In the Philadelphia Eagles’ first game this season, they raised a huge warning flag to the rest of the NFL.
New head coach Chip Kelly unveiled the team’s spread offense he’d brought from the University of Oregon, and the fast-paced, no-huddle Eagles ran 53 plays for 322 yards and 21 first downs in just the first half of a 33-27 victory over the Washington Redskins.
In that game, Philadelphia amassed 443 total yards, including 263 on the ground, and the 1-2 rushing combination of running back LeSean McCoy (184 yards) and quarterback Michael Vick (54) was devastating.
Suddenly, the rest of the NFL was wondering if Kelly’s offense was about to revolutionize the pro game. By spreading out players across the field and thinning out the defense and using up-tempo play calling and a wide-open philosophy, the Eagles’ offense looked as if it might score 30-plus points per game.
“The tempo really worked,” McCoy said after that first game. “I don’t think anyone has seen it that fast.”
But in the seven games since, the Eagles’ offense hasn’t been nearly as dynamic. As Philadelphia comes into Oakland Sunday to play the Raiders (3-4) at O.co Coliseum, the Eagles have gone 2-5 since that opening game, and Vick is now sidelined with an injury.
And, in their past two games, both losses, they’ve scored a combined 10 points.
Quarterback Nick Foles, also banged up, is scheduled to start against the Raiders.
Though Oakland’s defense has been solid this season – the Raiders are the No. 6 defense against the run – it faces a big challenge Sunday against the Eagles and McCoy, who is the NFL’s No. 1 rusher with 773 yards. Philadelphia can move the ball through the air, too, with dangerous receiver DeSean Jackson, who has 45 catches for 673 yards and five TDs. Philadelphia ranks No. 5 in the NFL in total offense at 397.1 yards per game.
In order to come up with their fourth win of the season and get back to .500, the Raiders will have to slow down that offense while also being more productive when they have the ball. In their past four games, the Raiders offense has stalled in the second half, leaving their defense on the field longer.
Raiders head coach Dennis Allen knows the Eagles will put pressure on his defense to tackle efficiently.
“They do some things from a tempo standpoint that can make it difficult on you,” Allen told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group this week. “They do some things where the concept of the offense is really to spread the defense out and get their playmakers in space. Being a great tackling team will be critical in this game.”
Added Allen: “This is an explosive offense that can put a lot of points on the board. We have to understand who we’re dealing with.”
If the Raiders can’t stop McCoy, they may have no shot at a victory, and Raiders defenders know that.
“When a team is going to come in and try to run the ball on you, you have to have the mindset they’re not going to have success,” said Oakland defensive end Jason Hunter. “Guys are working hard on it at practice, making sure they’re in the right places and on Sundays just playing with passion and aggression.”
Oddsmakers have made the Raiders 2½-point favorites.