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By Joseph Santoliquito
Landover, Md. (CBS) — Other than the cascade of boos at halftime and a sporadic, piercing E-A-G-L-E-S cheer, FedEx Field was a crowded tomb. The Eagles made it that way in the third quarter Monday night against the defending NFC East champion Washington Redskins in the much-anticipated debut of new Birds’ coach Chip Kelly.
Throughout the first half, Kelly, the visionary, was on display. Anything, it seemed, the Eagles wanted to do on offense they did. Washington’s defense seemed stymied. The Eagles moved light-speed fast, creating a frenetic pace the huffing-puffing Redskins, their coaches, even those watching couldn’t stay with.
In the first two quarters, the Eagles’ defense, a looming question before the season, was stellar. Washington didn’t cross midfield for the first time until there was just over 11 minutes left in the third quarter, and didn’t score their first offensive touchdown until there was :06 left in the third quarter.
Then, when reality set in, when the Eagles slowed, they were forced to hang on for dear life in a highly impressive 33-27 victory over Washington to the shock of many.
“We’re excited, I think our guys played with great energy,” Kelly said. “We made some mistakes, coach included, but I think just the way they approached the game, the energy that they played with, if you play hard, you have a shot at winning in this league. I told our guys played really, really hard.”
A pair of Washington touchdowns late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter jolted the Washington crowd back into the game momentarily.
But the Eagles stanched any thought of a comeback, thanks in large part to Cary Williams.
Williams, who had been a lightning rod throughout training camp, had a sack, came up with a diving interception and the defensive play of the game swatting away a Robert Griffin III pass intended for Aldrick Robinson on fourth-and-15 at the Eagles’ 42 with 6:48 to play.
Washington had scored on consecutive drives before that crucial stop.
Williams was one of many who played very well defensively for the Eagles. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks was up in RGIII’s face all night, forcing the rusty second-year quarterback to rush some throws. Trent Cole, from his new outside linebacker position, forced one fumble, had a big fourth-quarter sack and tackled Alfred Morris for a safety.
Michael Vick completed 15 of 25 for 203 yards and two touchdowns—but was just 2-for-2 in the second half 13 yards. LeSean McCoy carried 31 for 184 yards—though the Eagles had just five first downs in the second half.
The Eagles stunned the Redskins in the first half. They took the opening kickoff and drove right down the field, reaching the Washington four when a freakish play occurred. It appeared Vick was throwing a little screen to the left that was batted down by the Redskins’ Ryan Kerrigan.
Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall scooped the loose ball up and went 75 yards for a touchdown on what was called a fumble.
“It was a bizarre first half, the first drive, the ball is tipped and was it a lateral, and [the refs] said it was and they scored,” Kelly said. “Our defense did a great job tonight. That was the key for us.”
The Eagles responded by scoring 33 unanswered points. They went into halftime ahead, 26-7, amassing 322 yards of total offense to a mere 75 for Washington. By halftime, the Eagles averaged 7.4 yards a play to Washington’s 3.9 and had 21 first downs to only three for the Redskins.
In the first two quarters, Vick was 13 of 21 for 190 yards and two touchdowns. McCoy had 115 yards on 20 carries, as the Eagles ran off 53 plays to Washington’s 21.
For a half, it was Chip Kelly nirvana.
“We may have [let up in the fourth quarter],” Kelly said. “We have to look at that. You start to manage a game, it’s a different game at this level, because the clock is always running. It’s a little bit different than in college. It’s no different than when I was in college. You get one first down and you get rolling. A couple of times, we call them self-inflicted wounds, we put ourselves in a hole with some penalties. Those things are correctable. But we have a lot to learn.”