Well, that was entertaining.
Last night’s contest between the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles was, at the very least, an exciting watch. Chip Kelly’s up-tempo, packaged-play offense was finally unveiled, and we stopped talking about Robert Griffin III’s knee, and simply watched it in action.
We knew the Eagles would push the tempo. But I’m not sure anyone (outside of the Eagles facility, that is) knew Chip Kelley’s offense would translate over to the NFL with the immediate success it had last night. The Redskins know exactly how feels to catch a defense off guard with new offensive system. Last season, Washington dropped the spread-option bomb on the New Orleans Saints in the season opener. On Monday, though, they got a taste of their own medicine.
The Eagles ran a total of 53 plays in the first half. Wait, what? They also converted 20 first downs in the first two quarters. By the first half, the Eagles had as many first downs as the Redskins had run plays. This is exactly what a Chip Kelly offense can do to an opponent if its on point: run so many plays that by the time an opposing defensive unit has time to catch its breath, its back on the field only to be shredded again.
I’m not sure if the Redskins watched the Giants-Cowboys game Sunday night and decided they wanted to one-up New York in the turnover category, or Griffin was just rusty, having not played in the preseason, but Washington was clearly out of synch to start the game. Their first four offensive drives went as such: fumble, interception, safety, punt. And yet, by the middle of the second quarter, Washington was only trailing 12-7.
The Eagles relied heavily on the inside and outside zone-read, which gives the quarterback the option to keep the ball, or hand it to the running back, depending on the movement of the linebackers and defensive ends. Kelly also runs simple, yet effective zone-blocking schemes where the left tackle or left guard pulls across the offensive alignment and engages the second level defender, which is a favorable matchup considering you have a 300-pound linemen on a 230-pound linebacker. This the bedrock of kelly’s offensive philosophy. And he used it to exploit the Redskins defense primarily in the first half.
Kelly chose to coach the Eagles because a) they were one of only three franchises willing to give him a shot, and b) because LeSean McCoy was on the roster. If you did happen to watch the game last night, on certain run plays, the backside of the alignment wasn’t being blocked. Along with the inside and outside zone run plays, Kelly also sprinkled in the stretch run, which forces the defense in one direction, while the running back cuts back in the opposite direction using the momentum of the defense against itself. Leaving Redskins fans feeling like this.
Kelly used another college-based scheme against the Redskins Monday night — package-plays. Package-plays are difficult to defend, because of the myriad of options the quarterback has at his disposal once the ball is snapped. You add a mobile quarterback (Michael Vick) and a shifty, deadly cutback runner (LeSean McCoy) and you have a dynamic, relentless offense that has the capability of wearing down defenses. The Eagles essentially bubble-screened and pop-passed the Redskins into submission, drawing in the linebackers, allowing them to capitalize on big gains and touchdowns with post and over routes. I was, however, disappointed they didn’t run the Ninja-Roll Pop-Pass.
As the game progressed, the Redskins made adjustments to counter what the Eagles were doing. It was either that, or the Eagles tired themselves out with their frantic pace. The Redskins’ offense also picked up in the second half, as Griffin seemed to get into the flow of the game, which limited the opportunity for the Eagles’ offense to get back on the field.
Coaches in the NFL now have tape on the Chip Kelly’s offense, so it will be interesting to see what adjustments defenses make to combat it. I don’t want to overeact by saying this is going to be the new trend in the NFL — especially since we only have a one game sample size — but if Kelly is able to use this offense effectively throughout a 16-game season, then maybe more teams will transition to this offensive scheme.
Either way, it certainly fun to watch.