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Inexplicably, Chip Kelly opts for almost unprecedented onside kick with 4:11 left in Eagles’ loss to Giants

Oct 27, 2013, 8:21 PM EDT


For reasons unbeknownst to most all, Giants punter Steve Weatherford double-clutched kicking a high snap out of his own end zone and taking the safety, instead gift-wrapping a two-yard touchdown for Eagles special teamer Najee Goode. Crazier: With 4:11 to go, the score 15-7, and with the Eagle defense having to that point allowed 12 yards in the second half, Chip Kelly opted for the onside kick.

Some context: Twenty-two onside kicks have been attempted by a team within eight points since 2011.

All but one came with less than 2:33 to go. None were successful.

Going back to 1999, the earliest year for which Pro-Football-Reference play index game play data is available, only once in 26 opportunities has a head coach down eight or less opted for an onside kick outside of 4:00 in the fourth quarter: Tom Coughlin in 2008, one year after winning a Super Bowl and two before winning another — the same two years he was this close to being out of a job, and, maybe, football.

Unsurprisingly, the kick was unsuccessful. Wasn’t even close. The Giants burned 3:44 over six plays before punting, leaving only 16 seconds for the Eagles and Matt Barkley. (Which, in theory, could have happened had Kelly kicked it deep.) Barkley threw his fourth interception in 46 attempts this season as the Eagles lost, 15-7, to extend their home skid to an unfathomable 10 games. It’s possible Alex Henery had looked good kicking them in practice this week/season/lifetime. Still, it’s hardly defensible.

Kelly should have kicked it deep. Period.

There’s a difference between aggressiveness and foolhardiness, confidence and naivete. This play demonstrated, in vivid detail, that difference. Between Kelly’s resume and flair for the unconventional, many are quick to question his decision-making, strategy, general modus operandi. Maybe too many.

Not here.

Chip’s 8:00 a.m. hit on Philly talk radio tomorrow should be fun.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @MKH973 Catch him every Saturday from 12-2 on 97.3 ESPN-FM. 

  1. sfsu - Oct 27, 2013 at 9:03 PM

    If you kick deep, you have to stop them to get the ball back.

    If you onside kick and miss….you have to stop them to get the ball back. But if you recover it, you don’t have to stop them at all.

    The resulting field position doesn’t matter, because if the Giants get far enough after recovering the onside kick to get into field goal range, then they almost certainly would have run out the clock by then (this is exactly what happened — the Giants ended up punting right on the edge of FG range, with 30-40 seconds left).

    All the shitty decisions Chip Kelly made today — using that timeout at the end of the first half, NEVER running with McCoy on the final drive of the first half, punting at midfield with 10 minutes left on 4th and 4, not going for 2 after the TD….this is the issue? It was probably the only thing he did right today. Just because the kicker made a shitty attempt doesn’t mean it was the wrong call.

    • sfsu - Oct 27, 2013 at 9:08 PM

      The obvious reply to this is the field position that results for the Eagles after the Giants punt. However, there is no guarantee that the Giants will end up punting at all. The value of having the ball is worth more than the 25 yards of field position. With the onside kick, you’re getting 2 chances at getting the ball back. Kicking it deep only gives you 1.

      • TartanSixNine - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:43 PM

        Hammond you are too focused on the result and not enough on the math that drove Chip’s decision. Fans are conditioned to thinking the status quo is the right decision, but playing it safe was not the correct one here.

        Bottom line, sfsu is spot-on in his analysis.

      • Matt Hammond - Oct 28, 2013 at 7:47 AM

        so, no thought given to the fact that (a) only one coach had done it so early in the past 14 years and (b) doing it that early created potentially game-altering momentum, the same argument fans used to bash him for going for two against KC? at least he had a numbers advantage then. now, all he had was a defense that looked ostensibly shocked by not being given another chance to keep them in it.

      • BenE. - Oct 28, 2013 at 8:52 AM

        Sfsu it right.

        This is the kind of negative nitpicking we’ve come to expect from Kulp.

        It was a terrible f*cking game by the Birds. I’m not going to get hung up on one last gamble. And that’s what onside kicks always are: gambles. The team is rebuilding. I’m glad Chip is trying different things and seeing what works and what doesn’t. He is a trier, we can give him that.

