It's been 66 days and 9 games ago since the Eagles beat the Washington Redskins in the season opener. Philadelphia stormed out to a 33-7 lead as the Monday Night Football national audience watched Chip Kelly's offense in awe. Washington tried to sneak back into the game late as the Eagles shifted to playing more conservatively (a little too much, perhaps) on defense. In the end, the Eagles were safe, and it was the team's first win of the 2013 season.
It was also the night of Chip Kelly's NFL head coaching debut. While Kelly aims to replicate the success the Eagles achieved in that game, he understands things might be different this time around.
"I think you have a body of work so you understand what the opponent is about. [...] It's not 100% what they did this in the first game, they're going to do the same exact thing in the second game. The same holds true for us. We've got some experienced guys on our staff that have been through it before, and that's always the deal. I think you get a better understanding of the personnel when you kind of know where it is. [...] We didn't see [Brandon] Meriweather in the first game. We'll see him in this game. We didn't see Rob Jackson in the first game, we'll see him in this game. So there are always a couple wrinkles here or there. They played against Mike [Vick], they're not going to play against Mike this time. So it's different. You've got a body of work and you have a little bit of an understanding, but it's not exactly the same as the first time."
One specific area where the Eagles coach sees a difference is Washington's offense.
"I think they're more efficient offensively. Look at the numbers offensively, and defensively there are new faces over there. [...] I think they're playing really well on offense right now. You look at their numbers in terms of where they are rushing the ball or where they are in total offense, I think they're really doing different things. I think they're different in terms of their personnel and how they deploy them. But I think they're different on offense now than when we played them the first time."
In the first game, Washington didn't even score any offensive points until late in the third quarter on an Alfred Morris touchdown run. The Redskins now rank 9th in points per game (25.2) and 5th in yards per game (410.4). Their rushing offense ranks 7th and their passing ranks 8th. FootballOutsiders ranks Washington's offense 15th in DVOA.
The Redskins' resurgence on offense can be credited to young, dynamic quarterback Robert Griffin III. Kelly knew Griffin looked rusty in the season opener.
"I think he didn't participate in full speed in the preseason, and I think that's a different deal. So, obviously, now he's got ten games underneath him where he's playing differently."
Alfred Morris is Griffin's compliment in Washington's rushing attack. Morris ranks 3rd in yards (825) and 1st in yards per carry (5.2).
Philadelphia's defense has played well recently, holding opponents to 21 points or less in each of the Eagles' last six games. It will be a tough test for the Eagles, especially since their defensive depth is being tested. Up to three defensive starters might not be able to play.
Sunday's game also presents the opportunity to: 1) finally win at home, and 2) aid the team's playoffs chances. Beating Washington would be of great value to the Eagles' post-season aspirations.
While the fans may look ahead in that respect, Kelly sure doesn't. His sole focus is preparing the team to win on Sunday.
I've always felt the same exact way. I look at college football and everybody talks about the BCS talk in October, and it doesn't mean anything. You lose a game and you're out. We're going to keep our head down until December 29th. I know I personally will and we’ll see how many games we’ve won. If that's enough games to qualify for a playoffs, then we did a good job. But wishing and hoping and looking at tiebreakers, you should be watching film and breaking down your opponent instead of doing that stuff.
And that's exactly the right approach.
The Eagles and Redskins face off in Philadelphia at 1 PM EST on Sunday.
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