By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — Michael Vick and Chip Kelly were arm-and-arm with each other on the sideline, beaming megawatt smiles and yukking it up with each other as if they were doing this for years.
It did seem that way, didn’t it?
Vick just directed the Eagles to a second-quarter touchdown operating Kelly’s system perfectly—and further assuring his status as the Eagles’ starting quarterback. The rhythm was there. The speed. The quickness and efficiency in the way Vick released the ball. All the things Kelly wants from his quarterback, and all the things the 33-year-old Vick always maintained he was still capable of doing.
It was perfect. And Vick was close to it, completing his first nine passes and going 9-for-10 for 105 yards—his one incompletion coming on an interception on a desperation fling on the last play of the first half.
The Eagles’ 14-9 victory over the Carolina Panthers Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field meant little—though it may have provided a greater glimpse into what Kelly’s offense will look like when it’s real, less than a month from now.
“I feel good about what we’re doing; I think I did a good job of moving the team and I think we can certainly pick up the tempo and keep defenses on edge,” Vick said. “We’re just going to have to keep working and I can’t worry about [who’s going to be the starter]. There are endless possibilities with this offense. This team can go places and I’m happy I can do it with them. It just fits with what I can do.”
While the starters were in during the first half, the Eagles amassed 257 yards of offense, averaging 7.3 yards a play.
Defensively, cornerback free-agent signee Cary Williams proved he’s more than just talk, backing up what he said earlier this week, trying to inflict a little fear into the Panthers. Williams had a team-high four tackles with the starters in, and when he wasn’t trying to impose his will, he still had time to jaw at Carolina star receiver Steve Smith.
While everything else was clicking, Nick Foles was at times, too, and at other times he wasn’t, appearing skittish. Foles was 6-for-8, for 53 yards, and even scored a touchdown—rolling left for a 7-yard TD with just under three minutes left in the opening quarter.
What hurt, the dagger, if you will, through Foles’ night was an interception in the back of the end zone after Foles looked very impressive on the Eagles’ first drive of the game. Foles converted two third downs, including an 11-yard completion to Jason Avant on third-and-four at the Carolina 26.
Then Foles failed to handle a snap in the shotgun and when the Panthers converged on him, rushed a pass that was intercepted.
“I need to be smart with the football; I made a bad play worse fumbling the ball,” Foles said. “I felt a little pressure and tried throwing the ball through the back of the end zone. All I can do is correct what I did wrong. Mike is a competitor and I’m learning a lot going against him. I’ve always said Mike and I have a great relationship and I’m happy he’s doing well.”
“I think we have two quarterbacks that can play in an NFL game, and again, I thought both of those guys did well and I know Nick wants that [interception] back,” Kelly said. “It’s about quarterbacks making good decisions. We’re going to go over the film, and like I’ve said, we’re not going to make any rash decisions. We’re going to make a decision, but they’re making it difficult right now. I think it’s a good situation the way both of those guys are playing right now.”
Defensive lineman Vinny Curry continued to help himself, playing exceptionally well. In fact, Curry played so well that Kelly may have to entertain the thought of letting the second-year player run with the ones next week when the Eagles travel to Jacksonville.
“For the most part, I thought we played a lot better on that side of the ball,” Kelly said. “We’re all pleased with where the effort is, but there is still a whole lot of work we have to do.”
Another interesting little battle that may be unfolding is between punters Brad Wing and Donnie Jones. Wing kicked very well, putting some air under his punts and pinning Carolina inside its 10 in the fourth quarter.
Making his first appearance this season, LeSean McCoy was outstanding, showing precise cuts and leaving the Panthers’ defenders lunging at air. McCoy rushed for 47 yards on eight carries and a one-yard touchdown.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.