Head coach Chip Kelly addressed the media Monday morning prior to the team's practice as they move on from a tough loss to the San Diego Chargers and begins preparations for Andy Reid's Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday Night Football.
A main issue discussed at length during the press conference was the end-of-game situation, particularly when the Eagles had the ball and were attempting to score the go-ahead touchdown. On the penultimate play prior to the two-minute warning, Kelly called for a rollout which resulted in an incomplete pass to tight end Brent Celek and quarterback Michael Vick taking a hard hit. Vick was briefly shaken up and forced to come off for one play by the head referee. Backup Nick Foles took the next snap and threw a fade out of bounds to wide receiver DeSean Jackson. After the game, it came to light that Kelly could have called a timeout, which would have allowed Vick to re-enter the game without missing a play. He conceded he would have done so, had he known that was allowed.
"That's on me," Kelly said. "I didn't think we could (call timeout). I just thought that was on me, so I didn't. I should've asked (the officials)."
Kelly also addressed criticism that he was not conscious enough of the clock late and was in too much of a hurry to score, given that the offense was inside the 10-yard line and the defense had struggled to stop the Chargers all game. He explained his reasoning that the offense was trying to do everything it could to score a touchdown, which would have forced the Chargers into having to score a touchdown of their own to win the game.
"Yeah, when you look at it in hindsight, we didn't score (a touchdown)," Kelly said. "We kicked a field goal so it was tied. We wanted to try to score a touchdown to go up four (points), and then make (the Chargers) have to drive the entire field at that point in time. So obviously, when you look back it, we probably should have run the clock down."
A pivotal moment in the game came on the first play of the third quarter when inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans delivered a crushing blow to Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd, who was unfortunately injured and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. In addition to the injury, it looked like the play might have been a fumble instead of an incompletion, as it was called on the field. The Chargers would later score a touchdown on that drive to make the score 20-10.
"I asked (our coaches in the press box) during that play, and they thought that it wasn't a catch," Kelly said. "I'm always asking the guys up top. … It was close, but it was blown dead also, so it would have had to be an immediate recovery. I actually talked to the referee while that was going on, so I don't think, even if we were to have challenged in that situation, we were going to get (the ball) because it was blown dead so quickly and it wasn't an immediate recovery. Everybody just kind of stopped and looked at it and sat there. … The explanation I got on the field was even if we did (challenge the play), we weren't going to get the ball anyway."
The safety play on Sunday left a lot to be desired from the very beginning, and Earl Wolff saw significant time as a result. His snap count increased from eight against Washington to 49 against San Diego. He had good moments and was in on a number of tackles, but Kelly cautioned the rookie remains a work in progress and is not yet ready to start full time.
"I think Earl's growing … but he's still making some mistakes out there," Kelly said. "I think (the coaches) are bringing him along, and we're excited about what his future is, but we still don't feel he's ready to go the whole way."
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson had his second 100-yard game of the season on Sunday, hauling in a career-high nine receptions for 193 yards and a touchdown. Kelly described Jackson as a "special playmaker," but said he spoke to him after the game concerning his unnecessary roughness penalty that followed the Vick's fourth-quarter touchdown run that gave the Eagles the lead. The penalty forced the Eagles to kick off from their own 20-yard line and, though the coverage unit forced a fumble at the Chargers' 39 and had a chance to recover it, the ball squirted another 20 yards downfield, before the Chargers ultimately recovered it at the Eagles' 39. San Diego scored a touchdown seven plays later to go ahead 30-27.
"You have to play with emotion, not let emotion play with you," Kelly said he told Jackson."You have to understand how (your action) impacts us as a football team."
The defense surrendered 539 total yards of offense to the Chargers, who seemed to have an answer for every look and play-call the Eagles ran on defense. Kelly gave credit to Phillip Rivers for being one step ahead at all times, recognizing disguises and making checks at the line.
"(The Chargers) were, definitely they were (changing plays at the line)," Kelly said. "That's part of what their whole package was. They'd get up, take a look, then come back and check. Sometimes they checked, we checked, then they checked again. I think when you're playing a quarterback like Philip Rivers, basically they put the game in his hands and he was making a lot of checks at the line of scrimmage depending on the looks we were presenting. That's what you get when you're going against someone as talented as him, you have to get lined up and you have to play. … It becomes a cat-and-mouse game as you get going. … Sometimes your disguise ends up being a liability because you're not close enough in coverage when you're that far off."
In looking back on the first two games as a whole, Kelly admits he has made some mistakes and will have to learn from them. It is all part and parcel of adapting to the NFL game as a new head coach.
"I've made mistakes, I think we've all made mistakes," Kelly said. "That's what this game's all about. No one coaches a perfect game. No one plays a perfect game, but you have to learn from those mistakes and hope they don't happen again."
The Eagles also anticipate cornerback Bradley Fletcher, who Kelly said was cleared to practice Monday after missing Sunday's game with a concussion, will play against the Chiefs, while Brandon Hughes suffered a hamstring injury against the Chargers and was held out of practice.
Kelly felt like Sunday's game against the Chargers is indicative of how a lot of games will be this season, as he expects many, if not at all, to be close and come down to the wire, as is the nature of the NFL.
"Every game we're going to play is going to be close," Kelly said. "I saw a stat this morning that said there have been 31 games played, 22 of them have been decided by a touchdown or less. So that just makes us understand how important it is to execute every single snap. If you get an opportunity to get out there on the field, you have to execute to the utmost because that play right there could be the difference between winning and losing the football game. That's the message I had for our guys today. We're going to jump back into it right here because we have a game on Thursday."
Four days represents the shortest week Kelly has ever faced in between games, but he and his staff have known about the situation since the schedule was released and feel they have a plan in place to make sure the team is optimally prepared.
"We've been prepared for this since we got here," Kelly said. "We've had a plan. We knew we had to start off, when the schedule came out, playing three games in 11 days. We're going to go out today, we've got three days to train, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, then we're going to go play a game."
On top of the quick turnaround, the Eagles will welcome back former head coach Andy Reid, who is now overseeing the Kansas City Chiefs.
"I think (the players) are locked in," Kelly said. "We met today and we talked about the Kansas City Chiefs, so that's not a concern."
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