Late in the first quarter, Matthew Stafford connected with Calvin Johnson for a 33-yard gain on a post route against Cary Williams.
“It wasn’t the fact that I couldn’t run with Calvin, it was the fact that when I tried to turn, I was sliding initially,” Williams said. “I didn’t get the initial grab into the ground the way I wanted to.”
Williams figured the Lions’ defensive backs would likely have the same issue against the Eagles’ receivers. So he decided to let Chip Kelly know.
“It was funny, Cary Williams was the one who came up to me, and he was like, ‘Coach, this is what you’ve got to do because you can’t make up speed if the guy makes a stick move on you just because of the footing,’ ” Kelly said. “Cary was kind of the one, and it’s coming from a defensive guy saying, ‘Hey, if you have an opportunity to either throw a post or throw a corner route, it’s hard to make that up.’ Finally we hit Riley [Cooper] on it. It was almost like that kind of got us going, got our confidence back a little bit, and then we got rolling there.”
Nick Foles started out the game 4-for-13 for 35 yards. But he finished 7-for-9 for 144 yards. The 44-yard completion to Cooper was the biggest play of the game by either side. And it came at a crucial time.
The Lions had just taken a 14-0 lead on a 58-yard punt return. But Kelly listened to what Williams said and decided to take some shots deep on breaking routes that put defensive backs at a disadvantage because of the snow.
“You run anything that was inside because you’re used to planting off that outside foot so sometimes your outside foot slips,” Williams said. “Sometimes it was that inside initial step that slipped. I knew I was having a little bit of a difficult time coming down because the field was lumpy and it had maybe seven, eight inches of snow on it. So for a defender it was tough. It was difficult to kind of manage your footwork out there. And it puts you a step behind or maybe a step-and-a-half behind guys. And I felt like we had the receivers to get the job done.
“It was crazy, coach went along with me, and it’s weird because you don’t get a head coach or a defensive player telling a head coach, ‘Hey, this is a great possibility if we run this particular route.’ But Chip believed in me, and it’s crazy.”
Asked what Kelly told him after the game, Williams recalled: “He said, ‘We took your notes.’ And I said, ‘Dang, yeah, appreciate it. I’m glad you guys did.'”