There are times in our lives when we’re forced to accept a revolution as truth. That is my way of apologizing to Chip Kelly, whose Blur Offense not only succeeded with maniacal ease in his NFL debut, it had us swallowing entire vials of Dramamine. His no-huddle spread attack — featuring a torrent of quick-tempo formations based on trying to run as many plays as humanly possible, all at pro football’s version of warp speed — had seemed like a crackpot college fad to a lot of us.
Twenty-six points, 322 yards, 21 first downs, 20:20 of ball possession and 53 plays later — all in the first 30 minutes, the play total the most by a league team in one half since 1998 — I must admit I’m fighting motion sickness, vertigo and a head-swiveling sense that I was dead-wrong.
The Philadelphia Eagles dared to buy into Kelly’s strategic frenzy, hiring him last winter from Oregon, where he averaged 43 points and 486 yards a game for four seasons and nearly won a national championship in the program’s lab-tested, garish-green Nike garb. As we’ve seen in the NFL and NBA, what works in college often doesn’t translate to the pro game. But if a 33-27 conquest of an overshadowed Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins suggests what’s ahead for Kelly, he and his high-tech masterpiece already are a trending craze. Of the first 150 yards gained in this game, the Eagles amassed 147, and now we know why Kelly is so hush about tactics that include signaling in plays via conspiratorial coding — including large sideline placards of Bart Simpson and Phil Mickelson (as in the number two, because he often finishes second in golf majors).
“It’s what I hoped it would feel like,” Kelly said. “I don’t think it’s a bag of tricks. It’s just football. And like any staff, no matter who you hire, you’re always trying to get formations that are favorable to us. Our guys played with great energy.”
Yes, critics can point to dramatically lower numbers in the second half — when the Redskins dominated the stat lines and scored 20 unanswered points — and conclude that Kelly’s stuff will be figured out in due time. That’s a tall order for defensive coordinators when the attack is perfect for Michael Vick, who looked like his pre-dog-scandal, MVP self in throwing for 203 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 56 yards and another score. Running back LeSean McCoy was at its lean and mean best, rushing for 184 yards, all but a handful of those runs inside the tackles. The third member of this skill-position triumvirate, receiver DeSean Jackson, caught seven balls for 104 yards and a touchdown.
This wasn’t fantasy football. This wasn’t a video game.
This was, I suppose, a Computer Chip come to life.
“You have great dreams and you have nightmares. That was a great dream,” gushed Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, per the Associated Press.
“I’ve never been part of anything like that,” said Vick, who looked 10 years younger than his actual 33. “It was unreal.”
This was supposed to be the night when Griffin triumphantly returned to stardom after reconstructive surgery on a mangled knee. His entrance into his home stadium was way over the top, accompanied by a blast of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” As the adoring fans roared, he fell to the ground and pointed to the sky like a messiah. Then he grabbed a large Redskins flag and raced to the end of the field. How silly did all of this look when Griffin didn’t even take a snap in Eagles territory until after halftime? He looked rusty, as could be expected, throwing two interceptions while rushing for only 24 yards. Mike Shanahan and the Redskins coaching staff will have to protect Griffin from enemy punishment in the read-option offense. It remains to be seen if he can regain his greatness of 2012.
“Had a serious case of the can’t-get-rights,” Griffin said. “Penalties, hurting ourselves. I don’t throw picks, Alfred (Morris) doesn’t fumble, and Kai (Forbath) doesn’t miss field goals. All three of those happened tonight. So we’ll get better, no doubt.”
Chances are, they won’t be as exciting as the Eagles. Let the copycats steal Kelly’s plan. “A couple of their defensive guys were going down with cramps and things like that to try and slow us down. I’m not sure how serious their injuries were,” said Jackson, per USA Today. “As far as our offense, we were like, `C’mon. Let’s keep going.’ I felt like I was a kid in a sandbox to see that tempo. There wasn’t one time except with penalties where we felt we were going to be stopped.”
Kelly acknowledged he let up a bit when the score was 33-7. “The Redskins were like, `Next time we play you guys, you need to slow it down a bit,’ ” Eagles center Jason Kelce said.
Not a chance. The revolution is on.