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Doug Pederson's play-calling not to blame for Eagles' loss … this time

Doug Pederson's play-calling not to blame for Eagles' loss … this time

Anybody who reads the Eagles postgame grades with any regularity knows complaints about Doug Pederson’s pass-happy play-calling are a staple. Yet, strangely enough, when the clock reached zero in a 27-20 loss in Kansas City, I felt more or less fine with the game Pederson had just called.

Officially, the Eagles ran the ball just 13 times against the Chiefs in Week 2, while Carson Wentz dropped back to pass a whopping 56 times. How could anybody be alright with that?

Because, quite simply, play-calling balance was not the reason the Eagles lost Sunday. It probably wasn’t Nos. 2 or 3 on the list, either.

Should Pederson try to run the ball more? Generally speaking, yes. But the Eagles’ game plan was working! The offense racked up 406 yards of total offense, 27 first downs and converted 53 percent of its third downs — all better marks than the Chiefs. The Eagles even had the edge in time of possession.

The inability to run the football with any consistency certainly didn't help matters, but the strategy to attack Kansas City through the air was not misguided.

"Going in, I felt like we could do some things against the secondary against the Chiefs and throwing the ball," Pederson said postgame. "Obviously, you hope your run game is on track, on point. It wasn't, so from that standpoint, It was tough sledding later in the game when sometimes you want to rely on that run game."

Not sure how the Eagles were defeated then? Torrey Smith dropped a touchdown pass, forcing the Eagles to settle for a field goal. Darren Sproles fumbled a punt return in Eagles territory, costing his team a possession and gifting the opponent three points. Jake Elliott missed a field goal. And Wentz tried to throw a screen pass through traffic, it got deflected and ultimately wound up intercepted.

That interception, by the way, came immediately after Wendell Smallwood was stopped for a two-yard loss on a first-down rushing attempt. A lot of good that did.

Up to that point, the Eagles were playing the Chiefs pretty much even and arguably had the home team on the ropes. The score was tied at 13 with 9:23 remaining, and the defense had just forced a three-and-out.

On the ensuing possession after the pick, Vinny Curry was unable to finish a sack that would’ve forced Kansas City to attempt a long field goal. The quarterback got away, scrambled for the first down, and two plays later, touchdown. The momentum had swung permanently to the Chiefs’ side.

The Eagles didn’t make plays. The other team did. Play-calling wasn’t to blame. It was the players.

Granted, the running game is a total mess. LeGarrette Blount, as predicted, is old and one-dimensional. Smallwood hasn’t been getting the opportunities, presumably because he’s a liability in pass protection — which is an especially unattractive feature for Pederson's Eagles. And Sproles is never going to get 20 carries per game, though at this point, hey, maybe it’s worth a shot.

It's a massive problem. It also isn’t a great excuse to go away from the run as frequently and immediately as Pederson often does. Even if the ground attack is destined to be the Eagles’ primary weakness for the remainder of the season, ignoring the running backs aren't going to be an option most weeks.

I would not condone the strategy that was used in Kansas City on a regular basis.

"When you play good teams, like we did, good defenses, you have to have the ability to run the ball. It's an area that we have to fix." Pederson said.

"It's hard. It's tough to always have to rely on the throw."

There is also no hard rule for what a proper run-to-pass ratio is. That’s entirely dependent upon the flow of the game. In this particular case, the Eagles were moving the ball up and down the field with an offense that went through the quarterback for three-and-a-half quarters, and at the time, it was difficult to complain.

Up to that point, it had been successful.

The Eagles lost, so I suppose you can pin that on whatever you like. If play-calling balance is your cup of tea this week, well, Pederson’s game plan wasn’t good enough to secure the W, so have at it.

It’s just that the numbers don’t necessarily justify any kind of significant deviation from what Pederson was doing. The Eagles were moving the sticks and mounting sustained drives. That’s what offenses are supposed to do, albeit preferably with more scoring.

The case can certainly be made a few more runs would’ve benefited the Eagles — though there’s not much evidence to support that claim. It seems it would be a lot easier to admit the players had opportunities but failed to execute, and the Eagles were simply beaten on the road by a superior team.

Watch Eagles roast Jay Ajayi after 71-yard run for getting caught

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Watch Eagles roast Jay Ajayi after 71-yard run for getting caught

It's not everyday you see an Eagles player take the ball and run for 71 yards. So Philadelphia fans understandably went bonkers when Jay Ajayi did just that in the Birds' win over the Cowboys on Sunday.

It's also not that frequent that you see a dude get chased down from behind on such a play.

Sadly, the latter happened to Ajayi and his teammates let him hear it on the sidelines after. The fantastic Inside the NFL gave us an up-close look at the roasting.

You almost feel bad for Ajayi, like Kenjon Barner is laying it on a little too thick.

"You slow as $#@!," one player tells him.

"They're gonna lower my speed on Madden," Ajayi says.

Chip Kelly is going back where he belongs

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USA Today Images

Chip Kelly is going back where he belongs

After spending the year out of football, former Eagles coach Chip Kelly is returning to the sideline — and might be aligning with ex-Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman in the process.

According to reports, Kelly is expected to accept a head coaching job at one of two college football programs. The decision is down to Florida and UCLA, and he is rumored to have already turned away other high-profile programs such as Nebraska and Tennessee.

UCLA may be Kelly's most likely landing spot at this point, with alumnus Aikman putting on a "full-court press," says ESPN's Mark Schlabach, and Florida supposedly wanting an answer ASAP.

Wherever Kelly winds up going, that should end his unsuccessful foray into the NFL once and for all. Consider this an obituary of sorts.

The move will cement Kelly as a "college coach," if his pro tenure hadn't accomplished that already. After guiding the Eagles to the playoffs and being named Coach of the Year in his first season, he missed the postseason the next two years and was fired. Kelly got the hook again after one miserable season with the 49ers, bottoming out with a 2-14 record.

There are no shortage of excuses for why Kelly flamed out in the NFL. Lack of talent — specifically under center — was certainly a factor, though his failed stint as the chief talent evaluator in his final season with the Eagles certainly contributed to that.

The simple truth is not everything that works in college translates at the next level, and Kelly never adjusted.

Kelly only turns 54 this week, so a return to the professional ranks years down the road isn't completely out of the question. After his last two trainwreck seasons in the league, it's difficult to imagine what an organization would still see.

Employing schemes that aren't suited to the team's personnel, calling the same 10 to 15 plays every game, eliminating the quarterback's ability to call an audible or even something as small as never using a snap count may work at university. Those concepts are fundamentally opposed to what has been successful in the NFL.

Honestly, it's kind of too bad. The Eagles could use that easy W on the schedule periodically.

Perhaps the Eagles should just be grateful to have survived Kelly's radical changes without overhauling the entire roster again, and somehow coming out better off for everything. After releasing DeSean Jackson, trading away LeSean McCoy, trading for Sam Bradford, and spending huge sums of money on the likes of DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell -- to name a few, and all in the span of a year -- the franchise easily could've wound up in the tank.

There's no denying Kelly looked like a genius while at Oregon, racking up 46-7 record and three top-five finishes in four seasons as head coach. Yet like so many college coaches before him, and many bound to come after, he was never destined for sustained success in the NFL.