Monday, December 16, 2013
Kelly defends Eagles' kickoff strategy
By Phil Sheridan
PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles coach Chip Kelly has a pretty consistent view of strategies and play calls. If it works, it's smart. If it fails, it was stupid.
By that measure, Sunday's plan to kick off to the middle of the field to take Minnesota Vikings return man Cordarrelle Patterson out of the game wasn't exactly ingenius. For the previous 13 games, the Eagles' opponents started their possessions on the 24-yard line after kickoffs.
The Vikings' average start was their own 34. In essence, the Eagles' plan gave Minnesota a free first down's worth of extra yardage to begin every season.
But Kelly looked at it differently. The Vikings' average start with Patterson returning the ball is their own 29. Viewed that way, the Eagles sacrificed just four yards per possession in order to eliminate the possibility of Patterson breaking a long return.
"When you play the Vikings, you have to kick the ball out of the end zone," Kelly said. "Because Patterson's going to return it. He's got a 109-yard kickoff return to his credit this year. He's the most dynamic returner in the National Football League statistically. So that is the type of guy he is. You have to get the ball out of the end zone if he's not going to return it."
In pregame warmups, Kelly said, kicker Alex Henery was not able to get it through the end zone consistently.
"He's five or six yards deep in the end zone, so those are coming out just based upon that," Kelly said.
The issue is relevant because Chicago's Devin Hester is a very dangerous return man, too. And Henery won't be kicking in a climate-controlled, wind-free dome on Sunday night. He'll be kicking in Lincoln Financial Field.
Kelly said the Eagles hadn't decided on their approach to Hester yet.
"It's more than just a returner," Kelly said. "How do they block it? What are the other 10 guys doing? There is more involved than who the guy is."
Kelly can add one more question: Did the strategy work in Minnesota? If he answers yes, then it makes sense to repeat it. The guess here is that the answer will be no. Kelly knows the difference between smart and stupid.