Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Early Birds: Coin toss decisions; opening kickoff gaffe; turnovers/penalties

1) The Eagles won the coin toss before Sunday's 38-27 loss to the Dallas Cowboys and elected to receive. Of course, they never actually received – Dallas recovered the short kickoff.

But it's interesting to see what Chip Kelly decides to do if the Eagles win the toss, because he does not have a consistent decision. The Eagles have won the coin toss eight times this season. They deferred four times, and they elected to receive four times.

"A lot of times, it's weather, kind of seeing where you are, how their kicker is, what you anticipate what the outcome of the kickoff is going to be," Kelly said. "But most of the time we are concerned with the weather is the big factor for that: is there wind, do you need the wind, can you kick with the wind, can you pin them down there? There's a lot of different variables."

On Sunday, Kelly wanted to get the ball first. That never happened, and it cost the Eagles early momentum.

2) Speaking of that kickoff, what happened?

Returner Josh Huff accepted responsibility after the game, saying he planned on charging up to catch the ball, but the wind killed the ball before he could reach it.

"It was just a freak-of-nature play," Huff said. "I've never seen that happen in all my years playing football, the ball just die like it did."

Kelly put more of the responsibility on Brad Smith, who is the "up man" on the field.

"We were on the 10 and the ball landed on the 15," Kelly said. "Josh was too deep for him to field the kick. I think what he thought was that the ball got hit ‑‑ looked like it came off his foot pretty good, but looked like it got held up by the wind."

Huff and Smith are supposed to communicate, but the Eagles rely on the veteran Smith to take over in that situation. Huff is a rookie, while Smith is in his ninth NFL season.

"That's why we have Brad in that situation, in case it's a short kick so he can field it," Kelly said.

The Elias Sports Bureau ruled the play a fumble because the ball was touched by Huff before Dallas recovered it.

3) For all of the emphasis Kelly places on finding the right players and being smart, the Eagles have too many "self-inflicted wounds" this season. That's what Kelly terms turnovers and penalties.

The Eagles lead the NFL with 34 turnovers. Kelly did not view the turnovers as fundamental issues by the players. Brent Celek had one fumble on Sunday. LeSean McCoy had one in each of the previous two games. Sanchez threw two more interceptions on Sunday, and has nine this season.

"I think you have to look at each of the turnovers [individually]." Kelly said. "Obviously, the opening kickoff was just different. Brent Celek, I don't think he has a fumble since I've been here: this may be his first one.

"So when you kind of go through it, you look at each individual turnover in terms of how that affected you. So if it was a fundamental issue ‑‑ but I think it's fundamentals we work on. You look at Duce [running backs coach Duce Staley], you guys are here everyday at practice, in terms of what he does with the running backs. There's a ball security station every single day out there. We harp on it, we talk about it, but we are continuing to do that.

The Eagles are No. 12 in the NFL in penalty yards, and they are No. 15 in total penalties. The third-penalties on defense have particularly been an issue this season because they have extended scoring drives.

"In the penalty situation, we just have to understand, and rightly so, in terms of how they are going to call the game," Kelly said. "I think the difference is some groups call it one way, some groups call it another. Sometimes you can get away with a lot of things [and] sometimes you can't get away with a lot of things.  You have got to get that feel once the game is going on."