Tuesday, November 11, 2014

On the Eagles: 'Chip' off the old block

PHILADELPHIA - Philadelphia has always had a chip on its shoulder when it comes to professional sports with a fan base almost programmed to expect the other shoe to drop.

Now that they have a Chip on the sidelines, however, Philly fans are dare I say it ... optimistic.

The City of Brotherly Love is not only drinking the Chip Kelly Kool-Aid, they are lining up for seconds.

Monday night's 45-21 drubbing of the overmatched Carolina Panthers was just Kelly's 26th game as an NFL coach but he's already been anointed as a transformational figure in the sport by the Philly faithful and an innovator, far ahead of the curve.

To his acolytes, Kelly is Vince Lombardi mixed with a little Bill Walsh and a tad of Bill Belichick thrown in.

And sometimes he even lives up to the billing.

On Monday he turned a player who was a punch line in New York into an upper echelon starting quarterback thanks to his self-described quarterback-friendly offense.

Former Jets starter Mark Sanchez left all the bad memories 90 minutes up the Jersey Turnpike as he threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns in his first Eagles start.

During his four years as the man with New York, the Jets managed to score 45-or-more points exactly once. It took Kelly all of one game to reach that magic number and Sanchez left early, being replaced by fellow Southern Cal product Matt Barkley late in the game.

Playing for the injured Nick Foles, Sanchez completed 20-of-37 passes and continued a rapport he built with Jordan Matthews in the offseason, connecting with the rookie seven times for 138 yards and two TDs.

"Of course we had something going on in camp," Matthews said. "I mean he's a baller. Like I said, he's a franchise quarterback. We are probably one of the only teams with two franchise quarterbacks. We are fortunate to have that."

Of course the Eagles' other units also chipped in as Bill Davis' defense swarmed a banged-up Cam Newton throughout the game, totaling eight sacks, picking him off three times, including a Bradley Fletcher pick-six, and causing him to fumble twice, losing one.

Darren Sproles, meanwhile, contributed two scores in the contest, one on the ground and another on a punt return.

Philadelphia now has nine TDs from its defense and special teams this season, more than double anyone else in football.

But, this was all about Sanchez and how comfortable he looked directing Kelly's up-tempo attack.

The pace was so brisk at one point early in the game that referee Gene Steratore was forced to stop the action to utter this gem: "the officials weren't in place to officiate."

Next up for Sanchez and the 7-2 Eagles is Aaron Rodgers, perhaps the best quarterback in all of football, and the Green Bay Packers.

And Eagles fans have six days to convince themselves that Sanchez is better than Rodgers.

As comical as that may sound to the rest of the country, when the Birds land in the Badger State, their faithful will believe that. Or to be more precise, they trust Kelly's offense will make Sanchez the better option for one day in November.
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