PHILADELPHIA -- Over at Grantland, Bill Barnwell delved into something that struck me during that blur of a first quarter Monday night: the way the Eagles almost nonchalantly converted a fourth-and-1 on their opening drive.
You can and should read Barnwell’s take in his Thank You For Not Coaching column. He gets more into the probabilities of Chip Kelly’s going for it on fourth-and-short. But here’s the part that really echoed my thoughts:
When the Eagles faced that fourth-and-1, there was no confusion. Michael Vick didn't stare at Kelly for 15 seconds waiting for a play call. They didn't waste a timeout debating the percentages or trying to find the perfect play. The Eagles simply lined up immediately after their third-down snap and handed the ball to LeSean McCoy, who burst up the middle for four yards and a first down.
Barnwell is too nice to mention Andy Reid by name, but after 14 years, these comparisons are inevitable in Philadelphia. That is exactly how it would have looked with Reid on the sideline. That is, assuming Reid didn’t just do what many coaches would do: take the very makeable field goal and consider that a good opening drive.
That shouldn’t be read as a criticism of Big Red, either. Reid has won 224 more NFL games than Kelly has. He is just deliberate, let’s say, in situations like that. If Kelly is the latest microprocessor, Reid is a big old 1970s mainframe. He might make the same calculation, it just takes a bit longer.
“There’s two ways you can approach it,” center Jason Kelce said. “You can slow it down, try to get into a perfect play. You can speed up and try to catch them off guard. Most teams will run a quarterback sneak really quick, or they’ll call a timeout. It was a situational call. We knew the point of the call was to line up and get going. It was well done.”
Kelce said he actually made the wrong line call, pointing out the wrong linebacker, but the play was run so quickly and with such authority, it went for 4 yards and a first down.
Kelly faced a different fourth down situation late in the first quarter. The Eagles had a fourth-and-7 at the Washington 40. Kelly punted, and the ball went into the end zone for a touchback. Washington had 2 minutes left, but chose to kill time and get to the locker room.
Just a guess, but Kelly will look at that and strongly consider going for it next time he’s in a similar spot.