Chip Kelly, Eagles Must Find Killer Instinct

ChipChip Kelly's Eagles have averaged just 4.83 points per game in the fourth quarter, but it hasn't cost them a game-yet. 

They say once is an accident, twice a trend and three times is a habit.

If the saying holds true, then Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles are at risk of developing a troubling habit that may eventually cost them a game or games. 

In back to back games against the Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals, Kelly's Eagles took a commanding lead (24-0, 24-7 respectively) in the second half only to hang on by the skin of their teeth defensively in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory.

Be it lack of second-half execution, poor play calling or a combination, the Eagles have yet to consistently show the killer instinct possessed by championship teams to close out a game before going into survival mode becomes necessary. 

Sure, against the Green Bay Packers the offense put together one of the better clock-milking drives you will ever see in the NFL. In that game, the Eagles ran 16 plays (including 3 kneel downs), which burned off 9:32 to secure the win. At that point they did not huddle and did not seem concerned about scoring points, rather the ultimate mission of salting away the game. 

So then, the question obviously becomes what has been missing lately in that regard? 

"I think there are a lot of factors that have been different in different games," Jason Kelce said Wednesday. "I think there have been times that we've done outstanding while running out the clock and closing out games, other times not so good.

"Some of that is probably on the offensive line but sometimes they've given us some looks schematically that we aren't necessarily prepared for and we have to get adjustments from the sideline because they haven't shown that on film."

NFL games can easily be compared to a chess match in the way that each play can be justified as something to set up something else later in the game. It's a fair point that because this is Kelly's first year on an NFL sideline that there may be some growing pains in terms of adjustments.

"I think one area we can improve on is adjusting to changes that defenses make," Kelce pointed out. "That's the biggest thing." 

According to the head coach, it just isn't that simple. 

"Yeah, we want to score points in the fourth quarter but you also have to worry about running the clock out," Kelly admitted. 

Not only have the Eagles failed to run down the clock in recent weeks but on the year the fourth quarter is their lowest scoring quarter. In the final frame this season the Eagles have been outscored by opponents 92-58. 

"In two games against Tampa Bay and Oakland we did really well running down the clock, but there are other games we didnt," Kelly said. "I don't think we scored any points in the fourth quarter of the Oakland Raider game, but it didn't matter at that point in time."

The Eagles fourth quarter struggles have yet to cost them a game this season, but against a multi-faceted offensive attack such as the Lions who bring along Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and Matthew Stafford this season and lofty playoff implications in each of the final four games, one has to wonder how long this cardiac streak can continue. 

It's nothing short of remarkable the rapid evolution of this team under Kelly, with three quarterbacks having played significant playing time, but the evolution is not yet complete.

Until this team avoids falling into a terrible habit, it won't be.  

 Matt Lombardo is the Editor-In-Chief of Eagledelphia and also an on-air personality on 97.5 FM The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Join the conversation and follow Matt on Twitter.