Defense prepared for Eagles' 'unique' challenge
You'd think the Green Bay Packers' defense would be used to seeing high-paced offenses by now. After all, it matches wits with Aaron Rodgers three days a week in practice.
The Philadelphia Eagles aren't your typical no-huddle scheme, though.
The NFL is full of offenses looking to play in fast forward, Green Bay included, but Chip Kelly's mile-a-minute philosophy stresses opposing defenses like few others. The 71 plays per game the Eagles have averaged this season is second-most in the league.
There are a few natural connections that could be drawn between what Kelly has done at Oregon and Philadelphia with what Mike McCarthy is trying to accomplish with the Packers, but the well-publicized theatrics of the Eagles' offense is admittedly unique.
The quick-hitting plays and complex calls from the sideline have Philadelphia off to a 7-2 start despite recently losing starting quarterback Nick Foles to a broken collarbone. With Mark Sanchez standing in, the Eagles toasted Carolina 45-21 on Monday night.
"It's totally different," Packers outside linebacker Julius Peppers said of what Philadelphia does on offense compared to Green Bay. "We had the scout team do a good job with us this week getting us prepared and trying to simulate the Eagles' pace, but it's still not going to be the same. We're going to have to adjust to it on the run as we get on the field."
The Eagles try to frazzle opposing offenses by preventing them from substituting with the finger-snap fast calls deployed from Kelly and assistant coaches on the sideline.
Still, it would appear the Packers are drawing Philadelphia at a good time. They're coming off a dominating 55-14 win over Chicago where they almost exclusively stayed in their nickel and dime subpackages.
The addition of Micah Hyde to the slot in the nickel package (five defensive backs) and Clay Matthews' shift to inside linebacker helped shut down the Bears' offense throughout and forced Jay Cutler into three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble).
The Packers aren't looking back to film of Sanchez with the Jets, though he had a 43.3 passer rating in his only meeting with Green Bay (a 9-0 shutout on Oct. 31, 2010). Instead, the defense has been studying what the Eagles have been doing well before Sanchez replaced Foles.
Based on the film study, the Packers' defense isn't expecting a cakewalk.
"I think both teams are quick rhythm," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "I think Philadelphia is probably the quickest in the league. They try to run more plays than anybody. But sure, when we're going against our own offense and they don't huddle, we can't huddle. If they don't want us to substitute, then we can't substitute."
There have been signs the Packers are starting to gain their footing defensively. Yes, the 44-23 loss in New Orleans constitutes a disaster, but Peppers feels their domination of the Bears was a more accurate reflection of what the defense can be.
Still ranked 23rd in total defense and allowing 371.7 yards per game, the Packers have an excellent opportunity to show they belong against one of the league's most explosive offenses.
"Last week was a big step in the right direction playing a good offense and having a good game against them," Peppers said. "I think we're on the way up and I think we set a standard last week of being able to play that way. We're going to challenge ourselves to jump up this week."
-- firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.