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Equal-Opportunity Offense Works

Posted Dec 12, 2013

Chip Kelly said it the first day he was here, and it's held true: The Eagles run an equal-opportunity offense, which makes it so difficult to pigeon-hole exactly what they are all about on that side of the football ...

What do we know about the Eagles offense as the team prepares for Minnesota on Sunday? We know that the Eagles are lethal in a variety of ways and they Chip Kelly and Pat Shurmur have put in place a scheme that does, indeed, attack in equal manner in the passing game and in the running game.

The Eagles have the league's leading rushing, LeSean McCoy. The Eagles have also gained the most explosive plays (defined as plays that have gained 20 or more yards), 80, including a whopping 64 passing plays of 20-plus yards. The offense has accumulated more than 400 yards of offense in 10 games, one of four teams in league history to reach double figures in plus-400-yard games in the first 13 outings. Only five teams in NFL history have reached 400 or more yards 11 times in an entire season, just to give you a perspective.

McCoy (1,305) has run for more than 1,000 yards and wide receiver DeSean Jackson (1,080) has more than 1,000 receiving yards, and wide receiver Riley Cooper (714) is within shouting distance of hitting the magical mark with three games to play.

So if you are the Minnesota Vikings and your defensive staff has spent all week preparing to play this offense, how do you list the "must-take-away" priorities? Do you load the box to take McCoy out of the mix and expose an injury-riddled secondary to Jackson, Cooper and an athletic group of tight ends? Do you play a zone and just keep the Eagles in front of you? Which weaknesses, exactly, are you trying to expose when you know that quarterback Nick Foles has been tremendous against the blitz and has just one interception and 20 touchdowns on the season?

This is a marvelous offensive structure that is, in the big picture, in its infancy. The Eagles are going to refine the X's and O's and tweak the approach and challenge the roster in the offseason, and the future possibilities are incredibly exciting.

For now, it's a great show to watch. Even with the stretch in the middle of the season when the quarterbacks were battling injuries and the offense was ineffective, the Eagles are averaging 25.7 points per game, 409.3 yards per week and they've turned the ball over only 16 times (including 5 in a loss to Kansas City and 3 each in losses to Dallas and New York).

There is every reason to believe that the success will continue. The offensive line is healthy and playing outstanding, cohesive football. Of the offense's 904 snaps through 13 games, guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans have played every one, right tackle Lane Johnson has played 903 snaps, center Jason Kelce has participated in 899 snaps and left tackle Jason Peters has played 822 snaps. That remarkable durability has led to wonderful continuity up front and that has translated to dominating play.

This offense has committed just 42 penalties in 13 games, a number that the coaching staff would like to reduce, as always, but one that is far less than for past Eagles offenses.

There is the play of Foles, who has compiled a 6-1 record as the starting quarterback, plus an off-the-bench gem to beat the Giants at MetLife Stadium. Great decision making, outstanding recognition and good accuracy and consistency have allowed Foles to compile a league-high passer rating of 120.0.

What do you expect on Sunday? You can be sure the Eagles have done their homework. Two weeks ago the Eagles used their tight ends to go after the Arizona secondary, and Zach Ertz and Brent Celek combined for three touchdown catches. Against Detroit on Sunday the in-game adjustment of moving Foles from the shotgun to under center to give McCoy more of a "downhill" opportunity running the football and the Eagles scored 28 points in the fourth quarter and McCoy set a franchise record with 217 rushing yards.

Minnesota's defense is capable of making life unpleasant for offenses. Jared Allen can wreck a pocket from his defensive end position. The Vikings are big and strong inside. Minnesota is going to try to throw Foles off his game with some well-timed blitzes. The Eagles have to know that Minnesota isn't going to sit back and allow the Eagles to dictate the tempo, if possible.

But Kelly has options, and he has shown to have a great feel for where to go and when to do it during the course of a game. The Eagles are going to take what Minnesota gives them. The key is identifying the numbers and executing when the yards are there to be gained. Every defense has a target area. This offense has brilliantly exposed those holes from one week to the next.

It is, then, truly as Kelly said it would be. It's an "equal-opportunity" offense, one that is as deadly on the ground as it is in the air, no matter who has the football in his hands. This is an advantageous position to be in down the stretch -- healthy, confident, and diverse.

Sit back and enjoy on Sunday, because we truly don't know what's coming. The Vikings have spent all week studying the Eagles, looking for tendencies and trends, combing through all of the big plays hunting for weaknesses. They likely haven't found many, just like the defenses in the previous 13 games. This is an offense built for success, no matter how it comes on game days.

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