There were a lot more negatives than positives in the Eagles’ first game of the NFL season, including, of course, the score. And perhaps the biggest negative of the 26-24 loss to Atlanta on Monday night was the lack of production and poor play, respectively, from the Eagles’ two prize off-season acquisitions, running back DeMarco Murray and cornerback Byron Maxwell.
And the reason the Eagles played poorly for much of the game, according to coach Chip Kelly, was simple – it was all technique, or, more to the point, the lack of it. We’re not exactly sure what that means, of course, because Kelly loves to talk in coach-speak whenever he discusses stuff with the media. That works for Kelly on two levels. For one thing, he’ll ramble on about those things until the reporter forgets what his original question was, and Kelly also knows he can dazzle the media with a bunch of technical mumbo-jumbo we don’t understand (we’re not the brightest bulbs in the box, you know).
Kelly also tends to be a little smug about how his fast-paced practices (excuse me – Kelly insists on calling them “training sessions’’) and the number of reps his team gets in those daily workouts has his team better prepared than their opponents. And then his team goes out and gets called for 14 penalties (four were declined), and those flags not only cost them negative yardage, they also wiped out 98 positive yards and several key first downs.
And then his team, which has three running backs who have played in the Pro Bowl, goes out and rushes for a total of 63 yards (nine by Murray). And then his team goes out and fails to protect their most valuable asset, quarterback Sam Bradford. And then his team, which led the NFC in sacks last year, barely touches Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
And then Kelly says the reason all those bad things happened was the Eagles’ lack of technique when it came to penalties and making blocks and getting off blocks and covering wide receivers and, well, pretty much everything.
That certainly includes Maxwell, the $60 million man who was burned repeatedly by the Falcons, and, in particular, their All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones, who was just selected as the NFC offensive player of the week. The Falcons targeted Maxwell 11 times and completed 10 of them for 179 yards, plus Maxwell was called for a pass interference penalty.
“Just inconsistencies in techniques,’’ Kelly said in explaining why Maxwell struggled so much. “I think Byron would be the first one to tell you that. When he was locked up in technique, he did a really good job. When he got beat, you can look at where he was from a technical standpoint and that’s where he got beat.’’
And that begs the question that wasn’t asked – how can a five-year veteran, who started in the last two Super Bowls and just completed almost two months of daily training camp practices, mess up “technique’’ so many times?
The answer is that it sounds better for Kelly to say Maxwell failed to execute his techniques than to say that he simply stunk up the joint. Kelly tries to make it sound clinical when it was a simple case of Maxwell getting beat time and time again. It’s also easier for Kelly to blame technique and execution than to say that his defensive coordinator, Bill Davis, did a poor job designing a game plan to deal with Jones, who is, by far, the Falcons’ best player.
Kelly used the same excuse for the number of penalties his team incurred and pretty much everything else went wrong.
“It was just technical breakdowns,’’ he said of his team’s lack of execution.
And that brings to mind one of the best quotes of all time, from the late John McKay, who was coach of the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the time, a team that would finish the 1976 season 0-14 en route to an NFL-record 26-game losing streak. When asked by a reporter what he thought of his team’s execution, McKay, with a straight face, said “I’m in favor of it.’’