Craig: Eagles' fast offense starts fast

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 14, 2013 - 5:28 PM

Chip Kelly’s creation with the Eagles next must show staying power.

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Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly talks with running back LeSean McCoy (25)

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Sorry, Peyton Manning. Those record-tying seven touchdown passes were impressive, but the NFL’s biggest Week 1 winner was Eagles coach Chip Kelly.

Yeah, there might be a day when Chip Kelly and his Oregon offense end up on a dusty shelf between the Wildcat and the run-and-shoot. But for now, well, consider the rest of the league impressed by Monday night’s nationally televised NFL debut.

Asked if he thought Kelly’s offense had staying power in the NFL, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, the league’s reigning MVP, said: “Yeah, I think so. It sure looked like it the other day, you know?”

For months, Kelly told the NFL what he was going to do with his frenetically-paced version of the read-option offense that took the league by storm a year ago. Eyebrows were raised. Then, Kelly unleashed the hyperactive storm on the NFC East champion Redskins during a 33-27 upset at Washington.

The Redskins trailed 26-7 at the half. And it wasn’t that close. The Eagles held whopping advantages in total yards (322-75), first downs (21-3) and number of plays (53-21). For the sake of comparison, the Vikings ran 53 plays for their entire game against Detroit.

“I watched the game because I know we have to play them [on Dec. 15],” said Vikings backup cornerback A.J. Jefferson. “I came away thinking they’re going to be a problem if they can keep that pace up all season.”

In the first half, the Eagles averaged 2.6 plays per minute. And yet Kelly said he felt the offense was slow because players sometimes forgot to hand the ball to an official so the next play could start more quickly.

Let’s hope a copycat league yearns to imitate this offense. Everybody looked crisper because of the breakneck pace. Michael Vick finished with 204 yards passing, two touchdowns, and 54 yards rushing. Lesean McCoy had 184 of the team’s 263 yards rushing. And DeSean Jackson had seven catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.

“I think this offense will give defensive coordinators nightmares,” Fox Sport analyst and former NFL and college coach Jimmy Johnson told ESPN radio. “I think it will be successful throughout the year.”

That remains to be seen because of all the variables that come with a long NFL season.

“Obviously, the big thing with these offenses is the health of the quarterback,” Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said. “It’s hard to argue with 1-0 and looking pretty good. But we’ll have to wait and see. What happens if there’s an injury at a key position? Do they have the depth to keep up that kind of pace?”

The Eagles also need to sharpen their ability to play efficiently at a slower pace. Part of the reason they were outscored 20-7 in the second half was the clumsy way they played when Kelly slowed things down.

“I’ve never been through an entire NFL season, but they tell me you’ll be surprised at how long it feels coming from college,” Vikings rookie defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said. “So I don’t know if a team can play at that pace for an entire season. But it sure looked good on ‘Monday Night Football.’ ”

Floyd was asked if he would ever “fake” a cramp to slow down a fast offense. Some of the Redskins’ defensive linemen were suspected of doing that, which the league has warned teams against doing.

“I wouldn’t just assume they were faking,” Floyd said. “Most of the time, they probably did get a cramp because of that offense. When you play that many snaps, especially this early in the season, your body is going to cramp up.”

Jefferson was asked if he had any advice for the Eagles’ future opponents.

“Hmm,” he said. “I think my advice would be everybody better start getting in shape for the Eagles.”

Northern Intelligence

Coming off a career-long 58-yard field goal that topped his franchise-record 57-yarder in 2011, Bears kicker Robbie Gould has made 209 of 244 career attempts.

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