Even the most ardent Philadelphia Eagles fan or Chip Kelly supporter couldn’t have seen this coming.
In Kelly’s first game as an NFL head coach, the team that finished 4-12 a year ago made the division champion Washington Redskins look like Appalachian State in a season-opening 33-27 win where the score wasn’t nearly indicative of the Eagles performance.
The efficiency of the Eagles offense was simply marvelous. After their opening drive stalled thanks to DeAngelo Hall returning a Michael Vick lateral 75 yards for a touchdown, the Birds rattled off 30 unanswered points.
Kelly’s Eagles ran 77 plays (including 53 in the first half alone) at a frenetic pace, leaving winded Redskins defenders in their wake. How impressive is that number? The Eagles averaged 64.7 plays in 2012, and the Pittsburgh Steelers lined up for just 53 the entire game on Sunday. At one point, the Eagles had run the ball 22 times and passed it 22 in a more balanced attack than ever seen under Andy Reid.
LeSean McCoy snatched the league rushing lead with 115 yards — before halftime — and finished with 184 yards on 37 carries, posting a 5.9 yards per carry average and a touchdown by game’s end. This game was so one-sided that when halftime rolled around, the Eagles had run 53 plays to the Redskins’ 21 and held the ball for 20:20 of the game’s first 30 minutes.
Hall’s touchdown return not withstanding, Vick was nearly flawless. The 12-year veteran finished 15-25 for 203 yards and two touchdowns. However, the real takeaway from Vick’s strong performance was the fact that he made the kind of reads and throws that he frequently missed last season and throughout his career look effortless.
The offense finished with an astounding 444 yards of total offense compared to Washington’s 293. But for as dominant as the offense was Monday night, that only tells half the story of the Eagles’ success.
Defensively, the Eagles forced a league-low 13 takeaways last season, but snagged two in the first four plays when Alfred Morris fumbled and Robert Griffin III threw his first of two interceptions on Washington’s first two possessions — after throwing just five interceptions as a rookie.
However, as the game stretched into the fourth quarter, the Eagles’ defense faded and Griffin feasted, finishing 30-of-49 for 329 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Philadelphia defense showed an attitude not seen from his unit in recent years. Mychal Kendricks threw Griffin around like a rag doll on a sack. Cary Williams intercepted a pass, as did Brandon Boykin. Even the little things such as not helping an opponent up off the ground gave the impression that they meant business.
At the end of the night, the Eagles are just 1-0 and the NFL season is a marathon, not a sprint.
However, if this statement NFC east division win serves any greater purpose, it is that Kelly and the Eagles have put the rest of the league on notice.
Matt Lombardo is also an on-air personality on 97.5 FM The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Join the conversation and follow Matt on Twitter.