The improvements to the Eagles' offense Sunday in a 39-17 win over the New Orleans Saints were not difficult for coach Chip Kelly to discover when he watched the game film. The offensive line played better than it has all season, and the reverberations were felt throughout the entire offense.
"We just blocked better in the run game," Kelly said Monday. "And obviously if we can get our run game going, then our pass game with our quick game and our play-action passes off of that, I think we kept Sam [Bradford] clean, gave him an opportunity to throw the football. But it starts with us being able to run the football, and we did a good job with that."
There were a few factors that contributed to the rejuvenated line. Most important was that the Eagles played with the same five linemen every play of the game for the first time this season. That was a sharp departure from the previous two weeks, when they had to shuffle offensive line spots. Kelly believed the continuity helped the group.
The Eagles committed to running with the quarterback under center - they had 17 plays from under center, all runs - and they used two-tight-end sets more than usual. Those were run-friendly packages.
Kelly disputed the notion that Eagles changed their rushing and blocking style to focus on more man-to-man blocking and straight-ahead running. He said the Eagles ran more sweep plays than any point this season. But the bottom line is that they had their most success this year.
The Eagles totaled 519 yards on 79 plays. They rushed for 186 yards. They passed for 333 yards. All of those statistics were the best of the season. Also, Bradford was not sacked for the first time since Week 1.
"If you look at the tape, we ran the same plays we always run," Kelly said. "We just executed them."
The performances of Kelly's tackles also stood out on tape. Lane Johnson played with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee and a sprained left ankle. Jason Peters had a hamstring injury that limited him during the week.
"I thought both those guys played really well, especially considering what we thought they were going to be during the game," Kelly said.
Kelly said center Jason Kelce has improved as the season has progressed and played the last two games "at a really high level." Kelce, Peters, and Johnson are the Eagles' top three linemen. So when they play to par, it takes pressure off guards Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin.
"I think that the whole process and mind-set going into [the game] was just to make sure you do your job and the guy that you're supposed to play does not make the play," Kelce said after the game. "I think that if we do that, from here on out, we should have some success and hopefully we can get some momentum going."
The Eagles will keep Caleb Sturgis as the kicker for the game Monday against the New York Giants. Sturgis made four field goals Sunday, but he also missed one of his four extra points. Sturgis has two missed extra points in two weeks with the team. Kelly said the Eagles would not work out any kickers this week.
"Caleb did a nice job," Kelly said. "I think he kind of got into a groove there, especially in the kickoffs. A couple of them were short early, but the last couple he hit I think he really hit really well. We had a slightly high snap and a snap-hold operation on the missed extra point, but besides that I thought he hit the ball well. He started to get a little more comfortable."
Linebacker Marcus Smith played 22 snaps in his first action of the season. The 2014 first-round pick served as the team's third outside linebacker, spelling the starters and playing late in the game when the score was out of hand. He finished with one tackle and one quarterback hit. Kelly was encouraged.
"I think he's shown improvement," Kelly said. "On the interception . . . he did do a good job of one-arm bull-rushing the offensive tackle, kind of bringing him back into [Drew Brees'] face, and Drew couldn't really follow through on the throw."
The Eagles were flagged 15 yards for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the second quarter because of comments Kelly made to the official. The coach would not share what he said, but he did not dispute the suggestion on WIP-FM (94.1) that it was related to the officials picking up a penalty flag earlier in the game.
"I was 100 percent wrong, that's on me, that has got nothing to do with them," Kelly said. "That's my fault and it shouldn't have happened."