Three plays later Kelly shifts the two tackles out wide, into the bunch formations on either side of the line. Now, instead of a five-man blocking line, there are only three linemen—the center and two guards—remaining to block the confused five-man Washington front. And Jason Peters (left) and Lane Johnson (right) are in three-man bunch sets to throw off Washington. It works. McCoy runs past the strangest formation he’s ever run behind for 10 yards.
In football, creating confusion can be a very good thing.
Not blaming King for this, but some said that trickery and Chip’s gimmick offense wouldn’t work in the NFL. Trickery and confusion are two very different things, however. Chip can create confusion without tricking people. And there’s nothing gimmicky about that.
Inevitably, Philadelphia will need to adjust as NFL defenses learn to counter what Kelly does. In the first half on Monday night, Washington played defense as if in a two-minute drill — backed-off and spread out. Philadelphia did much of its damage by rushing against a backed-off defense that was focused on preventing long gains. Kelly’s Oregon offense ran up the middle more than generally realized; against Washington, the Eagles threw 25 times and rushed 49 times. Last season, Stanford held Oregon to 14 points by taking away up-the-middle run lanes. NFL defensive coordinators will learn to do this to the Eagles, and that will bring the Blur under control.
But for the early part of the season at least, Philadelphia should be one of the most entertaining football teams in many years.
Those 49 run plays were more than Andy Reid ever ran with the Eagles.
Easterbrook’s sentiment about teams eventually catching on is what I’ve been saying all summer. The Eagles will catch a lot of teams off-guard, at least early in the season. Then, teams will figure out that Kelly likes to run the ball up the middle (a lot) but with unconventional formations. They will find ways to fake injuries and slow down the offense. They will key on certain plays.
But that’s the beauty of all the read option plays– there’s always another way. If Vick can be smart enough to make the right decisions, the minute teams start keying on the run option, the screen pass option or deep ball becomes available.
Another point by Easterbook:
Snaps are not normally a stat that football fans follow — perhaps this year, they will be. On Sunday, New England staged a remarkable 89 snaps, though any stat compiled against the pitiable Bills comes with an asterisk. And snaps are no guarantee of success: Jacksonville snapped the ball 70 times and scored two points Sunday. But fast-break basketball long has been popular. This season, fast-break football may highlight the NFL. The very fast pace has been working in college football for several years, including in Division III. Monday night showed it can work in the NFL.
We may count snaps, but Chip says he doesn’t, at least on offense. He also doesn’t keep track of time of possession. The snap-count that’s most important to him is the one his defense faces. He understands that, with the Eagles running plays so quickly, they’ll often lose the time of possession game. But as long as the defense doesn’t face an insane amount of snaps, he doesn’t care: “So I think when people look at the time of possession, and that’s what people look at automatically … it’s not time of possession. It’s plays run is what I look at because you’re not exerting any energy if you’re just standing in the huddle.”
For the most part, Vick was sharp. His threat as a runner isn’t something Kelly took advantage of, but the Redskins still had to respect him. Vick finished the evening with 3 touchdowns. LeSean McCoy was the forgotten man this offseason, but ran for 184 yards on 31 carries and a TD. McCoy was slicing and dicing to move the chains and get into the end zone.
Kelly’s greatest asset is exposing mismatches and getting the ball into his playmakers’ hands. He did that. DeSean Jackson even made a splash, hauling in a 25-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.
This is so wrong in so many ways. Never mind the fact that Vick ran for 54 yards and one touchdown… much of McCoy’s success came as a result of option plays and the previously mentioned confusion. Many of the Eagles’ big plays were either read option or play action, which begins to look a lot like read option when you have a quarterback that can take off at any second.
Here are three of them, the results of which were, in order, touchdown, 37-yard run and touchdown:
Yeah, I’d say they had something to do with Vick’s “threat as a runner.”
But Jones is right in that last part: Kelly exposes mismatches and gets balls into his playmakers’ hands, something Reid wasn’t so good at. Kelly also uses his playmakers as decoys to create… you guessed it, confusion.
As mentioned, the Eagles ran a total of 83 snaps on offense. Of those, just three (two of which were end-of-game kneel-downs) came with quarterback Michael Vick (who was very good) under center. So essentially, the Eagles ran 81 offensive plays, 80 from a shotgun set (coincidentally, the team’s only non-kneel-down play with Vick under center resulted in a touchdown).
