It was September 3, 2000. The Philadelphia Eagles were playing the Dallas Cowboys in the opening game of the season, the second year under head coach Andy Reid. The game was perhaps best known for its first play - a surprise onside kick to start the game that the Eagles successfully recovered. Even though it was his second year, it is that onside kick that was often seen as the start of the Andy Reid’s highly successful tenure as the Eagles’ coach (yes, I know we never won a Super Bowl and things eventually soured the last few years. But the first 6 years were pretty great stuff - other than a 5-11 start, 5 playoff appearances, 4 NFC Championship appearance, and a Super Bowl appearance). And last year, in what was Andy Reid’s final game as the Eagles’ coach, he also called another successful surprise onside kick in what seemed only fitting. Closure. A meaningless play in what turned out to be a 42-7 loss to cap an awful 4-12 season perhaps, but it was really one final good memory from Reid.
The Eagles won that day 41-14. The game was also known as the “pickle juice” game - the temperatures on the field that day in Dallas were well over a 100 degrees, and somehow it got out that the Eagles’ players were drinking pickle juice to keep hydrated. It became one of those urban legends.
But the third notable thing about that game was Duce Staley’s 201 yard rushing performance. As it turns out, the Eagles’ rushing record was 205, set in 1949 by Steve Van Buren. Staley didn’t get a single rushing attempt in the final two series as the team brought in the backups winning by a big margin. Reid would later admit he didn’t know about the record, otherwise, he would have attempted to get Duce the record. It was one of those “what could have been” moments. But time goes on, and this moment got somewhat lost in the shuffle. Reid began to pass more than ever and another opportunity for that record never presented itself.
Fast forward 13 years 3 months and 5 days to today: December 8, 2013. This is obviously the first year of new coach Chip Kelly, and while he didn’t begin his tenure with an onside kick, his first game will always be known for its frenetic hurry-up offensive pace that left the Washington Redskins breathless and the first half saw the Eagles to a 26-7 halftime lead and 33-7 shortly into the third quarter. Will that become Chip Kelly’s “onside kick” moment? That remains to be seen. LeSean McCoy rushed for 184 yards in that game, and was probably on pace to break the record until the Eagles took their foot off the gas and stopping running their hurry-up offense.
Today’s game against the Detroit Lions didn’t seem like the setting for breaking an offensive record - an unexpected blizzard dropped 8 inches of snow on the field throughout the game. LeSean McCoy rushed for 6 yards on 3 carries in the first quarter. Finished the first half 13 for 54 in a half the Eagles did not score and trailed 8-0. At the end of the third, he found himself at 18 carries for 72 yards. Solid, considering the snow, but nothing record breaking. But then, his first carry of the fourth quarter was a 40 yard touchdown, and the subsequent two point conversion tied the game at 14. After a seemingly demoralizing kick return touchdown gave the Lions the lead back at 20-14, it took just three plays until McCoy broke loose for a 57 yard touchdown, and the subsequent two point conversion gave the Eagles the lead for good at 22-20, en route to a 34-20 win. It was McCoy’s seventh touchdown of 40+ yards in the fourth quarter. That’s an NFL record - nobody else has more than 4. Overall, McCoy ran for 129 yards alone in the first three minutes of that fourth quarter to get the Eagles record. He finished the quarter with 137 yards, 217 for the game. In a blizzard. Against one of the best rushing defenses, a team that hadn’t given up a 100 yard rusher all season. The Lions allowed 186 yards rushing, total, in their last 5 games. It may have been the least predictable record ever with that defense and that environment and even the first three quarters. But Chip stuck at it and Shady came through for the record I waited 13 years to see.
Scoring 4 touchdowns in one quarter, like the Eagles did was quite remarkable (and frankly there was a 5th if they wanted, but Brent Celek slid down so as to avoid running up the score). I can only recall this happening once in Andy Reid’s career (not like I researched it or anything) - and that was the “Miracle at the Meadowlands 2” - the Eagles rallied against the Giants - scoring 4 straight to turn a 31-10 deficit into a 38-31 win, ending on a DeSean Jackson walk-off punt return - the only (non-overtime) one of its type in NFL history. This game wasn’t quite at the same level of comeback (though we did trail 14-0 and had zero offense whatsoever until halfway through the third quarter) and the game was never in doubt coming down the stretch, but it was remarkable nonetheless. The point is, Chip Kelly is invoking all sorts of memories from Andy Reid’s best few games, all in his first season.
In the game that jumpstarted Andy Reid’s success, he pulled off a successful onside kick and ended up just shy of a rushing record. Chip Kelly pulled off a frenetic hurry up pace and then (albeit not in the same game) did end up with that franchise rushing record. Could it be the jumpstart to a long and successful career for Chip Kelly as the Eagles coach? One can only hope…