SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 09: Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers drops back to pass against the Houston Texans at Qualcomm Stadium on September 9, 2013 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
In their 33-27 Monday Night win over the Redskins, the Eagles ran 53 plays. In the first half. No NFL team had run that many plays in one half since 1991. New head coach Chip Kelly said he wanted to play fast, so he must have been ecstatic with that kind of output.
“Nah, I thought it was slow, to be honest with you,” said Kelly. If you’re waiting for a punch line, it’s not coming.
“I’m not joking with you,” Kelly said. “We’ve got to do a better job. We left the ball on the ground too much, we didn’t get the ball to the officials, we could have sped things up from a process between plays and that’s something we need to continue to work on.”
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, no stranger to playing an up-tempo style, seemed to think they moved things along just fine.
“It was a crazy game,” said Vick. “I’ve never been a part of anything like it. When the first quarter was over I thought we was about to go in to halftime. I mean, it was unreal. The only think I kept telling myself is it’s going to be a long season.”
If the Eagles ripped off that massive volume of plays, and want to add even more, how many does Kelly want to reach? 90? 100?
“We don’t count plays, we never have,” said Kelly. “The thing you’ve got to count is points.”
And, the more plays you run on offense, the more chances you have to score points. But, every scheme has a soft spot.
“You know, I can’t say at this point that offense has a soft side to it,” said linebacker Donald Butler. “The speed of it makes things like that difficult to get to, but you’ve just got to, mentally, get everyone on the same page and go from there.”
Perhaps the blueprint was handed to everyone last November, when Chip Kelly’s Oregon Ducks were stymied by the Stanford Cardinal in a 17-14 upset. Stanford started by playing its linebackers a bit farther off the line of scrimmage, giving them a bit of extra time and space to see what was going on. Then, they did what great defenses do. The Cardinal shed blockers, and made tackles.
If you can seal the edges and not allow big plays on the outside, funneling runners to your defenders in the middle of the field while not over pursuing, you can slow down this scheme. So the key, really, is to stay disciplined.
“Just play the defense called and understand what you need to do on every play,” said Chargers head coach Mike McCoy. “If you break down whatever gap you’re supposed to be in, whatever it’s going to be, they’re going to expose it.”
If you aren’t aware of LeSean McCoy’s ability to cut back across the field, he’ll go for another 184 yards on the ground. If you let Vick run around and buy time without pressure, he’ll find DeSean Jackson down the field. Stick with your assignments and don’t let anyone get free.
Matching the speed with which the Eagles run their offense is next to impossible (backup QB Charlie Whitehurst was running it against the Chargers defense during practice this week), so it will likely take a few series to get fully acclimated.
That’s what happened to the Redskins on Monday night. Washington turned the ball over three times, and once they figured out what they were dealing with, it was already too late.
And that brings us to the ultimate solution, which is actually quite simple.
Just don’t let Philly’s offense on the field.
An offense can’t score if it doesn’t have the ball. So, the Chargers offense must do a better job of keeping said ball. Against Houston, the Bolts only held the ball for 23:29, and only about 2:00 of the fourth quarter.
“Obviously we finished last week with four 3-and-outs and a pick for a touchdown,” said Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. “We do that this week, it won’t be good.”
So, in this situation, the best defense is a good offense, which is something the Chargers just happen to have.
In a back-and-forth game where both defenses struggle to keep anyone out of the end zone, the Chargers find a way to get just one more scoring drive against an Eagles team that is susceptible to the deep ball. Philip Rivers throws a 62-yard touchdown pass to Malcom Floyd late in the 4th quarter, Chargers win 48-44.