Eagles' no-huddle definitely works; but is it too quick?

Coach Kelly might need to dial down speed of offense to put games away.

OAKLAND

— For the first time this season, the result matched the exact vision new coach Chip Kelly has for his Philadelphia Eagles.

His fastbreak offense was in sync with quarterback Nick Foles, running out to a big lead, then relying on a disciplined defense to take away big plays and hold their opponent to an acceptable point total, even if the yardage and time-of-possession numbers were skewed the other way.

Believe it or not, the Oakland Raiders actually outgained the Eagles on their way to a demoralizing 49-20 defeat on Sunday at O.Co Coliseum. They controlled the ball for just under 38 minutes and ran 92 plays, resulting in 29 first downs and 560 yards.

The Eagles, by contrast, ran only 57 plays, for 542 yards and 21 first downs.

Yet with every touchdown pass Foles threw on his way to an NFL record-tying seven, he and the Eagles kept pounding home the point Kelly made in training camp: Time of possession and yardage differentials don't matter when the system is working the way it should. The Eagles will win anyway.

It worked to perfection on Sunday, no question. But this is the Raiders we're talking about. Whether the Eagles should continue to keep pushing the pace with their offense for the full 60 minutes, especially after establishing an enormous lead, is a question that continues to be valid.

On Sunday, for example, after the Eagles opened up a 35-13 lead early in the third quarter, they continued to run their offense as quickly as possible and were stifled temporarily with two straight three-and-outs, giving the Raiders a chance to cut the lead to one touchdown with more than six minutes remaining in the third.

When the Raiders failed to respond after being given numerous opportunities, the competitive portion of the game was over.

But say the opponent were the Green Bay Packers, who host the Eagles Sunday. And say you have the same 22-point lead with 14 minutes left in the third quarter.

Do you really want to keep going as fast as you can and potentially put the ball in quarterback Aaron Rodgers' hands so much the rest of the way? Or do you want to huddle up, take some time off the clock and try running the ball down their throats?

The Eagles regained possession with 12:24 remaining in the third on Sunday. They punted it away again 45 seconds later.

They got it back again with 8:49 to go and punted it back 94 seconds later.

Even after scoring on just three plays on their next possession, they continued to push it, giving the Raiders chance after chance to get back in it with a couple of big plays.

When Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor had a tipped pass intercepted by Bradley Fletcher at the Eagles' 20-yard line with 2:15 remaining in the third quarter, that should have essentially sealed it. But the Raiders had the ball again 77 seconds later, following another three-and-out.

On the Eagles' next series, early in the fourth, they controlled the ball for all of 60 seconds before punting it back. They had it for 81 seconds the next time.

None of that mattered, of course, because everything worked out perfectly for the Eagles in this game.

But in the NFL, it's a safe bet that if you allow opponents to run 90-plus plays every week, you're going to lose more than you win, and it's something Kelly and the Eagles (4-5) must ponder as they head to Green Bay in hot pursuit of a playoff spot that's still there for them if they can reduce the strain on a defense already thinned by injury to critical levels at cornerback and safety.

On a day like this rare perfect one, everyone on the defense felt fresh. This was especially true of the linemen, who have a rotation going and are less prone to exhaustion as a result.

"I don't look at it as tiring," defensive end Fletcher Cox said. "You give it your all and know that a fresh Vinny Curry is better than a tired Fletcher Cox, or a fresh Damion Square or a fresh Clifton Geathers [will work well]. I look at it as that, because I know they're coming."

Wonder if he'll be able to say the same at the end of the season, when nobody can possibly still be fresh at this rate?

Simply put, the Eagles cannot continue to carry on at this pace, given the league's limit of 46 active players on gameday.

In fact, the Eagles were so banged up that they couldn't even count on the 46 they had in uniform for this game, as Damaris Johnson (ankle) was held out of return duty and safety Patrick Chung (shoulder) wasn't able to start.

With seven games still to play, maybe it's time for Kelly to start reducing the amount of plays his team must run to come out ahead in this war of attrition.

nick.fierro@mcall.com

610-778-2243

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