Don’t bring a slingshot to a shootout, and don’t bring a track and field sprinter to a Super Speedway. Lesson learned for the Washington Redskins. In its much-anticipated debut, Chip Kelly Racing Inc.'s Philadelphia branch roared out of the gates like they were trying to lap the 'Skins and qualify for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase. The 'Skins on the other hand, were driving Ms. Daisy in the first half.
At a 0-60 in four flat pace, Philly’s offense ran 53 plays in the first half and gained 322 yards. For perspective, the New England Patriots nearly set an NFL-record last season by averaging 74 plays per game. The 'Skins were actually fortunate Philly's lead was just 33-7 in the third.
Michael Vick looked more comfortable than ever when the Redskins blitz wasn’t flustering him. On the other side, whether it was a byproduct of missing the entire preseason, his apprehension about planting on his reconstructed knee or both, the Redskins field general looked like a private who’d never seen live bullets.
Despite the 33-27 win, it wasn't all sunny in Philadelphia. Midway through the third quarter the juices started flowin’ and Robert Griffin’ III started throwin’. After the Eagles ran their 53 first half plays, the 'Skins held them to 24 plays and 114 yards in the second half. While the Eagles slowed down their tempo, Washington tapped the Eagles bumper, spun them out, smashed in their windows and nearly pilfered the win from their dashboard.
Griffin’s rehab overshadowed the Redskins failure to address their soft secondary in the offseason. Judging the Eagles passing attack against a vulnerable Redskins defense requires a curved grading scale. The ‘Skins defense was on the field for so long because of turnovers and three-and-outs by Discom’Bob’ulated Griffin, that they began showing symptoms of vertigo.
Kelly’s Oregon offenses relied on players with hoops endurance rather than brute gridiron strength. As a result, they were often made to look like lightweights by Stanford, Auburn and the LSU’s of the college football world in heavyweight tilts. The litmus test for Chip Kelly’s offense will come against superior defenses that can actually impose their will.
The Eagles won the battle, but it may have been a pyrrhic victory, as Vick came up hobbling on the tail end of a 36-yard option run in the fourth quarter. On the plus side, LeSean McCoy was just as lethal as any of Kelly’s stable of Heisman Trophy-caliber Oregon backs. If Vick is going to stay healthy for a 16-game season, he may want to consider letting McCoy or Bryce Brown, who combined for a huge chunk of Philly’s 253 yards rushing, handle those ground and pound duties.
Defensively, Phillies safeties were getting torched by Redskins receivers slipping behind them when Griffin targeted his receivers deep. Yet, that appears to be more of a personnel flaw than a schematic one.
Ultimately, it’s not about how you start, but how you finish that matters. Kelly’s Eagles have the horsepower to make run and pass donuts around most NFL defenses. The next lesson is understanding that the season is a marathon, not a sprint. The Eagles drifted across the finish line on an empty tank, but this is just Week One. It remains to be seen if they, and Vick in particular, can keep up this pace. Monday night was either an offensive revolution or shock and awe.