Don't blink: The Eagles' future has arrived
To watch the Eagles Monday night was to watch the future, accompanied by constant reminders not to blink.
Don't blink: The Eagles' future has arrived
"Every generation needs a new revolution."
- Thomas Jefferson
LANDOVER, Md. - Chip Kelly and the Eagles have arrived, loudly. They are simultaneously mesmerizing and exhausting. To watch them play last night against the Washington Redskins was to watch the future, accompanied by constant reminders not to blink.
Months of anticipation met months of wondering at FedEx Field, and the Redskins were flattened by their collision. On a hot, humid night, the Eagles played fast - except when they were playing faster. Two Washington players suffered conveniently timed leg cramps during a breathtaking first half, but that did not slow the Eagles down. The Redskins overloaded their formations and sent blitzes at quarterback Michael Vick, and they also hit him a couple of times after he handed off the ball, but that did not slow the Eagles down, either.
The result was stunning: Eagles 33, Redskins 27. And after it was over, when asked if it was what he thought it would feel like, Kelly said, "No, it's what I hoped it would feel like. That's what makes it so special."
An Eagles' defense that was more aggressive and much more intimidating than advertised is a story that deserves to be told - but not here. Maybe tomorrow. Because I am like everyone else who watched the game - that is to say, I am out of breath. There is only time and energy for one story.
It is the story of a revolution, nothing less. "Maybe so," Vick said. "We've just got to keep working."
There is only one thing that the NFL is talking about after the first week of the season, and it is the Eagles' offense. A great debate is just beginning, and on the morning after LeSean McCoy ran for 184 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries, and DeSean Jackson had seven catches for 104 yards and a touchdown, and Vick threw for two scores and zero interceptions, the read-option-is-a-fad faction has its hands full after this one.
Kelly will tell you that he invented nothing here, that he has just piggybacked upon the work of others, just like every football coach. And that would be true. As he said after the game, "I don't think it's a bag of tricks. I think it's just football."
But what Kelly has brought here is a belief in his business and a resolve in implementing it. The result, this opening night, was beyond most outside expectations. And among the insiders, the employees, as Jackson said, "I felt like I was a kid in a sandbox."
Yes, it is true that teams have played at this speed in college. And, yes, it is true that NFL teams have come close to this kind of pace before, at least in small tastes. But this just seemed . . . faster - and you get the distinct impression that it will be more than a small taste for the Eagles. It is hard enough to keep up with when you are watching. It is hard to imagine what it must be like for a defense.
On their first drive, the Eagles never let the play clock get below 13 seconds. On their next drive, they only let it go below 15 seconds once. It was like this, over and over and over again. It is hard to know if we saw it all, but we saw plenty of what Kelly's offense has to offer - its ability to get players in space, and its relentless tempo.
The truth is - and everybody who watched the game would acknowledge as much - is that there was so much going on, and it was happening so fast, that it is really going to require a second viewing of the video before a whole lot of intelligent commentary can be attempted.
Instead, we are left with an initial impression. It is of a constant jackhammer of motion. As Vick said, "I don't think you can get too much faster than that."
In the first week of the NFL season - that is, the 14 games before Monday night - the average team ran 64.9 offensive plays.
Against the Redskins, the Eagles had 53 offensive plays at halftime.
There were 256 games played in the NFL regular season in 2012. Only six times did a team snap the ball at least 90 times. Four times, a team snapped it 92 times.
For the game, the Eagles were on a pace to obliterate that number. In the end, though, they had "only" 77 plays - but it would have been a lot more if Kelly hadn't taken his foot off of the gas after building a 33-7 lead in the third quarter. After the game, Kelly acknowledged that he might have pulled back to soon.
For the Eagles, the thing kind of devolved from there. The truth is, they all looked a little tired. The defense got roughed up a bit, and Vick pushed it too far with the I-can't-slide business and ended the game with a pronounced limp after a legal hit near the sideline in the middle of the fourth quarter. There is plenty to chew on. And there is going to be a fair bit of talk about the quarterback in Kelly's offense, and the potential for harm, and especially for this quarterback, for Mr. I-Can't-Slide.
But that is not enough to take away the first impression - of wonder and whoosh and, mostly, of wanting to see more.