Programming note: For comprehensive Eagles-49ers coverage from insider Matt Maiocco in Santa Clara, stay tuned to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
SANTA CLARA -– Chip Kelly has a simple explanation for his team’s early game struggles.
The Philadelphia Eagles have been outscored 54-27 in the first halves of games this season because, well, this is the National Football League, Kelly said, and all teams have good players.
“Part of it is the opponent,” the Eagles coach said, “and you got to give credit to them for playing well. I think every week in this league is a battle. There aren’t many blowouts in this league. I think every game is close. Every game comes down to the fourth quarter. I think some times that gets lost. You need to give credit to the other team that’s playing, too.”
The 49ers are the antithesis of the Eagles, who are the first team in NFL history to rally from double-digit second-half deficits in each of their first three games for victories.
Jim Harbaugh’s team has gotten off to hot starts, outscoring Dallas, Chicago and Arizona by a combined 59-16 in the first half. Then, the 49ers have fallen flat in the second halves, getting pummeled 52-3.
There are few logical explanations for both team’s sudden shift at halftime.
Philadelphia cornerback Cary Williams spoke his mind after last week’s victory over Washington (before later retracting his comments). Oddly, he blamed Kelly’s focus on physical conditioning for the Eagles' slow starts before gaining steam in the final 30 minutes of action.
“A lot of guys had no legs,” Williams said. “A lot of guys were in a dogfight before the game even started. We have to take care of our guys during the week to make sure we're fresh come Sundays.
"I'm saying (the difficult practices) impacted a lot of people. A lot of people, but I'm just the only one man enough to get up here and say anything about it, talk to y'all as a man and discuss an issue that, obviously, in my opinion, is an issue in our starts.”
Clearly, Kelly takes pride in his up-tempo offense and relentless style that applies pressure and seemingly wears down the opposition.
“We’ve always wanted to be, no matter where I’ve been, a very well-conditioned team,” Kelly said. “You never want to lose the game because the team is in better shape than you. You want to leave it up to which team executes the best and which team plays the best, not which team is in the best shape. Everywhere I’ve been, our teams have always been well-conditioned.”
Pin-pointing the exact cause of the 49ers’ second-half woes produces fewer theories.
The 49ers’ defense has struggled greatly on third downs, surrendering a high percentage of conversions as well as costly penalties. And the offense has managed just three points after the intermission.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said there is not one simple answer to why the 49ers have been held out of the end zone after building leads in those games.
“It’s not something you can just throw a blanket over and say, ‘Oh, it’s because of this,’ ” Roman said “It’s play-to-play. It’s very specific. It’s something we got to get corrected. And we will, we will. We’ve got the people to do it.”
One reasonable explanation is that the 49ers’ coaching staff has done a good job preparing the team during the week but have not made in-game adjustments to counter the moves of the opposition.
But that was not a problem for the 49ers in the first three seasons with Harbaugh and his staff. The 49ers outscored the opposition, 628 to 452, in the second halves of games in 2011, ’12 and ’13.
“I feel really good about our coaches’ process of how we do things,” Harbaugh said. “I feel good about our football team, everybody that’s in that locker room. And continuing to strive to fix, to improve, to get better.”