Chip Kelly: ‘Is there a leadership issue in the Eagles lockeroom?’

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The Eagles are playing the “if” game about the once-explosive offense that their past two opponents have successfully detonated. If they protect better up front, Michael Vick can be a dynamic playmaker. If they stop committing penalties, they can sustain drives and wear down defenses.

If they execute better in the end zone, they can pull away early instead of settling for field goals (that Alex Henery may or may not make). You know the expression about “ifs” and “buts,” right? Well, it's not Christmas for anybody in the locker room right now.

So far, the Eagles have churned out offensive yards at a historic rate. All they to have to show for it is three losses in four games and two straight pedestrian scoring efforts following Sunday’s 52-20 loss to the Broncos in Denver. “There’ve been plenty of Super Bowl teams that have come back from even worse than this,” said center Jason Kelce, who might need to recheck his football encyclopedia. “Bottom line is other than this game, we’ve been in every single game we’ve played and barring some of those mental mistakes in the last two games, we could easily be 3-1 right now.”

“Offensively, we’re doing a good job of piling up yards, but we’ve got to put it in the end zone. Good teams don’t turn it over, don’t get too many penalties, and they punch it in the red zone when they get chances, and over the last three games now, we’ve done a poor job of all of that.” The Eagles racked up 450 yards against the Broncos and became the first team in NFL history to have at least 430 yards in three straight games and lose all three games.

Since scoring touchdowns on five of their first nine possessions to the open the season, the Eagles have scored just seven touchdowns on their last 40 possessions. It was six in their past 39 before Nick Foles replaced Vick late in the fourth and threw a mop-up touchdown to Jeff Maehl.

It’s hard to believe that this is the same offense that built a 33-7 lead over the Redskins in the first 31 minutes of the season. “Right now I think a lot of it is self-inflicted,” Kelly said. “I think [the Broncos defense] did a good job up front, got a good push and generated a pass rush against us, but they’re not making us drop the ball and they’re not making us get penalties. Those are things, we call them SIWs, self-inflicted wounds. I think we’re responsible for those.”

There were several SIWs against the Broncos, and they started early. Tight end Brent Celek, who’s prone to drops, botched a wide-open pass from Vick at the Broncos' 4-yard line on the second possession. Instead of tying the game at 7-7, the Eagles settled for a field goal and then fell further behind when Trindon Holliday returned the ensuing kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown.

An offensive line that was supposed to be a strong point once again couldn’t keep the pass rush off Vick’s back and committed penalties that stalled drives. Vick, who was sacked six times against Kansas City, went down three more times against Denver. His favorite target, DeSean Jackson, finished with just 34 yards on two catches, his second straight game under 65 yards, illustrating again how badly the Eagles miss Jeremy Maclin.

Usually reliable left guard Evan Mathis committed a second-quarter hold that negated a 19-yard catch by Desean Jackson that would have put the Eagles at the Broncos’ 22-yard line with Denver up by just eight. Instead, the penalty backed them to their own 49, and the drive ended with Kelly making the unpopular decision to punt instead of attempting a 4th-and-6 at the Broncos' 37. “That was a difference-maker,” Vick said. “That drive could have resulted in some points, then we got a close game. They got the ball coming out of the second half, and they went straight down and scored.

“That gives their defense an opportunity to pin our ears back and blitz and come after us. That changes the whole dynamic of the game, and that’s what usually happens in football.”

- Geoff Mosher, CSN Philly

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