Chip Kelly explains his strategic thinking

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
7:55
PM ET
PHILADELPHIA -- When he was developing his freewheeling, risk-taking reputation as a head coach at Oregon, Chip Kelly was used to having the best team on the field every Saturday. That tends to help make your decisions turn out the way you planned.

With the Philadelphia Eagles, Kelly’s decisions have been run through the shredder of his players’ limitations. Sunday’s 15-7 loss to the New York Giants was a feast for second-guessers (and even first-guessers).

• We’ll go light on the play call on first-and-goal at the 2-yard line late in the first half. Play calls are usually all about execution. If Matt Barkley ran the play exactly as designed, the Eagles may well have scored a touchdown on that possession.

[+] EnlargeMatt Barkley and Terrell Thomas
AP Photo/Michael PerezTerrell Thomas forced a Matt Barkley fumble on first-and-goal from the 2, squashing an Eagles scoring opportunity.
“It’s a play we’ve run,” Kelly said. “We talked about it. If we don’t have [an open receiver], let’s throw it away and we’ll go next time.”

There was no next time because Barkley held the ball long enough for Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas to run him down and knock it out of his hands. The turnover ruined the Eagles’ best chance at an offensive score.

Kelly’s explanation makes sense. He should have a better feel for a rookie quarterback in that situation. Barkley isn’t used to the speed of the NFL game in new situations, and that was a new situation.

• On fourth-and-10 in the third quarter, ball at the New York 32, Kelly went for a first down.

Last week, he went for a 60-yard field goal late in the first half against Dallas. That baffling decision gave the Cowboys a chance to take a deep shot at the end zone. Tony Romo's pass went through Dez Bryant's hands and was intercepted by Earl Wolff.

This time, it would have been a 49-yard attempt for Alex Henery, or a chance for Donnie Jones to pin the Giants deep with a punt.

“There was wind,” Kelly said. “That was a tough wind. That’s why we went for it on fourth down there. [Special-teams coach Dave Fipp] said we need to get a little bit closer in that situation.”

Barkley fumbled the snap, picked up the ball and fired it over the head of Jason Avant, turning the ball over on downs.

• On fourth-and-4 at midfield in the fourth quarter, down 15-0, Kelly punted.

“It was a two-score game,” Kelly said. “So I knew we were going to stop them. I have great confidence in our defense. I wish they stopped them on the first third down. We felt like we were going to get the ball back with time to score and get an onside kick.”

The Giants held the ball for 3 minutes, 16 seconds before punting it back. The Eagles got the ball again and found themselves in a fourth-and-20 situation at the Giants' 46. This time, Kelly went for it and Barkley completed a 5-yard pass.

• After Najee Goode recovered an errant snap for the Eagles’ only score of the game, making it 15-7 with 4:11 left, Kelly opted for an onside kick. This doesn’t quite line up with the previous reasoning about having faith in his defense.

“I only had one timeout,” Kelly said, “so it didn’t matter if we kicked it deep. It was still the same amount of time on the clock. We felt like if we could get it at that point in time, that was my decision. In terms of time off the clock is going to be the same exact thing.”

But field position would not be the same. Giving the Giants the ball at their own 20 with a timeout and the two-minute warning to stop the clock gives you a shot at decent field position with a defensive stop. Giving the Giants the ball at midfield means game over.

And that, of course, is exactly what happened.

Phil Sheridan

ESPN Philadelphia Eagles reporter

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