Eagles unleash up-tempo offense in Week 1 win

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Eagles unleash up-tempo offense in Week 1 win

LANDOVER, Md. -- Now we know how fast Chip Kelly plans to operate his offense at the NFL level. Faster than the Eagles have ever done it, and perhaps faster than any team has ever done it the game’s history.

Certainly, faster than the defending NFC East champs could handle.

Kelly unleashed his up-tempo, no-huddle, breakneck offense against the Redskins on Monday night, showing a national audience that some longstanding league offensive records could be obliterated when all is said and done.

The Eagles rolled up 443 yards in Kelly’s debut as head coach, a 33-27 win at FedEx Field (see Instant Replay), and had been rolling toward a blowout until they pumped the brakes in the second half and then discovered that they might just have to keep the pedal to the floor for an entire 60 minutes.

One can only imagine the four-lettered grunts of defensive coordinators around the league as the Eagles ripped off 54 plays in the first half, opening a 26-7 lead at the break.

“They’re going to have to defend us or we’re going to run the score up,” left tackle Jason Peters said. “That’s just point blank. We’re not going to stop. We’re going to make mistakes, but we run so many plays it’s not going to matter. We’re going to run the ball and run the ball and run the ball.”

Michael Vick, who threw two touchdowns and ran for another in his read-option debut (see story), said he didn’t think the Eagles could operate any faster than they did in the first half. On average, they ran an offensive play once every 24 seconds.

Unfortunately for Vick, who absorbed a bunch of hits and contact, his linemen disagreed.

In fact, center Jason Kelce said the offense could -- and would -- easily pick up the pace.

“I know we can go faster,” he said. “I think we went at a really good speed. There were times we really put the foot on the pedal and were flying out there. There were times we eased it back a little. We definitely have plays that we can still go faster with.”

How fast? Kelly envisioned the Eagles running at least 100 plays at some point this season, a feat accomplished only twice in NFL history and never in a regulation game. The Bears and Redskins each hit the century mark in overtime games, with the most recent one happening in 1990. The closest any other team has come to 100 plays in a non-overtime game is Green Bay’s 95 in 1986.

The highest number of offensive snaps in an NFL game last year was 92, accomplished by the Patriots, whose hurry-up offense has some chapters borrowed from the playbook Kelly crafted at Oregon.

“We don’t count plays. That’s not part of our deal,” Kelly said. “The thing you have to count is points, and our defense did a great job. That was key for us -- how well those guys played and the energy they played with.”

But the Eagles’ offense had clearly worn down the Redskins, who went into the break trailing by 19 points in their own stadium.

The Eagles, who won the coin toss and elected to receive, ran their first few plays in less than 20 seconds, peppering the Redskins’ defense with some short passes that opened up the running game for LeSean McCoy, whose 115 first-half rushing yards put him atop the NFL leaderboard in rushing.

After the first quarter, the Eagles had rolled up 202 yards compared to the ’Skins’ 30. By halftime, the Eagles had outgained Washington 322-75 and led time of possession -- a stat Kelly has snickered at -- by more than two-to-one.

“The tempo really worked,” McCoy said. “I don’t think anyone has seen it that fast. In the preseason you’ve seen a little bit of it. Today, we really tried to show everybody the fast tempo.”

The Eagles’ 54 first-half plays paced them to become the first team ever to run 100 plays without needing overtime. It also wore out some of the offensive linemen who still weren’t fully adjusted to that speed.

“We felt it,” Kelce said. “The first quarter ended and we started going in like it was halftime. We looked up and it was still the second quarter and it was like, ‘What the hell is going on right now?’”

Perhaps that explains why the Eagles finished with just 77 plays as they slowed the tempo in the second half and had a costly turnover -- a Jason Avant fumble -- that aided the Redskins’ late surge.

Washington scored three straight touchdowns against a tiring Eagles defense, igniting some energy into their lethargic home crowd, and came within a recovered onside kick from turning Kelly’s stomach into a pretzel.

Afterward, Kelly admitted that he might have called the dogs off too soon, which means the Eagles can probably expect an uptick in tempo Sunday in their home opener against San Diego.

“You just get used to it as the season goes,” Kelce said. “Most guys that have been involved with [Kelly’s offense] say it’s usually about three games and then it becomes second nature to you. You start pushing through it a little bit better. I mean that was the first time I’ve used oxygen since college. It definitely wears on you, but I think it wears on the defense a lot more.”

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).