Expect Peyton, Broncos to out-no-huddle Vick, Eagles
Where is Paul Westhead when you really need him?
Westhead, hoop freaks will remember, was the crackpot coach who had his players spend much of their practice time panting through aerobic workouts, on land and in the pool. Yes, instead of working on running Play 1 over and over again in a practice session, they worked on getting in shape.
Just cardio, baby.
If you wanted to play for Westhead, you had to be able to do two things: run and shoot.
Westhead wanted his teams, first the Loyola Marymount college team, then the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, to shoot the ball every seven seconds.
Defense be damned.
Keep that concept in mind for today’s National Football League tilt between the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles.
Chip Kelly, who did his Westhead imitation for several seasons in the college ranks at Oregon, where his teams tried to get plays off every 25 seconds without huddling — and that is from the time the ball is downed to the next snap — is in his first year as Eagles head coach. He is trying to do the same thing in the NFL, so far with mixed results.
The Eagles won their opener 33-27 against the Redskins in Washington and looked virtually unstoppable doing it with 26 first downs and 443 total yards. Quarterback Michael Vick, running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson were responsible for the vast majority of those yards.
In their past two games at home, however, a 33-30 loss to San Diego and a 26-16 loss to Kansas City, the Eagles have come back to earth, mostly because their defense can’t get off the field.
In the loss to the Chargers, San Diego held the ball for an incredible 40 minutes and 17 seconds. In the loss to the Chiefs, Kansas City had the ball for 39 minutes, 17 seconds. The Eagles didn’t have the ball 40 minutes over the course of those two games.
It’s not that the Eagles haven’t been able to move the ball. They are gaining 461 yards per game. It’s just that they get on and off the field quickly, then hand it over to a defense that can’t contain anyone. The Eagles are allowing opponents 438 yards per game.
Let’s look at this matchup today. Keep those Eagle facts and figures in mind.
Denver also has its version of the no-huddle, something that came into being way back when Peyton Manning was a pup with the Indianapolis Colts. Manning and then-offensive coordinator Tom Moore came up with the idea of running the no-huddle and combined it with a silent snap count, something that was especially important on the road. Manning has been doing some version of the no-huddle and silent snap count for 14 years now.
Some might say it’s panning out.
The Broncos have scored the second-most points ever by an NFL team in the first three games: 127. The only team that scored more was the Dallas Cowboys, who had 132 over the first three games of the 1968 season.
Denver is averaging 42.3 points per game.
They might score 100 in this one.
Let’s go to the coin toss for today’s contest at 5,280 feet.
The coin is in the air, Vick calls heads. It’s tails. Manning makes the “defer” call, and the Eagles will receive.
Vick and the Eagles move rapidly down the field and score a TD — after all, they’ve had 10 days to prepare for this one.
Manning & Co. get the ball and march down the field for a TD.
Vick’s crew comes right back and scores.
Ditto Manning. It’s 14-14, and there are still two minutes left in the first quarter.
Then a mistake by Vick.
He’s hit and fumbles. Denver recovers.
Philadelphia’s defensive unit, which had just been on the field for more than four minutes, gasps en masse and trudges back on the field. Manning now goes about his slow no-huddle: run, run, short pass, run, short pass, and on and on. The Eagles defenders gasp again and again as Vick, McCoy, Jackson and the rest of the offense lounge on the sidelines.
On and on this goes.
Manning doesn’t throw interceptions and won’t be sacked.
Vick gets hit too often.
I have run off a winning streak of my own, predicting Denver over Baltimore 42-24 (49-27 real time), Denver over the Giants 41-31 (41-23) and Denver over Oakland 31-21 (it was 37-21).
I’m starting to think I know what I’m talking about. Let’s make this one Denver 45, Philly 28.
Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.