Kelly’s Message: December Matters

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia EaglesAfter the last time the Eagles played at Lincoln Financial Field, the direction of the 2013 season was very much in question.

Chip Kelly’s squad had just lost back-to-back games to the Cowboys and Giants. The offense was sputtering. The QB situation was a mess. And the Eagles had extended their home losing streak to 10.

“I wasn’t worried,” Kelly said after the team’s 24-16 win over the Redskins. “But I knew that was gonna be a big test for us and we knew what we had to do. We had to stick together as a group, and the only people that really had confidence in us was us, and rightly so because we weren’t playing very well.

“But I think together as a group, we’ve gotten better. And we’re growing. We’re new to them. They’re new to us. As long as we continue to learn what they can do and put them in positions to make plays and just get out of the way and watch them go play, it’s interesting to watch these guys on a weekly basis continue to get better. So it’s encouraging as we head into the bye week.”

The Eagles have now won three in a row for the first time all season. The quarterback situation has stabilized. The home losing streak is over. And for a week at least, Philadelphia has a first-place football team going into the bye.

The victory lost some style points near the end. The offense was on a roll in the first half, but after a third-quarter touchdown, the Eagles failed to score on their final five offensive possessions.

“We had that first drive and I thought we did an outstanding job,” Kelly said. “It was a 13-play deal for a touchdown and then just really couldn’t get it going after that. They did a nice job forcing us into a couple things, couldn’t convert on a fourth down. But I’ll give them credit. They made some plays. They got off of blocks.

“Sometimes we had some looks and some one-on-one looks where it looked like we were gonna gain more than we did. But it’s a tough game and fortunately we got out of here with a victory. I thought they did a good job from the middle of the third quarter of defending us.”

Despite the offensive struggles down the stretch, the Eagles have averaged 33.3 points per game in their last three. And their average margin of victory during that stretch has been 17 points.

Kelly spelled out the difference offensively in simple terms.

“The biggest thing I think we’re doing offensively is we’re not turning the ball over,” he said. “We’re not putting ourselves in bad situations. And we’re continuing to win that turnover battle. When you’re plus in the turnover battle, if our defense can continue to create them like they are, we can continue to be smart and not spit the ball out on our side… then you’ve got a shot.”

With Nick Foles running the show, the offense has turned it over just once in the last three games. That’s compared to 14 turnovers in the first eight.

Defensively, the Eagles shut the Redskins out for three quarters before things nearly fell apart completely in the fourth. But Kelly didn’t seem all that bothered by the close call at the end.

“To be a good football team, you can’t flinch, and I don’t think these guys did,” he said. “Obviously, the Redskins are extremely talented, and they’ve got some weapons on the offensive side of the ball. To play as well as we played defensively for the entire game, to watch them finish it off that way was really encouraging. In this game, crap’s gonna hit the fan. It’s just how you react to it, and I thought our guys did a great job from that standpoint.”

The Eagles will be at the NovaCare Complex on Monday and Tuesday. They’ll then take time off Wednesday to re-charge before coming back next week.

“It’s all for naught if we don’t continue to build from here,” Kelly said. “And I think they understand that too. There’s still a lot of football to be left. …We’ve got five games in December, but we’ve put ourselves in a situation where those five games in December are meaningful. And then we’ll do the same exact thing I talk about all the time. I said it to them again in the locker room. We’re gonna pick our heads up on Dec. 29 and figure out where we are.”

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