Chip Kelly’s Ready To Match Wits With Sean Payton
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By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There will be a game within a game at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday night, when the Eagles host the New Orleans Saints in the wildcard round of the playoffs.
Butting heads will be two of the NFL’s top young, innovative coaches, the Eagles’ Chip Kelly going opposite the Saints’ Sean Payton.
Payton has certainly noticed, and likes what Kelly has done this season.
The Eagles lead the NFL in rushing, averaging 160.4 yards a game, are second in total offense (6,676 yards and 417.3-yards-per-game average) behind only the Denver Broncos (7,317 and 457.3-yards-per-game average) and fourth in scoring (27.6 average).
Payton feels his defense, which is fourth overall (305.7 yards a game) yet 19th against the run (permitting an average of 111.6 yards a game), faces a big challenge in the Eagles. The Eagles rank No. 1 in the NFL in average yards/per play, averaging 6.3 yards a play—which includes an NFL-best 6.83-yard average on first down.
“I think that they do a lot of things extremely well, you start with their ability to run the football,” Payton said. “They come at you with their rushing game, and it’s an offense where you have to defend the whole field. They do a great job of misdirection. They do a great job of shots down the field.
“They’re first in the NFL in yards/per and big plays in both the running game and the passing game. They stress you in a lot of areas. They stress you on the back end, on the front end. I think Nick [Foles] has done a fantastic job as a young player getting acclimated and getting very comfortable with the system.”
Then there’s LeSean McCoy and the problems he poses. The NFL’s rushing champion concluded a career regular season with 1,607 yards and 5.1 yards a carry.
“He’s an extremely explosive back and his ability to bounce cut, and then out his foot in the ground and get north and south is unique,” Payton said. “He don’t have the yardage totals and the career numbers that he’s had without a certain unique skill set. He’s explosive. You have to really get numbers to the ball, you have to populate the ball because he’s tough in space.”
Kelly has a good idea of what’s coming at him with all the toys in Payton’s arsenal. Quarterback Drew Brees is a future Hall of Famer, but someone who’s never won a road playoff game. Still, the Saints are fourth in the NFL in total offense (6,391 yards for a 399.4 average). Tight end Jimmy Graham is the league’s top tight end, with a league-high 86 receptions—61 converted into first downs.
“I think one thing that Sean does is he just always seems to get the right matchups,” Kelly said. “He’s obviously got some talent and there’s a really, really talented football team. But Sean does a great job of getting his playmakers in matchups that are favorable to him and he does it week-in and week-out.
“There’s a consistency to it, and I think they missed him a year ago and now that he’s back, they seem like they picked up where they left off. I think how well him and Drew work together I think is a pretty special thing to watch.”