It was obvious after the brutal loss to the Cowboys that Chip Kelly’s play calling was getting predictable. He repeated just two run plays — the inside zone and the sweep — over and over, and both the Falcons and Cowboys had stunts ready to stymie the blocking scheme. That’s one reason that veterans Jason Peters and Jason Kelce looked as bad as the new starting guards.
Chip has always had a stripped-down playbook. The idea is that better execution (from getting more reps on each play) and the tempo offense would offset the ability of defenses to plan for the handful of plays. But the tempo has been off this year — average time between snaps was up from 22 seconds in 2013 to over 30 in the first two games this year — and if it’s always fast, that’s predictable too.
Sunday against the Jets (and coach Todd Bowles, one of the NFL’s best defensive minds), Kelly mixed it up. Besides different plays (such as the outside zone) and formations (unbalanced lines), he also mixed up the tempo which clearly confused the Jets’ very good defense.
Let’s look at the Eagles’ fifth drive, which started with 8:16 left in the second quarter and the Birds up 10-0. Ryan Mathews ripped off an 11-yard run on the first play, and the Eagles started their next play a relatively quick 22 seconds later.
Then they steadily slowed it down, to 25 seconds and 29 seconds between plays. The TV crew, which hadn’t even bothered showing the countdown on the play clock, hurriedly added it back to the screen. After another first down, Sproles ran for three yards. 25 seconds until the next play, a five-yard pass to Jordan Matthews.
Now, on a key 3rd-and-2, BAM. Bradford motioned everyone to the line quickly, as the Jets scrambled to get into position, and snapped after only 18 seconds. In the picture above, you can see that OLB Lorenzo Mauldin (55) is out of position and desperately racing to his right. In the process, he accidentally sets a pick on on Muhammad Wilkerson (96), and Sproles has a big hole. He picks up 12 yards.
On the next two plays, the Jets naturally scramble to get in position quickly — revealing their formation. Bradford slows it down again, taking 25 and 28 seconds. The second play is a wheel route to Ryan Mathews for a touchdown.