      • sfsu - Oct 28, 2013 at 10:29 AM

        4 weeks ago the Falcons kicked onside against the Patriots trailing by 10 points with 4:25 on the clock. They recovered, and nearly won the game because of it. But they were down by 10 instead of 8, so it’s not in your intentionally limited sample sizes.

        If we’re judging current decisions based on what past coaches have done (when it’s been proven that coaches in the past have been way, way too risk-averse), then we’re going to be reaching some pretty bad conclusions.

      • Matt Hammond - Oct 28, 2013 at 10:42 AM

        two possession game. totally different. sorry.

      • sfsu - Oct 28, 2013 at 8:33 PM

        Not different at all, because it was still an expected onside kick.

        8 points might be a two posession game, unless you can predict the future. The point is that in order to determine an exact answer on this decision, you need to figure out which is more valuable: 25 yards of field position, or an extra chance at a possession. Nobody has done that math yet, because its incredibly complicated, but I’m not the one speaking in absoluteshere

  2. LolCryEaglesCry - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:52 PM

    His offense couldn’t do much vs Auburn’s D line now you’re telling me its not working against Pro talent. How much is Oregon missing him right now anyway?

  3. Boss 21 - Oct 27, 2013 at 11:54 PM

    Anyone that has had an severe hamstring pull knows it takes longer than 2 wks 2 heal chip Kelly knew Vick wasn’t ready an that Foles will always b a backup QB make the offense fit the QB this isn’t college Chip grown folks football

    • Paul - Oct 28, 2013 at 12:47 AM

      Funny people shit on the college game but if you look at it as a coach that is where the money is to be made.

    • Matt Hammond - Oct 28, 2013 at 7:50 AM

      but chip doesn’t make those decisions, the medical staff does. if you listen to his pressers, chip doesn’t even get into specifics because, he says, “they only tell (me) whether (guy) can go or not.” they, and vick, told him vick was good to go, so vick went. can’t crush him for that.

  4. willh888 - Oct 28, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    It’s a 4-12 team with no impact-additions and a rookie head coach who lost his 2nd best player on offense a day into camp. Team sucks. Surprisingly the offense and defense have swapped roles and only one it taking it turn at sucking at the moment. I know Chip picked Barkley because he was a projected 1st round pick, but there’s also a reason he went from that to a FOURTH ROUNDER. Only good example is the way he stared down Sean Lee for about 4 seconds and threw it directly at him. Was he wearing some kind of ghillie suit, hiding in the bushes or was he wearing a big bright white jersey with a silver helmet? That’s not a rookie mistake, that’s just not focusing on what the hell needs to be done.

    At first I didnt agree with the onsides kick but I know what Chip is thinking. Offense looks like a bunch of future Philadelphia Soul Starters and he needed something to get them all charged up. I just wish Alex Henery understood the point of an onside kick.

    • Matt Hammond - Oct 28, 2013 at 10:44 AM

      didn’t he have something to “get them charged up”: potentially game-changing fumble-recovery touchdown, on the immediately preceding play?

      • willh888 - Oct 28, 2013 at 10:56 AM

        Yep, but it’s hard for the offense to be all chargy and such sitting on the sideline. I didn’t like the call either with 4+ mins to go, but it sounds a lot better in retrospect for this bumbling offense to go 49 yards in 4 mins. It’s still 1st and 10 from anywhere on the field. Even if you recover the kick, go 3 and out, you’re still in a place to get the ball back so you could possibly get 2 possessions out of it. I think Chip wanted to give the Eagles Offense the shortest possible field with the maximum amount of time left.

      • Matt Hammond - Oct 28, 2013 at 1:34 PM

        would it make you feel any better if i told you i started writing before the ball even left henery’s foot?

      • willh888 - Oct 28, 2013 at 2:33 PM

        way way better. I was feelin’ down

  5. Charlie D - Oct 28, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    I love all the experts that comment on here….too bad you guys couldn’t keep your full time jobs as professional Head Coaches. Opinions are fine, just like a’holes….but not one of you is qualified to tell any Head Coach what to do :)


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