It's been a successful first year for Chip Kelly (right) so far, but he almost gave one away to Bruce Arians (left) and the Cardinals.
As I watched what was once a comfortable and dominating contest deteriorate into a three-point squeaker at the end, the first thought which crossed my mind was: How ironic that Philly goes from one coach who struggled to get a play off before the clock expired to one who’s seemingly incapable of taking his foot off the pedal.
When can the porridge be just right?
Possessing the league’s No. 1 running attack featuring its leading rusher, Kelly continued to swing for the fences as if he bet the over. Meanwhile, Nick Foles—who continued to make his case as not only a permanent starter on this team, but perhaps a legitimate star in this league—got off to a 20-of-26 start, only to finish with one completion in his final eight attempts with a few sacks sprinkled in.
With each incompletion, time froze in place. With each no-huddle which led to the ball being snapped with 15 seconds or more left on the play clock, the opportunities accumulated for the Cardinals.
And with every series that didn’t see the ball thrown Bird-killer Larry Fitzgerald's way, it was likely just a matter of time until all these extra seconds turned into second chances which would ultimately lead to second guesses.
To be fair, did Carson Palmer help thwart the comeback with some errant throws? Certainly. Did the Cardinals hurt themselves with some ill-advised penalties? Absolutely. Did the referees assist with some questionable calls favoring the Eagles? Probably.
But at the end of the day, Kelly could have made it all a moot point and kept it a laugher by adjusting to what the game dictated.
Yes, adjustments take time, especially for someone running a niche offense that more often than not allowed his team to keep its foot on the throat of the opponent from start to finish while coaching at Oregon.
However, his first teachable moment should have come in Week 2 against the San Diego Chargers. Down by three with just over three minutes left, the Birds had a chance to milk the clock and ensure a worst-case scenario of overtime. They instead breezed the down the field with a nine-play, 57-yard drive, giving the Bolts ample time to return the favor and win it in regulation.
What's the Eagles' biggest priority for the remainder of the season?
In Kelly’s own words, time of possession is an extremely overrated statistic. And if you’re taking it up and down the field and scoring at will on every drive, it’s understandable to feel that way. But 60 minutes of football can drag quite a bit, leaving ample time to study, address and fix.
Which is precisely what the Cardinals did in the second half.
When all is said and done, there will be no asterisk marks on this victory. It will count just as much as the other six wins in a season all of a sudden trending quite favorably.
Chip Kelly has thus far shown the ability to tinker with the finished product from game to game. For one, a defense which was once thought to be a lost cause is gradually showing surprising strengths.
Once he masters the in-game tinkering, the sky’s the limit. And the bullet-dodging should subside.