EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Chip Kelly saw his starting quarterback hobbled and knew he had a crucial decision to make in the heat of the moment. With Michael Vick struggling to battle through a painful hamstring injury, Kelly realized keeping him in the game was not in the best interests of the player or the team.
"He didn't look like he was moving well," Kelly said. "I'm not going to put anybody in harm's way. It just felt like he didn't have that step where he could get out of the way."
And with that, Kelly called for Vick to exit the game and Nick Foles to enter, though he admitted post-game that Vick, even at less than 100 percent, could have returned in an emergency circumstance.
"I said the day I walked in here that you need to have two quarterbacks," Kelly said. "I felt confident in Nick with Mike not being 100 percent. If Nick were to go down, I think we would have been able to put Nick back in the game, though."
Kelly was pleased with Foles' performance and how he led the offense completing 16-of-25 pass attempts for 197 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 114.9 quarterback rating in Sunday's 36-21 win over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.
"I thought Nick did a nice job," Kelly said."To come in, especially with that drive at the end of the first half, where we had an opportunity to go down and get a field goal, being in a two-minute situation. He managed the game really well and I was really happy with Nick."
After a rough third quarter, Foles hit his stride in the fourth, completing two perfectly thrown touchdown passes to Brent Celek and DeSean Jackson after the defense forced interceptions on back-to-back drives.
"He's a student of the game," Kelly said of Foles. "He prepares himself like he is a starter because he is literally a chinstrap away from being a starter, and I think that's a credit to him. Some guys get discouraged (when they don't win the starting job), but he wasn't like that. When I sat down with him and (Vick) and told them (who the starting quarterback would be in Training Camp), (Foles) said, 'Hey, Coach, you can always count on me, I'm going to be there.' And that's what he's done.
"He's been there every day in practice. I think (quarterbacks coach) Bill Lazor has done a really good job with those guys, making sure that they're sharp and getting them enough reps. In this league I think you need two quarterbacks, and we were fortunate that we had Nick today."
Despite Foles' strong showing, there will not be a quarterback controversy in Philadelphia, and rightly so, since Vick being taken out of the game was due to injury instead of his play.
"Yes," Kelly said emphatically when asked if Vick would be his starter if fully healthy.
A theme throughout the three consecutive losses was the inability for other receivers on the Eagles to step up and make plays when defenses were playing press-man coverage and devoting safety help over the top on Jackson. The Giants played the same scheme, but Brent Celek, Zach Ertz and Jason Avant were able to take advantage, combining for eight catches for 118 yards and one touchdown. LeSean McCoy proved a valuable safety valve out of the backfield (six catches for 46 yards).
Jackson, however, persevered and was the real star of the show in putting forth a performance much like he did against the Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers. He had seven catches for 132 yards and the final touchdown of the game, coming on a beautiful double-move fade in which he fooled the cornerback with a masterful head fake as the ball was in the air before slipping behind him and making a leaping catch in the end zone.
"If you're going to play man coverage, we need guys that can exploit it," Kelly said. "I thought some of those guys did a real good job. We hit Brent on a big crossing route early, freed him up on the play-action pass (touchdown in the fourth quarter). Then obviously DeSean, if you're going to put him in those situations, he drew a pass interference penalty on our sideline, which was big. We tried to get him uncovered in a couple different manners. He's a threat, no matter where he is. If you're going to play man coverage, it's just going to happen a little quicker. I thought he did a really good job of giving himself an opportunity to make plays. We had some good run after the catch from him, and then we also had that big touchdown at the end off the double move."
Alex Henery, after three games in a row in which he missed a field goal, bounced back and was another key contributor to the Eagles' win. He was a perfect five-for-five on field goal attempts, and those 15 points ended up being the final margin of victory.
"I have a lot of confidence in Alex," Kelly said. "He's been really, really consistent. I think myself and him were probably the most surprised with those three misses that we had this year. But we looked at him and studied him and he and Coach (Dave) Fipp went back to work a little bit. We're really confident. We don't want to get three (points). We'd rather get seven (points), but if you have a guy who's consistent like that and can go five-for-five and put those on the board, it makes the difference in the ball game."
The defense had some issues early on before stiffening up in the second quarter, then again in the third before making game-changing plays in the fourth. It was a roller-coaster ride, but one in which the much-maligned unit came up huge in the biggest spots. In particular, after the Eagles had just retaken the lead, 22-21, the Giants were driving and at midfield. Then, a holding penalty pushed them back 10 yards. On the very next play, the Eagles defensive line, which had not gotten enough of a pass rush at all up to that point, collapsed the pocket and closed in on Eli Manning. Under duress, Manning hurried his throw and it was deflected up in the air, right into the waiting arms of Mychal Kendricks. The next two Giants drives saw a resurgence of the Eagles pass rush and also ended in interceptions.
"I thought they did a great job of getting the ball back for us," Kelly said of the defense. "We had those three big turnovers. And I think when you play against those two receivers (Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks) and obviously Eli (Manning), a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, that's the strength of their team right now (passing the ball). … That was a matchup that we really had to make sure we concentrated on. And I thought our guys, eventually we started to get to Eli a little bit, started to generate a pass rush, and those three turnovers were huge. The difference in the game was those turnovers. We didn't turn the ball over and they did."
Following the game, Kelly addressed his team and let them know that they prepared the right way throughout the week and it translated to the field. It will take that same type of laser-like focus and preparation to continue winning in the NFL.
"They had a good week of preparation and we need to have another one because we've got another game coming up," Kelly said. "Every week is the season, and that's what this deal is all about. You're five games into a 16-game season and you have to understand that you just don't show up and win. When you have a good week of preparation, that pays off for you. We liked our week of preparation, but we have able to replicate that because you get about two seconds to catch your breath in this league and then have to go back and get ready to play again."
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