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.”