When Michael Vick ran in for a three-yard score late in the second quarter, a jubilant DeSean Jackson jumped onto his quarterback in celebration and was so amped that he ended up knocking Vick to the ground.
Early in the third following LeSean McCoy‘s 34-yard scramble to pay dirt, the running back found his head coach on the sidelines and went up for a chest bump. Chip Kelly didn’t meet him mid-air, but appreciated the gesture nonetheless and allowed a smile to cross his face. It was not the only one that Kelly flashed during the course of his NFL debut, which ended in a 33-27 Eagles victory.
“We have a new coach, he’s from college, and everyone wants to know how his style of offense is going to work in the NFL. Everybody’s curious,” said McCoy. “We’re learning as this thing goes. Coach Kelly is new to us and we’re new to him and we’re working so well together. Everything he’s asked us to do, we’re doing. He’s a great coach. Today is the first time that I think a lot of the guys in the locker room had like fun. We couldn’t wait to get back out there and have fun.”
The first half was nothing short of dazzling, as an Eagles team that came in with so many question marks it lit up FedEx Field against the reigning division champs. The offense ran a staggering 53 plays in the first two quarters and outgained the Redskins 322-75. They had 21 first downs to Washington’s three. McCoy was the NFL’s leading rusher by halftime, as he racked up 115 yards on 20 carries. He finished with 184 yards, just one yard shy of his career high.
“I feel like with all the types of players we have. So much speed, so much quickness. Even at quarterback,” said McCoy. “There is so much room and so much space to make plays. When you throw the ball to [Brent] Celek he’s making plays, and then DeSean — he looks alive again — then Mike running and throwing the ball, then myself and Bryce Brown. So many different players can make plays in this offense. There is so much room.”
Kelly admitted that he may have taken his foot off the accelerator a little too soon. With his team up 26-7 at the break, he slowed the tempo down considerably in the second half and the Redskins mounted a comeback. He was still able to walk away with his first career NFL win.
Kelly used the same word to describe the experience as his players did: fun.
“We talk about that, I talked to them about it last night: it still is a game. I think sometimes we all take ourselves too seriously,” he said. “We love playing football, there is a passion with it, but that’s the way it should be played. I had a lot of fun tonight and I think our guys had a lot of fun. But you’re always going to say that when you win.
“We’ve said since Day 1, it’s a game. It doesn’t have to be run like a business. And we don’t run our practices like a business, we don’t run our training sessions like a business. We’ve got a bunch of guys who are excited to be at work every single day, and they make us as coaches make sure that we come to work every day ready for them, because these guys are going to challenge you in the meeting room from an x’s and o’s standpoint because they are so knowledgeable about the game. It keeps us sharp, it keeps them sharp, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s a real good group to be around.”
Kelly spent part of the pregame just strolling around the field as his team warmed up. He walked alone, stopping to talk to an official here, an assistant there. It was all very casual.
The tempo picked up as the game got closer. He paced the sideline, back and forth, right before the opening kickoff. Had a word with Brent Celek. Got a hug from DeMeco Ryans and Jason Kelce. A handshake from Jackson. Then, the fireworks began.
Kelly generally downplays all the firsts he is experiencing on this level; deflects the line of questioning away from his personal emotions. But this was a big moment. It was his first NFL game as a head coach. And his team put on a show.
“Is this what you thought it would feel like?” a reporter asked following the win.
“No,” Kelly replied. “it’s what I hoped it would feel like, and that’s what makes it so special.”
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