Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles offense set the NFL on fire Monday night against the Washington Redskins. A short week later, it's time to throw on a wet blanket, or at the very least, one of those hot-cold patches Shaq keeps trying to get me to buy for muscle pain. If the Eagles offense continues to run at this pace, it won't be adapting defenses that'll stop them... it'll be injuries.
We all know the numbers by now. Via Derrick Gunn at CSNPhilly:
Nineteen offensive plays on their first two drives, 30 plays in the first quarter, 53 plays at halftime and 322 yards of offense in the first 30 minutes. The Eagles' offensive numbers were staggering, fast and furious, and enough to make the math majors race for calculators just to keep up.
If Kelly is as smart as South Philly now thinks he is, he'll be the one racing for a calculator. Anyone watching the second half Monday night clearly saw a limping Michael Vick and a gassed-out LeSean McCoy, and some simple arithmetic suggests the bumps and bruises will only increase.
Last season the Eagles ran an average of 67.4 plays per game. On Monday, they ran 77, and listening to Kelly's comments this week it's safe to assume that number should only go up. That means more hits, more risk, more injury, and more wear-and-tear on a set of speedy-but-undersized playmakers. Speaking strictly from a play-calling sense, the personnel of the 2013 Eagles offense will take the number of hits and the number of beatings over a 16-game schedule that the 2012 Eagles offense would have needed nearly 19 games to accumulate.
Also worth noting; the bumps and bruises associated with a 16-game season shelved four of the Eagles current offensive starters for significant time. Five if you count Jason Peters.
Now, injuries are a freak thing. London Fletcher takes more hits than Ricky Williams (zing!) and stands as the football equivalent of Cal Ripken Jr., while someone like Kevin Kolb gets a concussion sneezing in the shower. To put a big fat asterisk on all the math above, the Pittsburgh Steelers only ran 53 plays in Week One, the third lowest in the league, and lost three starters for the season.
But for someone as science-driven as Kelly, the basic mathematics has to bear weight. Unfortunately for The Chippah, his roster doesn't provide the depth required to protect his Big Three (Vick, McCoy, Jackson) or his offensive line (no viable option behind the starters). Compounding the issue is the adjustment period Kelly is currently going through; at Oregon he had 80 players available on gameday. In Philly, he only gets 46.
More plays. More hits. Less players. That's a recipe for a limping roster come the finish line.
In the end on Monday night, despite a frenzied offensive system that looked like video game replays on fast forward, Kelly's crew needed to thwart an on-side kick to hold onto a one-possession lead. The natural assumption is to credit Washington's close-but-no-cigar comeback to the Eagles O taking the foot off the gas pedal.
After further review, it seems equally likely the Eagles were simply out of gas entirely.
A Monday night match-up and a Thursday night showdown two weeks apart gives the Chip-Squad three games in 11 days. Kelly and his offensive staff need to find a way to protect their players, or they might not have many left by the end of the season.