PHILADELPHIA -- Leading up to Dallas' game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, maybe you heard that Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin had some tough times against Chip Kelly in the Pac-12.
Kiffin heard it.
“It seems like I remember that,” Kiffin smiled.
The numbers from the three meetings were staggering.
When Kelly was the coach at Oregon, the Ducks averaged 50 points and 601 yards in three games against USC when Kiffin was the Trojans' defensive coordinator. Oregon scored 62 points and had 730 yards last year against USC.
So, of course, when Kiffin and Kelly had their first NFL meeting on Sunday, Kiffin’s defense gave up only a field goal in the Cowboys' 17-3 victory against the Eagles.
It makes perfect sense, right?
Dallas' defense had allowed 1,456 yards in its three previous games. This was a defense that did not force a punt two weeks ago against the Denver Broncos and allowed 216 rushing yards last week to the Washington Redskins. Plus, the defense was without DE DeMarcus Ware, who missed the first game of his career with a quadriceps strain.
Dallas' defense was going against an offense that became only the second offense in NFL history to put up at least 1,500 yards passing and 1,050 yards rushing in six games. This defense was going against an offense that had the NFL’s leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, and that put up at least 400 yards in each of its first six games, only the fourth team in league history to do that.
And on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, Kiffin’s defense gave up only 278 yards, sacked quarterback Nick Foles three times, and intercepted backup QB Matt Barkley three times (all in the fourth quarter).
“Sometimes you get them,” Kiffin said. "[Sometimes] they get you. He got us pretty good at Southern Cal. We did get him one year when we were up at Oregon, but even that was a 38-35 game so it still was a shootout. But, no, he’s a great coach. It’s one of those days. You’re going to have days like that.”
The Cowboys' defense had days like that against QB Philip Rivers and then Peyton Manning and the Redskins’ running game, so much so that some questioned whether Kiffin still had it at 73 years old. Kelly’s offense seemed to be coming at the wrong time.
“If it was personal, he did a good job of hiding it,” safety Barry Church said. “He didn’t say anything about this own past with Chip Kelly, but he had a great game plan this week and we were able to execute.”
The plan was simple: contain McCoy and harass WR DeSean Jackson.
“When you become a good defense, you play fast and you know what you are doing,” Kiffin said. “Like I say, you see a little, you see a lot. You see a lot, you see nothing. Well, we were seeing a lot earlier in the year. We were seeing a lot, but we weren’t seeing anything. Just see a little bit, read your keys, and you have a chance to see better.”
McCoy carried 18 times for 55 yards and did not have a run longer than 10 yards. Jackson, who was shadowed most of the game by CB Brandon Carr, caught three passes for 16 yards. Philadelphia converted on only four of 22 third-down tries.
It helped that Foles was off target and his receivers were unable to make some catches they would normally make. It helped that that the Cowboys held the ball for 36 minutes, 13 seconds to keep the Eagles from getting any sort of rhythm.
“I heard stories about him at USC struggling with that particular offense, but when you sprint to the football, I mean, it makes things a lot easier,” defensive tackle Jason Hatcher said. “We got 11 guys sprinting to the football and that’s what we did.”