Matt Cassel, Poor Situtional Football Sink Chip Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles
By Michael P. Quinn
Cold Hard Football Facts Eagles Specialist (@PJbleedsgreen)
It seems like a curse at this point.
The Philadelphia Eagles can play amazing for much of the year, but when it comes to facing a team with no playoff hopes, they never bring their "A" game.
Andy Reid couldn't do it, and from what we've seen this year, neither can Chip Kelly.
The trip to Minnesota seemed like it should an easy victory for Philadelphia.
Instead of an easy win, the Eagles were embarrassed by the Vikings, 48-30.
The Philadelphia franchise has given up 48+ points just 13 times since World War II. Two of those performances have come this year, on rookie coach Kelly's watch: a 52-20 loss to Denver back in Week 4 and this mis-performance in Week 15, with so much on the line.
And this might have been the worst of the bunch.
The Vikings were out of the playoff picture (now 4-9-1), playing with backup QB Matt Cassel at the helm and playing without star running backs Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, both ruled out of the game.
To add salt in Minnesota's wounds, a report broke out just before the game that said the team would be parting ways with head coach Leslie Frasier.
Despite all the negatives against the Vikings, Chip Kelly was outcoached by Frasier, in all phases of the game.
To start, Kelly was legitimately afraid to kick the ball to rookie WR Cordarrelle Patterson. In his defense, the Eagles gave up two special teams touchdowns last week, so you can understand his concern.
However, instead of letting the talented return specialist get a chance, he opted to squib kick the ball every. single. time.
That didn't bode well for the Eagles. Of all five Eagles kickoffs, not one was taken inside the Minnesota 35. In fact, their average starting field position was roughly at the 40 yard line (39.4). Patterson only averages 33.4 yards per return.
Was the squib kicking really worth it?
Besides the obvious, it was a foolish move because the Eagles defense was forced to work with a short field every time they were called on. That of course forced DC Billy Davis to show his hand early (zone blitz), which Matt Cassel easily had his way with (26 of 35, 74.3%, 382 yards, 10.9 YPA, 2 TD, 1 INT, 116.6 rating).
Cassel also ran for a score.
With Cassel's spot-on performance along with third-string RB Matt Asiata knocking it into the end-zone a couple times, it marked the first time the Eagles had given 21 points or more since their embarrasing blowout loss to Denver.
The performance cost the Eagles some crucial stat changes. On defense, we saw them fall in the Bendability rankings (a stat based on situational football). Their 17.6 YPPA (yards per point allowed) was fifth best in the league. After Sunday's loss, they fell to 16.4 YPPA, which puts them out of the top 10.
Being down two scores early, Kelly panicked. Instead of mythotically driving up the field with the leagues leading rusher, he chose to pass the ball all day. LeSean McCoy, who averages nearly 5 yards per carry, carried the ball only eight times.
It feels like Andy Reid never left!
Foles, who made a few costly mistakes of his own, can't be the one to blame. He did his best with what he was handed, and if we've learned anything from the second-year passer, it's that he doesn't easily give up.
After having another rough first half, Foles finished the game strong (30 of 48, 62.5%, 428 yards, 8.9 YPA, 3 TD, 1 INT, 103.5 rating). His effort can be credited for the Eagles rising in the Scoreability rankings (a stat based on efficiency).
Sitting at 8-6, the Eagles currently average 16.3 yards for every point scored. Compare that to teams like Minnesota (12.9 YPPS), and Denver (11.5 YPPS), it's pretty clear why they lost -- they couldn't keep up with the opponent.
We can try to put the blame on CB Cary Williams and SS Patrick Chung, who were both benched, but in the end it looks like the blame will fall mostly on Kelly's shoulders.
With all the bad calls, missed opportunities and wasted timeouts, it's hard to believe Kelly has already accomplished so much in this league.
His Eagles have improved quite a bit in their ability to play situational football, as evidenced by the Cold, Hard Football Facts Intelligence Index. Philly entered Week 15 at No. 14 on that indicator, a vast improvement over the No. 31 position at the end of 2012 under Reid.
But they'll tumble this week, perhaps into the bottom half of the league, after this week's poor performance in so many phases of the game.
That downward trend does not bode well for the team's postseason potential or hopes, though the historic collapse by the Cowboys against Green Bay keeps Philly atop the weak NFC East.
If his team wants to sniff success in the postseason, they'll have to find a way to get by the Chicago Bears, who have the most deadly duo of wide receivers in the league. And they will probably still need to beat Dallas in the final game of the season.
It won't be easy, but it will be interesting to see what Kelly has to say in his day-after presser after he's had time to speak with the team/coaches.
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