Almost immediately after the Eagles took the field for their first drive against Houston, Texans DE J.J. Watt electrocuted the Eagles by pressuring Nick Foles, forcing the quarterback to throw an errant pass behind wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Watt later stuffed a LeSean McCoy run, short-circuiting the offense throughout the opening quarter of the game, forcing an interception and assisting a teammate in sacking Foles on third down.
Eventually, the Texans knocked Foles out of the game with a broken clavicle. Former Jet Mark Sanchez, a man who was once snacking on chicken tenders on the Eagles sideline, entered the game with the outcome in the balance. J.J. Watt was on a torrid streak, and threatened to wreak further havoc on the sputtering Eagle offense.
Chip Kelly then finally began to run the show the way he wanted. The passive, dink and dunk style of offense was in the past. Kelly’s first order of business was to send Jeremy Maclin on a post route deep down the seam. Mark Sanchez, still cold from his bench warming duties, threw his first pass perfecto for Maclin to haul in. With this jumpstart, the offense was able to reignite, and things began to gel the way they did in 2013.
The Eagles would capitalize on the deep pass, scoring a touchdown on a Jordan Matthews reception. As the game wore on, Kelly began using more of the fast pace that fans noticed in last ear’ opener. Using medium pass routes in combination with play action, inside running, and zone counter plays, the Eagles galvanized into the tempo that they ran with for Kelly’s Oregon days, causing the Texans defense to gasp for air. Players, including J.J. Watt, took themselves out of the game to rest, stood with their hands on their knees, and appeared dog tired as the Eagles pounded them with more running plays. Suddenly, Watt’s electric energy seemed to have burned out.
In total, the Eagles ran the ball 34 times against Houston. As the game wore on, running lanes began to creep op more and more, until the Eagles were basically running through the Lincoln tunnel en route to a four play, 70-yard touchdown drive that took up under two minutes of play, all via the ground game. While the Eagles backs rotated and remained fresh, the Texans defenders seemed helpless against a rejuvenated offense that, with the return of premier center Jason Kelce, seemed lightyears from the unit that failed to score in San Francisco.
With Nick Foles sidelined for at least five weeks, Mark Sanchez will be in charge of running the Eagle offense. Against tough defenses like Green Bay and Seattle, Kelly’s best bet is to go to the three-headed monster of McCoy, Sproles, and Polk to wear out the opponent. No matter how strong and talented a defense is, Chip Kelly has proven that his up-tempo pace and persistent running game can wear it out, allowing the Eagles to capitalize in the second half.
Photo: Alexis Morgan