- Zach Berman
Tight end trouble
The Eagles went into the game using two-tight end sets on just 15 percent of offensive snaps. Like in the Chiefs game, Chip Kelly opened Sunday's game by having tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz on the field together.
Unlike the Chiefs game, Kelly went back to the personnel. Celek, though, dropped a big third-down pass on the Eagles' first drive. And Ertz had only one target before the break. James Casey did get in on the action, catching his first pass of the season - a 12-yard grab in two-tight end personnel with Celek on the sideline.
But Eagles tight ends have not had a big impact on offense thus far this season.
- Jeff McLane
Progress for Cooper
Riley Cooper was more involved in the passing game on Sunday, catching both of his targets in the first half.
Cooper finished with two catches for 25 yards. The Eagles needed complementary receivers to contribute on the other side of Jackson, and Cooper is the one who plays the most.
Cooper entered the game with six catches on 16 targets, and Kelly defended him during the week, saying Cooper has played "outstanding." Calling Sunday outstanding would be hyperbole, but it was progress.
The Eagles played with their nickel defense for almost the entire first half. The Broncos scored their first touchdown against the Birds' five-defensive back personnel, but when the defense did manage to stop Peyton Manning in the first half it was in the nickel.
The Broncos gained just 8 yards on five carries before the break against the Eagles' nickel unit, which essentially subbed slot cornerback Brandon Boykin for nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga.
But when defensive coordinator Bill Davis went to his base defense with Sopoaga in the middle, the Broncos ran the ball down the Eagles' throats. They gained 40 yards on seven carries during an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter.
Giving it back
Trailing by eight points in the second quarter, the Eagles faced a fourth and 6 from the Broncos' 37-yard line.
Kelly elected to take a delay-of-game penalty and then punt the ball. Although the Broncos didn't score on the ensuing drive, it was not an aggressive play call by Kelly.
The Eagles knew they'd need to score points this week. LeSean McCoy even said on Wednesday that punting to Manning is like conceding seven points. Had the Eagles gone for the first down and made it, they could have extended the drive and potentially scored.
They could also have attempted a 54-yard field goal, which is long but not as inconceivable in Denver's altitude. But by punting the ball, the Eagles were giving the ball back to the Broncos without chance of adding points.
The best play call on offense for the Eagles in the first half came on third and 11 at the Denver 39.
McCoy was on the sideline after he had the wind knocked from him, but backup running back Bryce Brown didn't miss a beat. Kelly called for a screen pass, and Brown was alone on the right with center Jason Kelce already in front downfield.
Brown had all sorts of room and presumably a path into the end zone. But he tripped after a 35-yard gain. The Eagles scored two plays later when Chris Polk plowed ahead for a 4-yard score in the second.
Running game worked
The Broncos kept an extra safety down near the box for most of the first half, and the Eagles still had success running against the NFL's top-rated defense.
Denver went into the game allowing a minuscule 43.3 yards rushing a game. The Eagles gained 101 yards on 25 carries in the first half, although Michael Vick picked up 39 of those yards on seven scrambles. But Eagles running backs were able to open things up through the air late in the first half with McCoy, Brown, and Polk picking up tough yards.
Early in the third quarter, McCoy reeled off 9- and 15-yard gains, but Kelly inexplicably called three straight passes that went incomplete.