt to.”
The two most serious offensive mistakes were made late in drives. Nick Foles mishandled a shotgun snap from center Jason Kelce, picked up the ball and then threw an interception in the back of the end zone. Later, Chris Polk fumbled the ball away to end another drive deep in Carolina territory.
Foles, who fumbled an earlier snap, said his eyes had drifted up to read the defensive alignment just as the ball came to him. He meant to throw the ball out of the end zone, but didn’t get enough on it.
“I made a bad play worse,” Foles said.
“We just have to minimize the small mistakes,” McCoy said, “focus in on capitalizing on all our plays.”
Foles ran the no-huddle in both games and moved the ball successfully each week. It is part of the game Vick needs to master as the starting QB competition enters another week.
Kelly made it clear that neither QB has emerged as the obvious No. 1, something he said early would happen naturally.
“I said usually that happens,” Kelly said. “I didn’t say it was going to happen. I’ve told you since Day 1, we’re not going to make any rash decisions. We’re going to make a decision. I think they’re doing a great job of making it difficult, because they’re both playing at a high level right now.”
Vick has played with more sizzle. Foles has steadily kept the chains moving. Neither has seized the job, but neither has blown it, either. Kelly will not have to make what he called a “default decision” -- settling for the least unappealing candidate.
“One of them may sprain an ankle walking in the parking lot,” Kelly joked, “and then the decision is made.”
Their teammates are careful not to take sides publicly.
“Coach Kelly is going to have a tough decision,” McCoy said.
Just as important, they are not showing preferences in the way they perform. McCoy made his dazzling 21-yard run while Foles was in the game. He caught a couple of passes from Vick on that touchdown drive. And wide receiver Jason Avant has made fine catches for first downs for both QBs.
“For the receivers,” Avant said, “we just have to see the ball and catch it. The competition is causing both guys to play well. It’s the best for our team.”