You were wondering…where IS sportsattitudes’ glowing post about the Eagles’ triumphant 35-28 victory in New England last weekend? I mean…defeating the Patriots on their home turf regardless of the pounds per square inch of the footballs used, overcoming the fact the new Star Wars movie opens in but a few days and the closest living thing to Darth Vader was coaching-up that New England sideline…and winning against the defending World Champs in their house coming off their bitter defeat a weekend prior that cost them a shot at an undefeated regular-season?
Well…here in Philadelphia we wait a couple of days when something good happens to see if it actually happened. Most of us Monday morning went about our business like any other day because most of us didn’t believe that win actually took place. You know…statistics corrections are routinely issued by the NFL following each week’s games. (Anyone who has played Fantasy Football has likely come across a scenario where they went to bed on Sunday or even Monday night thinking they had a “W.” Nope.)
So…considering the 45-14 Thanksgiving Day Massacre that was the loss in Detroit…you surely can’t blame Eagles fans for waiting a day or two to make sure the game was declared final.
It has been…but now look who’s coming to town? None other than the Buffalo Bills and their star running back LeSean McCoy…who of course was an Eagle last season. The reason he’s not this season? Well…in May it was because Eagles HC Chip Kelly “got rid of all the black players.”
But before we stir that pot…since the Patriots win went final let’s back up and see how on Earth it happened.
First off…reports appeared Monday before Sunday’s game Philadelphia Eagles Owner Jeff Lurie made his usual way around the Eagles’ locker room wishing players well but with a bit more “juice” than normal. This would make sense because, a) Lurie has always held the Patriots franchise and its historic success in high public esteem and always wanted to model Philadelphia after them and, b) that national Thanksgiving turkey his team served up in Detroit – on top of prior embarrassments against Miami and Tampa Bay – had Lurie completely panicked they were about to get their front and backsides handed to them again in a very big way…with a very big audience once again watching.
In fact, there was no way New England HC Bill Belichick was going to run the score up on Kelly (a card-carrying member of the “Friend Of Belichick” club). I expected even after the Patriots tough OT loss in snowy Denver they would take control of the Eagles early on…but not pile on. After all they, like every team in the NFL at this point, have injury issues and there would be no need to get fancy and try to artificially extract retribution against Philadelphia for losing their undefeated season a week earlier against the Broncos.
That inspirational pep talk by Eagles Owner Lurie quickly led to a second-quarter lead for New England of 14-0. But then something weird happened. With all the momentum in their favor and absolutely no need to do anything stupid like try an onside kick, the Patriots tried an onside kick. Giving a hapless Eagle offense life – not to mention the ball – at their own 41…led to a score eight plays later. And then Bill Belichick did another stupid thing late in the opening half…being indecisive between running out the clock and trying to score before intermission. An incomplete pass stopped the clock and forced New England to punt. The Philadelphia special teams – who have been very special in Chip Kelly’s time until this season – came up with a blocked punt and returned it for a touchdown to tie the game as the half ended.
The one thing Bill Belichick had to do last Sunday was not give the Eagles any reason they would think they could win the game.
He gave them two in the first half alone.
He gave them yet a third reason in the third quarter when the Patriots drove to the Eagles’ one-yard line and then tried to run a quick snap play…against a Philadelphia defense that sees that sort of thing in their sleep after practicing against it every day. Philadelphia stuffed the Pats and moments later Eagles DB Malcolm Jenkins returned a Tom Brady pass from one end of the field to the other to give Philly its first lead of the day…Darren Sproles ran 83 yards with a punt for a TD three minutes or so thereafter…and the Eagles held off a late New England rally for a very, very unexpected win.
Also unexpected during the day was Chip Kelly’s use of Sproles and little-used Kenjon Barner…at the expense of highly-paid DeMarco Murray. When Ryan Mathews was healthy earlier in the season he clearly ran better than Murray. Now, we can definitively add Sproles and Barner to that list.
It’s amusing earlier in the year when Kelly was asked about how he would use his running backs in rotation he claimed it did not matter who the runner was. The Eagles didn’t call plays based on specific backs. They called plays and whoever was in the game at the time was considered capable of executing any play. Strengths and weaknesses…size, speed or lack thereof…we were all led to believe by the Chipper all RB’s were considered equal.
That tune changed. On Sunday the explanation was now the Patriots had “big linebackers” he felt could be exploited by using smaller, quicker backs and running specific plays just for them.
DeMarco Murray’s tune apparently changed as well…and that is where we bring this weekend’s game against Buffalo into the conversation. Because…DeMarco Murray had a conversation with Owner Jeff Lurie on the flight home from a game the Eagles should have ALL been able to celebrate and ponder…saving their season in a ridiculously-soft NFC East…and now having a real shot at a post-season berth.
The Eagles’ highest-paid runner from last season said earlier this week about Chip Kelly, “I don’t have no issue with him. There’s no problem. I don’t hate him. It’s nothing like that.”
The Eagles’ highest-paid runner from this season isn’t saying anything right now about Chip Kelly. But he will toward the end of the week. And he’ll probably say what’s needed to be said to keep things civil.
But knowing how Chip Kelly deals with anyone who steps out of line (regardless of color) from the team concept or is perceived to be more about “me than we” you can now expect it to rain rumors the man Philadelphia hired to replace LeSean McCoy will wind up having a much shorter stay here than originally expected.
One note on Murray – the offensive line has been a hot mess this season, the quarterback is just now starting to shake off his significant rust and the receivers are just now learning to catch a football. This obviously isn’t all on him. But you have to wonder what DeMarco envisioned coming to Philly? Even if everything was operating on all cylinders this was never going to be “Dallas – The Sequel” as far as his being a dominant player. He was hired to be but a piece of the puzzle. That’s the way it is with Chip Kelly’s offense.
The Buffalo Bills enter Philadelphia 6-6 and harboring playoff hopes of their own. McCoy has run for 100-plus yards in three of his last five games. In last week’s win against Houston the Bills even had two reserves on the offensive line. Sammy Watkins is starting to see more deep balls from dual-threat QB Tyrod Taylor with defenses now having to take Buffalo’s running attack much more seriously.
You know McCoy circled this game on his calendar the very day he was shuffled off to Buffalo. It is no secret he wanted to stay in Philadelphia. He’s healthy as he’s been all year.
The guy Chip Kelly ran out of town runs wild while his replacement broods on the sidelines? Or…Chip’s ego gets the best of him and he shoehorns Murray back into the play calling at the expense of what worked a week earlier…smaller, faster backs? Oh…Ryan Mathews appears to be healthy enough to play this weekend as well.
This game looks like a toss-up regardless of what each team has in store to score.
One important thing we do know from last week is Kelly apparently hasn’t lost his locker room. His Philadelphia Eagles look like they are still playing to win and putting the team first.
Well…with one exception.
Philadelphia’s former star running back never wanted to leave.
That might be exactly what Philadelphia’s current “star” running back is now looking to do.