Chip Kelly’s hurry-up offense has caused everyone who follows the NFL to take notice in the first two weeks of the season. But while Kelly’s strengths as an offensive schemer are easily apparent, we’re also starting to see some of the weaknesses of his approach.
One of those weaknesses is that Kelly’s offense is always hurrying, even in situations when it would be strategically smarter to take some time off the clock. Kelly acknowledged after Sunday’s loss to the Chargers that on the Eagles’ last offensive drive, it might have made more sense to try to take some time off the clock with a slower, more methodical drive than to kick the game-tying field goal with 1:51 remaining, which gave San Diego enough time to drive down the field for their own game-winning field goal.
“I was trying to score; that’s all on me, that’s my call,” Kelly said on WIP, via Philly.com. “I didn’t want it to leave it in the hands of, it’s a tie ballgame. If you score, you’re up four. You got to drive a length of the field to try to score a touchdown. When you look at it in hindsight, maybe we should have bled the clock and not giving them enough time to come down and do it. You learn from those situations. But we were trying to score seven, not three. We felt like we had three, and just thought we had the opportunity to put one in there, and we didn’t get it. We didn’t capitalize.”
Obviously, Kelly is right that playing for a touchdown is better than playing for a field goal. But the Eagles could have played for a touchdown while also managing the clock better than they did. Whether the Eagles were going to score a field goal or a touchdown, they should have tried to do so with as little time remaining as possible, to give the Chargers as little time as possible on their subsequent possession. Instead, the Eagles stayed in hurry-up mode even after they got to the Chargers’ 14-yard line with two and a half minutes to play. At the very least, the Eagles should have let the clock run to force the Chargers to use their timeouts. But they didn’t, and the Chargers had two timeouts and plenty of time for their final drive.
So far, it looks like Kelly’s offensive schemes from Oregon translate to the NFL. But Kelly rarely had to worry about clock management in close games at Oregon, because his Oregon teams usually won by large margins. Clock management is a skill Kelly still needs to learn.