The football world got its first look at Chip Kelly’s Eagles in Monday night’s season opener. It only took a few plays before the excitement reached extraordinary levels. On the opening drive, the Eagles took the ball down the field with ease. The relentless tempo of the offense was unlike the tempo the Eagles played with in the pre-season. The Eagles were reeling off plays within twenty seconds of each other. The Eagles ran 53 plays in the first half – that’s as many as the Steelers ran in their entire game on Sunday. The Eagles kept this tempo throughout the first half. The Redskins defense was undeniably fatigued. They were breathless. They were tired. They had their hands on their hips. The only thing that momentarily stopped Kelly’s unprecedented fast-paced uptempo offense were injuries. Many will understandably question whether the Redskins players were actually injured. It certainly seemed like the players were faking. Kendrick Gholston was caught looking to the sideline before rolling over and grabbing his calf.
Can the Eagles maintain this ridiculous pace? Chip Kelly said in his Wednesday press conference that he believes the pace was too slow. Yeah, he wasn’t joking. Chip wants this offense to play faster. He wants less jawing after the whistle (DeSean Jackson’s scuffle with DeAngelo Hall). He wants less celebration after the play. And he wants players to get the ball to the referee quicker after each play.
Were NFL defenses ready for this tempo? Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said that they expected and had practiced for all but one play that the Eagles ran Monday night. So, what was the problem?
National media analysts are saying that the Eagles cannot maintain this tempo over the course of the season. However, they are overlooking that Chip Kelly has been preparing this offense to play at this tempo since April. This offense is better prepared to continually play at a faster pace than every defense in the NFL. And all of those notorious additions to the Eagles cafe like the customized smoothies, more fruits and vegetables, pickles, and a hydration plan with more importance than usual – they make sense now. Chip Kelly’s request that players get at least eight hours of sleep per night? Yeah, that makes sense too. The hiring of an ex-Navy Seal makes sense, too. Chip Kelly wants to get every bit of potential out of his offense. He knows if his players are better prepared to play at this level – which they clearly are – his offense will have an exponential advantage.
When the defense is fatigued, it leads to mental mistakes as well as a drop in physical abilities. It also results in less complicated blitzes and more predictable defenses.
It was evident in the Packers-49ers game on Sunday evening that the read-option, with much film preparation, practice, and excellent performance, can be stopped in the NFL. However, stopping it with an exhausted defense in a simple defensive scheme is much more difficult.