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Fun For All In Kelly Era Debut

Posted Sep 9, 2013

LANDOVER, Md. -- The word vibrating through a jubilant Eagles locker room after their 33-27 victory over Washington on Monday was one we haven't heard in a long time: Fun. The fun, Eagles fans, is back for this football team ...

Head coach Chip Kelly unfurled the kind of offense that we all saw during his seasons revolutionizing the Oregon profile at the collegiate level, moving formations all over the field, using a no-huddle approach for much of the game as the Eagles built a huge lead, and offering the kind of spacing on the field that led to gaping holes and big plays for the offense.

Defensively, the Eagles forced a pair of turnovers and registered a safety on Washington's first three possessions, and as the Eagles rolled to a 33-7 lead before sweating out the fourth quarter, the operative word was on everyone's mind.

F-U-N.

"We're excited. I think our guys played with great energy," said Kelly. "We made some mistakes, coach included, but I think just the way they approached the game, the energy they played with ... and that's what I told them after the game that if they play hard, you have a shot to win in this league."

Kelly labeled the first half "bizarre," and it certainly was that. The Eagles opened the game on offense and drove 70 yards on 9 crisp plays to reach the Washington 4-yard line. On play No. 10, though, quarterback Michael Vick attempted to flare a pass out to running back LeSean McCoy, but the ball was tipped and went loose and was picked up by DeAngelo Hall at the 25-yard line and returned for 75 yards and a score. The officials reviewed the play and determined that the call on the field, a fumble, stood and that Washington led, 7-0.

It was the kind of mistake that might have doomed recent Eagles teams, but not this group. A 9-play, 51-yard drive followed and ended on an Alex Henery field goal and then the defense forced a fumble on Washington's opening offensive play, leading to a Michael Vick touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson. Vick took the snap from under center, faked a handoff, had great protection and threw a perfect strike to Jackson running along the back of the end zone.

The Eagles were off and running ... and passing ... and playing swarming, pressure defense and winning the battle on special teams. Philadelphia played a stunning first half, leading the shell-shocked Redskins 26-7, outgaining them 322 yards to 75, compiling 21 first downs to Washington's 3 and rushing for 151 yards compared with Washington's 28.

When LeSean McCoy danced 34 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter, the Eagled held a 33-7 lead and the many Eagles fans in attendance at FedEx Field were chanting the familar, E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES! chant.

Yes, the Eagles fans had fun, too.

The final quarter and a half were too sloppy and Washington came too far back for comfort, and in fact the Eagles needed a Jake Knott recovery of an onsides kick with 1 minute, 14 seconds remaining to seal the deal. That's a story for another day.

For now, reveal in what the Eagles accomplished. The fast-break offense that we saw glimpses of in the preseason was in fine form as the Eagles ripped off 53 plays from the line of scrimmage in the first half (77 in all). McCoy ran for 184 yards on a career-high 31 carries, an average of 5.9 yards per rush. The Eagles had 49 rushing attempts for 263 yards. Vick compiled a passer rating of 112.6, completing 15 of 25 passes for 203 yards and a pair of scores. Jackson caught 7 passes for 104 yards. Brent Celek had a huge 28-yard touchdown catch.

The offensive line gave up a few pressures, mainly on Lane Johnson's side, but by and large the group was outstanding as the Eagles averaged 5.8 yards per offensive play.

The defense smothered Washington's running game, pressured quarterback Robert Griffin III into a sub-par game until late, had three takeaways and played an aggressive, blitzing scheme that the players clearly enjoyed.

Special teams? Outstanding. Washington's average starting field position was the 20-yard line, while the Eagles had an average starting spot of the 39-yard line. Henery booted a 48-yard field goal, Donnie Jones dropped four punts inside the 20-yard line and the coverage units clamped down on Washington's dangerous return team.

"This win," said linebacker DeMeco Ryans, "feels so good. It's sweet. Going through what we went through last year and then having all of the changes we've had, and all the hard work we've put in, it's a good start. It's just a start, though. We have a lot of football ahead."

There were several important takeawys from the win, so let's discuss here ...

  • The offensive line has a chance to be great, and if that's the case, the Eagles offense is going to fly. McCoy was dazzling with his stop-on-a-dime runs and cuts and moves, but he also had some gaping holes through which to run. Against a good Washington front seven, the Eagles' athletic ability at the line of scrimmage was dominating.

  • Vick played a superb game. He was under control. He threw the ball well. He ran when he had chances -- Vick gained 54 yards and a touchdown on 9 carries -- and didn't subject himself to any unneccesary punishment. Great job mentally and physically by Vick.

  • The defense wants to play pressure football, using a lot of inside blitzes. Coordinator Bill Davis clearly thinks that Mychal Kendricks can be a force between the tackles playing in the backfield. Kendricks times his blitzes very well, and he was extremely physical against Washington.

  • Let's just focus on Cary Williams on the field. He was the best cornerback on the field on Monday night with an interception, a quarterback sack and a great pass breakup in the fourth quarter. Williams tackled very well and played under control. Great job.

  • McCoy can't have 31 carries every week, so Bryce Brown and Chris Polk -- who played well on special teams -- are going to have to be reliable.

  • To play with such tempo, the Eagles need to recover quickly. This is a short week. Next week is even shorter. The post-game recovery process is huge. And so is the bench here. Every defensive player saw significant snaps on Monday night.

  • Kelly isn't afraid to try anything. He made Celek a right tackle on a couple of snaps and had both Johnson and Jason Peters lined up out wide at times, offering offset looks and new-fangled formations that clearly had the Redskins befuddled.

  • The Eagles had seven plays of 25-plus yards in the win on Monday night.

  • McCoy leads the NFL in rushing. Get used to seeing him at the top in the league. He's primed for a huge season in this offense.

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