Most of the questions surrounding the Eagles throughout this past week focused on the quarterback position. After Michael Vick suffered a hamstring injury against the Giants, would Nick Foles be ready to lead the offense? If Foles got the start, would the Eagles offense be able to move the ball as well as they have with Vick? Those questions were answered in a big way on Sunday, as Foles led the Eagles to a resounding 31-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Following the game, Chip Kelly told the media that he was very pleased with the way his young quarterback took care of business on the field.
"I thought Nick did a really good job," Kelly said. "What we do offensively – we talked about it all along – we don't change. He ran our offense. He did a really nice job of spreading the ball around to different receivers. I'm really, really happy with how he played today."
Earlier in the week, Kelly jokingly said that Foles could take over as the Eagles starting quarterback if he went 100-for-100 with 27 touchdowns. Though Foles' line wasn't quite that impressive (22-of-31, 296 yards, three passing touchdowns and another on the ground), his play certainly warranted a closer look.
"We'll evaluate everything," said Kelly. "We'll go back and watch the film and see what we did well and see what we did bad and see where we are and see where (Vick) is … I don't give any hypotheticals and I don't do any predictions."
Foles and the rest of the Eagles offense got off to a very fast start against the Buccaneers, driving down the field for an opening-drive touchdown to take an early 7-0 lead. According to Kelly, the Eagles were able to set the tempo from the very first play from scrimmage – a 44-yard screen pass to LeSean McCoy that put the Eagles in Buccaneers territory.
"I thought it was really important to get out to a fast start," Kelly explained. "I think the first play we hit LeSean and he breaks one and then all of a sudden our guys start to get into a rhythm and start to get a roll going. I thought it was really big for us- especially playing a team like this. We wanted to get on them early and then make them start to play from the behind. That big drive was huge for us at the beginning of the game."
Entering the game, the Buccaneers possessed one of the best defensive units in the NFL, allowing just 17.5 points per contest in their first four games. With the Bucs coming off their bye week, Kelly fully expected a tough test from the home team. Following the win, the Eagles head coach came away very pleased with his team's performance.
"That was a really good defensive football team that we played against," Kelly said. "There's not just one thing that they do. They generate a four-man rush and play zone behind it and then other times they bring pressure. Sometimes we beat them with the pressure and other times we didn't handle the pressure well, but overall I was really pleased with how our guys played.
"We did a really good job in the turnover battle. We had that tough one to start the game with but again we didn't throw any interceptions… and I think our defense did a great job and held them to a field goal which was huge for us, and then we converted in the red zone. We did a better job. We spent a lot of time this week in practice making sure that we could execute down there and we did. We were two for two in the red zone."
After two quarters, Tampa Bay enjoyed a three-point lead, 17-14. The Eagles defense, criticized at times this season, stepped up and held the Buccaneers to only six points in the second half. The Eagles'pressure finally got to rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, forcing an early interception which set the tone for the remainder of the game.
"Our defense did a really good job," said Kelly. "They got pressure on the quarterback. There were a couple of third and longs there that I think we would want back, but overall we were around the ball. We kept the ball in front of us. We haven't had any balls thrown over our head. (Bradley) Fletcher had a huge pick to start the second half and that was huge for us when we capitalized on that. We came up with a touchdown in that situation… We're getting better each week and we'll take this one and we'll grow from it and we'll go from there."
The Eagles record now stands at 3-3 with a pivotal matchup against the Dallas Cowboys looming next Sunday. Kelly and the rest of the Eagles are looking forward to playing at home after three-straight road games, but the first-year head coach made sure to thank the thousands of Eagles fans who helped make Tampa Bay feel like a home away from home.
"The biggest adjustment that we had to make was how loud our fans were," Kelly joked. "They were (really) awesome. That was unbelievable. You go into a foreign, away stadium and you listen to the crowd chanting us on like that and it was awesome. I want to give them credit. It's great when we go on the road to see all of those Eagles fans running around. We've been successful for the last two weeks in row, and now we get to go home and play back in front of everybody back at (Lincoln Financial Field)."
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