LANDOVER, Md. — The Eagles’ Chip Kelly Era got off to an encouraging start Monday night.
The offense and defense both delivered terrific performances in a 33-27 victory over Washington at FedEx Field in the season opener for both teams.
Kelly became the first Eagles’ coach to earn a win in his first regular-season game since Rich Kotite in 1991. Both Ray Rhodes and Andy Reid lost their openers in 1995 and 1999, respectively.
"We played with a lot of energy out there," Kelly said. "I talk to them all the time about how if they play hard, we will always have a chance to win. It's great to get a win, but it's still only one win and we have a lot to learn from this."
There was an air of mystery surrounding the Eagles entering the game. Kelly showed very little of his creative, high-energy offense during the preseason while the defense appeared to be having trouble making the transition to a 3-4 alignment under new defensive coordinator Billy Davis.
They responded by dominating the Redskins for the first three quarters before Kelly took his foot off the offensive accelerator. The Eagles owned a 33-7 lead before the Redskins scored three touchdowns.
Running back LeSean McCoy, wide receiver DeSean Jackson and quarterback Michael Vick led a well-balanced offense that operated with such energy and precision that the Redskins’ defense had trouble catching its breath.
McCoy churned through the Redskins for 184 yards on 31 carries. Vick showed why Kelly elected him to be the starting quarterback over Nick Foles, throwing two touchdown passes and running for one. He completed 14 of 24 passes for 196 yards with no interceptions. Jackson showed the explosiveness that makes him one of the NFL’s most exciting receivers, catching seven passes for 104 yards and a TD.
The Eagles’ defense was just as impressive in the early going, creating three turnovers, two sacks and getting a safety, before Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III began picking it apart.
Cornerback Cary Williams, who had drawn his share of criticism for fighting with opponents and teammates in recent weeks, came through with an acrobatic interception and sack.
Williams was just the third Eagles cornerback since 1960 with a sack and a pick in the same game (Sheldon Brown on Dec. 19, 2004, vs. Dallas, and Lito Sheppard on Sept. 18, 2005, vs. San Francisco).
"I just wanted to go out and put my best foot forward," Williams said. "I take pride in the way I play the game. Every time I step on the field I feel as if I have something to prove. My play is my resume."
Outside linebacker Trent Cole, who is making a transition from defensive end, forced an intentional grounding penalty and also downed Redskins running back Alfred Morris in the end zone for the safety. Cornerback Brandon Boykin snared his first career interception. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans had a sack.
The Eagles jumped on the Redskins at the outset, using a dominant performance by their offense and defense to take a 26-7 halftime lead.
McCoy and Jackson led the offense in the first two quarters. McCoy rushed for 115 yards on 20 carries as part of Kelly’s fast-break, read-option offense. When Vick opted to throw, he usually found Jackson. Jackson snared seven passes in the first half for 104 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown.
"I felt like a kid in a sandbox out there," Jackson said. "Everybody was so excited. There wasn't one time when we felt like we could be stopped. I think this team can go a long way. The sky's the limit for us."
Vick also threw a 28-yard TD pass to tight end Brent Celek and scored his 35th career rushing touchdown — tying him with Randall Cunningham and Steve Grogan for eighth place among NFL quarterbacks.
"It was a crazy, crazy game," Vick said. "I've never been a part of anything like that. After the first quarter, I felt like it should be halftime."
The Eagles amassed 322 total yards and 21 first downs while running an incredible 53 plays in the first half.
Defensively, Cole and cornerbacks Williams and Boykin sparked a charge that left Redskins quarterback Griffin bruised, battered and frustrated at halftime.
Vick capped a 62-yard, five-play drive in the second quarter by firing a 28-yard touchdown pass to Celek that put the Eagles ahead 19-7 with 6:10 left in the period.
Celek was all alone in the middle of the Redskins’ secondary when he grabbed the pass at the 5-yard line and easily powered through Redskins safety Bacarri Rambo en route to the end zone.
Jackson helped keep the drive alive with a key, 14-yard catch on third-and-eight. The Eagles got an addition 15 yards on the play when Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall hit Jackson out of bounds, touching off a brief scuffle on the sideline.
The Eagles’ offense and defense both helped the team earn a 12-7 lead after the first quarter.
Vick threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jackson, place-kicker Alex Henery booted a 48-yard field goal and the defense forced two turnovers and registered a safety.
Kelly’s first-ever offensive series started with promise, but ended in disaster with Hall scoring on a controversial, 75-yard fumble return with 11:54 left in the opening quarter.
The Eagles’ offense had the Redskins’ defense on its heels and gasping for breath at the outset. As expected, Vick and company came out in a no-huddle, hurry-up offense that saw them starting plays with as many as 22 seconds left on the 40-second play clock.
Kelly also showed his daring side, going for it on fourth-and-one and being rewarded when McCoy gained three yards to the 17-yard line. McCoy used his shiftiness to break loose for a 13-yard run to the 4-yard line before disaster struck.
Vick took the shotgun snap at the 10 and attempted a swing pass to McCoy. Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan appeared to deflect the pass at the 9-yard line and it ricocheted backward. Hall casually scooped it up at the Redskins’ 25 and jogged to the opposite end zone accompanied by referee Ron Winter, who thrust his arms in the air to signal touchdown.
Replays appeared to show an incomplete pass but there evidently wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the original ruling. As a result, Hall scored his fourth career touchdown on a fumble recovery and the Eagles allowed the second-longest fumble recovery return for a TD in their history.
The Eagles wasted little time in bouncing back, however.
Henery made his field goal in their second possession, then the Eagles’ defense came up with a big turnover when Cole pried the ball loose from Morris and inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks recovered the fumble.
Vick needed just one play to capitalize on the opportunity, hitting Jackson for a 25-yard touchdown with 8:59 left in the first quarter. The catch was Jackson’s 276th career reception, moving him past former running back and current running backs coach Duce Staley into 12th place on the team’s alltime list.
Boykin added his first career interception on the Redskins’ following possession — the Eagles’ defense had an NFL-low 12 takeaways all of last season — then the unit added a safety to give the E
agles a five-point lead.
A terrific punt by new Eagles punter Donnie Jones pinned the Redskins at their own 5-yard line. Morris dropped a pitch from Griffin, fell on it in the end zone and Cole touched him to give the Eagles their first safety since they had one on Dec. 11, 2011, at Miami.
The Eagles ran 30 offensive plays in the first quarter to the Redskins’ 6 and had 11 first downs to their one. According to ESPN, the Eagles became the first NFL team to run at least 30 plays in the first quarter of a game since 2009.