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Chip Kelly’s debut a startling success as the Eagles speed right by the Redskins

Frank Schwab
Shutdown Corner

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On Sunday, three NFL teams ran 53 plays in their entire game. Carolina ran 50.

The Eagles ran 53 plays in the first half alone on Monday night.

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Tempo alone doesn't make an offense dangerous. Some teams believed that when they copied the Patriots' uptempo style. Jacksonville used some no-huddle looks in the preseason and Week 1, but no matter how fast the Jaguars play on offense they won't be any good.

But the Eagles, at least for Week 1, were fast, fun and great.

We at least have to allow for the possibility Eagles coach Chip Kelly is a genius. Monday night was just one game, and now the NFL can see if it can figure out Philadelphia's new offense. But for most of the Eagles' 33-27 win that wasn't as close as the final score indicated, the Redskins looked like they were using a 2013 defense against an offense from 2020. The same concepts that made Kelly a top college coach at Oregon – breakneck pace (which the Patriots copied), spreading the field, using various zone-blocking concepts, read-option plays and constantly attacking a defense where it is out-manned based on its pre-snap formation – worked better than anyone could have figured in Kelly's NFL debut.

The Eagles' offense wasn't remarkable because it was fast. It was beautiful to watch.

The NFL seems to be changing a bit. It has been a conservative league for a long time. The hiring of Kelly, who had never held a job higher than New Hampshire's offensive coordinator as of 2006 and had zero NFL experience before getting the Eagles job, was a bold and unusual move. That's how we came to have a NFL team splitting its offensive tackles out by the receivers on one play.

Oh yes, that play. Tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson split out wide like receivers, giving the Eagles a three-man line. Crazy, right? So the Eagles ran straight ahead and LeSean McCoy gained 10 yards behind his three linemen.

A few years ago this would have been scoffed at in the NFL. Stupid college tricks. On Monday night, it confounded the Redskins.

[Related: Will Chip Kelly's speedy offense trigger a revolution?]

You need personnel to pull this off. Kelly wasn't on the field to gain any of the Eagles' yards. Quarterback Michael Vick was very sharp, especially throwing to DeSean Jackson. McCoy had a great night. Vick had 190 yards and two touchdowns, Jackson had 104 yards and a touchdown on seven catches and McCoy had 115 yards on 20 carries ... all in the first half. Philadelphia had 322 yards on its 42 first-half plays. Kelly can feel pretty good using his entire playbook, knowing his quarterback and tailback are so hard to tackle in space.

But this was Kelly's night to shine. The college coach with his foreign (to the NFL) concepts looked like a prescient hire. It felt like we were watching a shifting dynamic in the league. And maybe by the end of the year, defensive coordinators will have all the answers and what we saw Philadelphia do to Washington in the season opener will look like a fluke. Even in the second half on Monday, the Redskins slowly seemed to be figuring it out a bit as they got back in the game. And perhaps speeding up the game affected the Eagles' defense a bit in the second half, because it looked a bit winded as the Washington offense got moving.

We'll get the answers to all of that down the road. For one night, this highly anticipated Chip Kelly offense sure was a lot of fun to watch.

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