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Kelly: 'No excuses' after questionable calls

The flight home from Minneapolis lasted about 21/2 hours, and even news of the defeat of the Dallas Cowboys did not provide much relief for Eagles coach Chip Kelly after a 48-30 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The next day wasn't much better.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Eagles coach Chip Kelly. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)Read more

The flight home from Minneapolis lasted about 21/2 hours, and even news of the defeat of the Dallas Cowboys did not provide much relief for Eagles coach Chip Kelly after a 48-30 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The next day wasn't much better.

After defeats, Mondays are unforgiving for NFL coaches and Kelly was experiencing that agony for the first time since October.

Sunday's loss came at the hands of an opponent the Eagles were expected to beat, and there were some questionable decisions by Kelly. He decided to kick the ball short to the Vikings to avoid their returner; he went for it on fourth and 1 on the Eagles' 24-yard line; he called only eight rushing plays for LeSean McCoy.

When Kelly was asked which decision or play in the game most vexed him overnight, the coach put them all in the same category.

"They all keep you up," Kelly said.  "It's every single call you make, and it's every single thing you do. It's also whether you win or lose, and I've said that all along. . . . Everybody's happy and jumping around last week, and now all of a sudden the sky is falling.  That's the way it is."

His kickoff strategy was predicated on keeping the ball out of Cordarrelle Patterson's hands. Patterson entered the game with a league-high 33.3 yards per kick return, including two touchdowns. Kelly said the average starting field position for the Vikings after a Patterson return was the 29.6-yard line.

With the Eagles' strategy, Minnesota's average starting field position after the five kickoffs (excluding one onside kick) was at the 33.6-yard line - a 4-yard differential. Kelly said the Eagles did not have a specific starting field position in mind, but they had more success with short, pooch kicks - mortar kicks, as he called them - than with squib kicks.

"I think the squib kicks were the ones that hurt us," Kelly said. "There was one bounce to the up back, and he had the ability to return it. Mortar kicks were more effective for us."

The obvious alternative would be kicking it deep. But Kelly said part of what makes Patterson dangerous is that he returns kickoffs from deep in the end zone, citing a 109-yard return as an example. That would require kicker Alex Henery to kick the ball out of the end zone.

The Eagles monitored Henery in pregame warm-ups and at halftime. Henery was kicking the ball 5-6 yards deep into the end zone, and the Eagles figured Patterson would return kicks from that spot.

Kelly explained the decision to go for it on fourth and 1 in the third quarter with the same rationale he offered after the game. The Eagles trailed, 24-9, and needed a jolt. Kelly believed the offense could gain half a yard.

"We figured we've got to do something and get something going here," Kelly said. "So I'm hoping that when we have a half-yard to gain that we can gain half a yard."

Kelly said he has no general philosophy on when to go for it in those situations. He has a reputation for being aggressive. The Eagles entered the game 4 of 5 on fourth-and-1 situations, and they converted one earlier in the game that was nullified by a penalty downfield. So the percentage worked in the Eagles' favor.

Kelly said that maybe the Eagles should have thrown on the missed fourth-and-1, which brought up the pass-run ratio.

Kelly called 55 passing plays and 10 rushing plays. The Eagles trailed for most of the game and the Vikings were missing their top three cornerbacks, but that ratio still overwhelmingly favored the pass.

"There is never a breakdown of, it has to be this, it has to be that," Kelly said. "It's 'What are we gaining for yards?' "

When asked about McCoy's lack of carries, Kelly said it was a combination of the score and the advantages in the passing game. The Vikings played single-high safety with an extra player in the box. So Kelly said there was always an unblocked player within 2-3 yards of the line of scrimmage, making rushing more difficult.

But that defensive strategy forced the Vikings to play man-to-man coverage, which opened opportunities in the passing game. Nick Foles threw for a career-high 428 yards. And Kelly was happy with the way McCoy was used in the passing game. McCoy finished with five catches for 68 yards.

In defeat, Kelly's decisions are more closely scrutinized. That's the nature of the NFL. He knows that problems do not receive as much attention after wins as after losses. And on Monday, he took his medicine.

"For five straight weeks, we did a pretty good job and Mondays were pretty good around here," Kelly said.

"Today, Mondays aren't pretty good, but they shouldn't be pretty good because we were disappointing, and we didn't do what we were supposed to do yesterday. You can't make excuses."