No NFL lead safe a cliche that works
NEW YORK (AP) — The Associated Press awards a Comeback Player of the Year in February. Maybe this season the AP should hand out comeback team honors, too.
The leaders after two weeks: the Philadelphia Eagles.
Include the Packers, Bears, Cardinals, Dolphins and Falcons in that group of never-say-die teams who made impressive rallies. Any team in front had better not look behind it, because someone might be gaining rapidly.
Especially if it’s the Eagles, whose frenetic pace and superb conditioning already have paid off in the second half against Jacksonville (down 17-0 to winning 34-17) and Indianapolis (down 20-6 to winning 30-27).
Maybe Philadelphia never should have been down to the weak Jaguars in the first place, but nothing has been more impressive early this season than the way the Eagles stormed back in Indy on Monday night.
And also how they wore down the Colts.
As ESPN announcers Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden nailed it, the Colts looked gassed trying to keep pace.
“We’re still calling the same plays that we called in the first quarter,” said Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who brought his hyper-paced style from college ball at Oregon and heard lots of doubters saying it wouldn’t work in the pros.
“It’s just sometimes I think maybe they work a little bit better at the end when the other team is fatigued.”
“It’s what we’ve trained to do and how we play is what we expect our guys to play like,” Kelly added. “I think they have a good sense of and understanding of what we’re trying to get accomplished. They don’t panic in those situations because we’ve tried to as a staff to put them in those situations from a training standpoint so they’ve been through that before. No one rises to the occasion. You always sink to your level of training. That’s how we trained them.”
Not since 1987 has there been such a comeback mode through two weeks. Seven teams have rallied from 10-point holes to win, with Philly the only team to ever go down twice by 14 points and wind up with a victory.
The Packers made the biggest charge back, from 21-3 down to the Jets for a 31-24 win. Chicago trailed San Francisco 17-0 — in the debut of the Niners’ new home stadium, no less — yet won 28-20.
Atlanta twice was behind by 13 points against archrival New Orleans in Week 1, but squeezed by 37-34 in overtime.
Arizona trailed San Diego in the opener by 11 and won 18-17. Miami fell behind by 10 while hosting New England in Week 1 and came back for a 33-20 victory.
Should more than two teams rally from a 14-point deficit in Week 3, it would bring the total to seven, the most over such a span. Don’t be surprised if it happens.
—The de-emphasis on running backs. Many teams simply aren’t that effective trying to run down the clock on the ground. Indianapolis was particularly damaged by its lack of prowess in that area.
—The rules. Anyone who doesn’t think current NFL rules favor the passing game simply isn’t watching. Better opportunities through the air lead to more points. Teams seeking to make comebacks need points quickly.
—Backing off. Teams with relatively big leads tend to play more conservatively, perhaps even not using top personnel as much as they would in a closer game. That usually proves counterproductive.
That also combines with:
—Prevent offenses and defenses. Does anything irk fans more than their teams taking the foot off the gas?
One place we won’t likely see that is Philly. Kelly believes what his players and coaches are experiencing in games is precisely what they’ve gone through in the frenzied atmosphere of practices.
“You heard our guys talk about it after the game,” Kelly said. “This is no different than period 22 on a Wednesday or Thursday for us.”
Except that people are keeping score. And so far, the scoreboard shows that no lead is safe, especially when Kelly’s crew is doing the chasing.
AP Sports Writer Paul Montella contributed to this story.
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