Examining the special-teams breakdowns

PHILADELPHIA -- You know it was a rough game when the head coach resorts to comments like this the next day:

“And I think in special teams, aside from the punt block and that kickoff return, we are getting a decent job and decent effort out of those guys,” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said.

And aside from that iceberg, the Titanic had a decent first voyage. Kelly has stressed the importance of special teams in everything from roster building to practice time allotted. So it is especially galling to have his kicking game blow up on him during a 52-20 drubbing in Denver on Sunday.

The kickoff return was a 105-yard sprint by speedster Trindon Holliday. Holliday fielded Alex Henery’s kick slightly to the Eagles’ left. Several players, including Najee Goode and Casey Matthews, drifted toward that side and got caught up in a crowd of blockers when Holliday made a decisive cut to their right.

Jeff Maehl, part of Kelly’s Oregon alumni club, had the outside edge. He was wiped out by safety Duke Ihenacho. That allowed Holliday to build up speed. Rookie cornerback Jordan Poyer ran right into a block by Steven Johnson, who body-slammed Poyer. That left Henery, who made a feeble effort as Holliday blazed by.

The punt block in the fourth quarter was simple carelessness.

“You can’t make mistakes like that,” Kelly said. “It wasn’t even a designed punt block. We had a guy trying to escape and get down the field too quick trying to cover the punt and not take care of the little things.”

The “little thing” in this case was blocking Johnson, who lined up between long-snapper Jon Dorenbos and Brandon Graham, who was at right guard. Colt Anderson was the up back on that side.

At the snap, Graham fired toward his right, allowing Johnson to run right by. Johnson grazed Dorenbos, who fired to his left to make a block. Anderson, who is likely the player Kelly described, ran downfield without noticing a defender rushing right past his spot. Johnson made the block easily, then scooped up the ball and ran it in for a touchdown.

“It's not like we put in a new scheme or something special for the Broncos game,” Kelly said. “And then you look at it, that scheme kind of backfired. It's base fundamental coverage and base fundamental protection and then coverage that we didn't get done on those two particular plays.”