What’s the big deal? I’ve been running drunk Madden offenses like this since oh-two.
2013 Eagles — Coach Chip Kelly: 77 plays, 443 total yards, 33 points.
Result: 33-27 win over Washington on the road.
2005 Dolphins — Coach Nick Saban: 69 plays, 426 total yards, 34 points.
Result: 34-10 win over Denver at home. Saban and the Dolphins would lose in Week 2, a 17-7 setback against the Jets.
2002 Redskins — Coach Steve Spurrier: 73 plays, 442 total yards, 31 points.
Result: 31-23 win over Arizona at home. After winning his debut, Spurrier and the Redskins lost 37-7 in Week 2 to the Eagles.
1994 Cowboys — Coach Barry Switzer: 73 plays, 442 total yards, 26 points.
Result: 26-9 win over Pittsburgh on the road. Switzer and the 1994 Cowboys would open the season 8-1 and make it all the way to the NFC Championship before losing to the San Francisco 49ers.
Next, two great articles on Grantland.
First up, Charles Pierce:
What made the weird wonderful was the up-tempo offense that Kelly brought with him from Oregon. The Eagles ran 53 plays in the first half. They put up 322 yards to Washington’s 75 during the same span, and 21 first downs to Washington’s three. For a long stretch after the Inhumane Glibness scored its fluke opening touchdown, Philadelphia never appeared to run a play that didn’t work. The receivers were always open. The holes were always there. The Eagles might not have executed the plays well enough to finish them, but you could see the success of the design in all of them. Philadelphia led 26-7 at the half, and I will guarantee you that those 30 minutes will be all anyone talks about this week. But, even then, even as what looked innovative appeared to be succeeding wildly, you could sense the game’s great ability to level matters start to stir. Nothing new stays new very long here.
I’d say that’s accurate. The scary thing about Monday night is that the Eagles’ execution was just so-so. Vick threw a couple of bad balls, there was some confusion before a few plays, and avoidable penalties. But most of Chip Kelly’s plays were… working. And it was beautiful, something Eagles fan Chris Ryan described so well in his excellent piece about the Eagles making football fun again:
Let’s be honest: Football is not really that fun. It’s awesome, dudes get lit up and we feel it in our chest-caves, it’s intense, it’s communal, and it’s the dominant narrative generator in the world of sports. I wouldn’t call it fun, though. But after an offseason that called into question whether it’s morally responsible to enjoy this sport, and after an opening Sunday of Carolina-Seahwaks, Gabbert, all of the Steelers getting hurt, Weeden, the Jets-Bucs Stupid Bowl, and the usual 10 seconds where you wonder whether someone just died on a football field after a hit, after all that, to see a team be so arrogantly creative, so wildly entertaining … that was something anyone could love. The Eagles deserved to be playing sports the same night as Rafa-Djokovic. Last night, the Eagles were fun.
Totally agree. Many football games can be very boring. But Kelly’s up-tempo offense is an event, must-see TV, appointment viewing. It’s the same sort of thing that the Phillies had every time Ryan Howard came to the plate from 2006-2009– you just had to see it. I refused to get a beer during the entire first quarter on Monday night because I thought I would miss something. That hasn’t happened to me during an Eagles game since 2004.
One more from Ryan:
What did this actually feel like? It was weird because I was at once very calm and at the same time felt like I was strapped to the windshield of Chuck Yeager’s X-1. When Ryan Kerrigan swatted down Michael Vick’s first-drive pass, which was deemed a lateral and returned 75 yards by DeAngelo Hall, I had one very strange reaction.
Cool. We get the ball back.
YES! Me too. Again, it’s the Madden thing– Eh, I don’t feel like playing defense. Just score so I can start throwing bombs again. During the Eagles game: OK, sure, they’re losing now, but do that again, Chip! Oh please oh please oh please. Do that thing with the linemen! Ahh hehe.
Chances are that baby had a cleaner diaper than me after the first quarter.
If all those analyses were too in-depth or euphoric for you, let me recommended Busted Coverage’s 35 NSFW black guy Tweets about Chip Kelly’s offense.