Kelly Explains In-Game Decisions
He was asked about all of them during his press conference. Here’s what Kelly said.
1. With 1:14 left in the second quarter, the Eagles had a first-and-goal from the Giants’ 2. They had just driven 78 yards, and Matt Barkley had completed six of seven passes. Instead of giving LeSean McCoy a chance to punch it in, Kelly called a naked bootleg and had Barkley roll out to his left. With the two receivers covered, Barkley was supposed to throw the ball away. But he waited too long and was stripped by Terrell Thomas. Barkley fumbled, and instead of a touchdown, the Eagles turned the ball over.
“We called timeout. I just wanted to get Matt settled. And we went over and talked about it,” Kelly said. “It’s a play we’ve run, we’ve practiced continually for about six weeks or seven weeks since the beginning of the season. It was just a naked [bootleg]. We’ve got one route with DeSean [Jackson] out wide and then the tight end on a drag on the back side. If we didn’t have it, throw it away.”
Why not hand it off to McCoy there?
“That’s the play I called,” Kelly said. “So I mean, you can go back, it didn’t work so obviously it didn’t work, but we know in that situation we’re first-and-goal. And we talked about it. If we don’t have it, let’s throw it away and then we’ll go to the next snap.”
Barkley has to know better in that situation, but it’s fair to question whether Kelly put his rookie QB in the best possible situation.
2. With 4:11 remaining, the Eagles were down 15-7 with one timeout left and chose to try an onside kick instead of kicking it away. The Giants recovered and took over at the Eagles’ 48.
“I only had one timeout so it didn’t matter,” Kelly said. “If we kicked it deep, there’s still gonna be the same amount of time on the clock. So we felt like if we could get it at that point in time, that was my decision in terms of if we kicked it deep, the time off the clock’s gonna be the same exact thing.”
Kelly is right that the time would have been the same either way. But with the onside kick, Kelly risked the possibility of the Giants kicking a field goal and making it a two-possession game. As it turned out, they were forced to punt, but the Eagles’ offense ended up getting the ball back at their own 16.
It was going to be a longshot either way, but kicking it away would have given the offense better field position. That would have really been glaring had the defense forced a three-and-out.
3. With 10:21 left in the fourth, the Eagles trailed 15-0 and faced a 4th-and-4 at the Giants’ 47. Instead of going for it in plus territory, Kelly elected to punt.
“It was a two-score game, so I knew we were gonna stop ’em,” Kelly said. “I had great confidence in our defense, and I wish they stopped ’em on the first third down, but they got ’em on the second third down, and we still felt like we were gonna get the ball back with at least time to score and then get an onside kick.”
More than anything else, this just seemed like a coach having zero confidence in his offense. Of course, you can understand why that was the case.
4. With 9:20 left in the third, the Eagles had a 4th-and-10 from the Giants’ 32. Rather than attempt a 49-yard field goal with Alex Henery, Kelly decided to go for it.
“When we go through pre-game, how far he can kick and what [special teams coach Dave] Fipp feels where he is,” Kelly said. “So when I talked to Fipp about it, there was a wind. If you’re talking about the one in the third quarter, going the other way, yeah there was pretty good wind there that we weren’t… that was a tough wind. That’s why we went for it on fourth down down there. Whenever we get close, Fipp’s right near me and I’ll ask him, and he’s like ‘We need to get a little bit closer in that situation.’
Results shouldn’t necessarily dictate the process, but it seems like Kelly is explaining a field goal decision on a weekly basis. Last week, he decided to go for a 60-yarder instead of trying to pick up extra yardage near the end of the first half against Dallas. This time around, he chose to pass on the 49-yarder. Barkley ended up fumbling the snap before throwing over Jason Avant’s head.