TEMPE, Ariz. — Chip Kelly’s offense has not exactly taken the NFL by storm.
There have been glimpses of greatness, and his Philadelphia Eagles are fourth in the NFL in total yards and ninth in points, but you are not likely to see offenses around the league looking to replicate what is happening in the City of Brotherly Love.
Still, as the Arizona Cardinals prepare to face what could become the league’s newest fad, they know the Eagles present an interesting challenge.
They like to play fast and feature the read-option, or the zone read, or whatever you want to call it. Point is, it’s not your normal, run-of-the-mill offense.
“It’s a challenge because it’s a different offense,” Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said, noting that both the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks run similar plays at times. “But their whole offense is based like that, and your guys have to be ready to play.
“Their mindset has to change in certain situations.”
The Cardinals enter this game ranked eighth in the NFL in total defense and points allowed, with averages of just 317.1 total yards and 20.3 points per game. The Eagles, on the other hand, are fourth in the league in yards per contest, tallying 412.4, and are ninth in scoring, averaging 25.1 points per game.
The cliché would say something has got to give, and it is up to Arizona to prove it won’t be their defense. It’s a difficult challenge to prepare for, if only because, as Cardinals coach Bruce Arians admitted, it is impossible to truly replicate the Eagles’ tempo in practice. They’ll just have to get acclimated quickly, he said, and the chance is something his players are looking forward to.
“This is definitely an interesting offense and in the NFL, we’re always trying to figure out whatever’s new,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “Once you get a formula for it everybody kind of learns how to stop it, but this is still new and we’ve got a game plan.
“Who knows how it’s going to do. We’re just going to go out there and play the best way we know how and hopefully we can stop them.”
If the Cardinals fail to do so, their struggles will have a ripple effect. While the opposing defense gets most of the attention, what the Eagles do offensively has an impact on the other team’s offense, too.
Philadelphia would like to dictate the pace, and jumping out to a couple of quick scores could lead an offense to change its approach in an effort to keep up. That can’t happen, according to Cardinals QB Carson Palmer.
“Yeah, I think that’s what they want,” he said. “That’s part of the reason why they do what they do. They make teams press and create turnovers defensively.”
The Eagles are second-to-last in the NFL in yards allowed, but are tied for 15th in points allowed per game. Their defense ranks in the middle of the pack for turnovers created, and they are not anything special when it comes to getting after the quarterback.
Yet they find a way to stop teams. Or, rather, their offense forces teams to stop themselves.
“You really can’t look at the scoreboard, you can’t worry about anything until you get into the second half and start looking at the clock depending on what the score is, but especially in the first half against a team like this you have to take it one play at a time, one drive at a time,” Palmer added. “They want you to start looking at the scoreboard and feel like you have to score two touchdowns in this next drive, and that’s when mistakes start happening.”
Pretty much to a man, the Cardinals maintained the way to beat the Eagles is to not beat themselves. They say the pace cannot allow them to change what they like to do, be it looking for too much on offense or playing undisciplined on defense. Do your job, they feel, and things will turn out OK.
“Don’t try to do too much,” defensive tackle Dan Williams said. “If you have the A-gap, stay in the A-gap. If you have the B-gap, stay in the B-gap. Because a lot of times they make big plays once you make a mistake on defense.”
“We’re not going to let them affect what we do,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “I think our defense is going to a great job. We’re just going to call our plays and run our offense.”
Sounds simple, right? It could be. Or it may not be. The truth is, until the Cardinals actually play against the Eagles with their offense, there really is no way of knowing just how things will go.
“These are two good teams that match up very well going at it, and I think that when it’s all said and done, hopefully we come out on top,” Campbell said. “But this is going to be a tough game to get a win.
“I think if we play our A-game and we do what our coaches taught us this week and just play our game plan. If we do that well, I think we’ll come out on top.”