As fans settled in front of the televisions after engulfing their plates in Thanksgiving food, the Eagles defeated the Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles had run zero plays, gained zero yards, and scored zero points. The biggest event in the game, the coin toss, had fallen in he Eagles favor.
One way the coin toss won the Eagles the game last week because it gave the offense a chance to gain confidence early in the ball game. For a Chip Kelly offense predicated on rhythm, gaining early first downs was key for the Eagles en route to a 33-point output. Philadelphia flew down the field in 3:05, and put up a seven-point lead in the blink of an eye. The offense set the tone for itself for the entire game, and scored 23 points in the first half alone against what had been a respected, albeit suspect, Dallas defense.
More importantly, the coin toss allowed the Eagle defense to play with a lead, and focus on defending the pass instead of the run. Though Dallas attempted to run DeMarco Murray quite a bit in the first half, the star running back was immobilized in the second half once Dallas began playing catch up. Murray finished with 20 carries, which is low for a back who has attempted over 25 carries five times this year. Dallas’ work horse was left in the barn, as Tony Romo tried to mount a hopeless flurry of pass-led drives. The Eagles defense was able to run zone blitzes once they saw Romo start to carry the offense, and wreaked havoc on the injured quarterback. Romo was under duress the entire second half, leading to sacks and turnovers that killed the game off for the Eagles.
The coin toss may prove to be a key factor in the game against Seattle, as ell as the remaining games this season. Against balanced offenses like Seattle and Dallas, grabbing an early lead negates the ability to run the ball too much, especially if it’s stopped early. Even against high-scoring offenses like Green Bay, Detroit, and New Orleans, having a lead allows Billy Davis to take more chances via blitzing and personnel groupings. The more the Eagles play with the lead, the stronger the defense will become.
After deferring the ball a few times earlier in the season, Chip Kelly has finally found a formula for his team to start fast: score early, and attack the opposing offense as they struggle to gain ground. If the Eagles play on the front foot this winter, they will play to their strengths and, in many cases, to their opponents’ weakness.
It could easily be said that the Eagles’ fate this year becomes a 50-50 chance. Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good.