If they weren't playing in the same stadium and wearing the same uniforms Sunday, it would have been hard to recognize the Eagles.
After three years under Chip Kelly, running a no-huddle, vanilla spread/read-option hybrid offense, things looked considerably different in Philadelphia's 29-10 win in Week 1.
1. Time of possession
The Eagles possessed the ball for 39:10 Sunday, more than any other team that played that day. They won the time of possession battle for the first time since Week 10 in 2015. New head coach Doug Pederson kept the pace of play moving quickly, but gave his players a chance to huddle and his coaching staff time to adapt. Kelly, famously argued that time of possession is a meaningless stat. Well, it meant something Sunday.
"You never go into a football game saying, ‘Hey, we've got to have the ball 30 minutes,’" Pederson said. "I don't think you ever do that. Sometimes it's just the way it works. We had some pretty long drives out there, which we stayed on the field a little bit by penalty; defensive penalties kept us on the field; making some third downs kept us on the field."
If something didn't work, Pederson tried something new. He grew with the game. After an opening drive touchdown march, the offense fell flat during its next few possessions. So he adapted and tried new things. Chip Kelly did no such thing. From 2013-15 Kelly actually got less adaptive and was so predictable opposing defenses knew exactly what was coming.
"You know, we came out, obviously after the touchdown, we kind of spit and sputtered there a little bit," the coach said.
Obviously, the Eagles were able to build a 13-10 lead into a 29-10 victory. So the openness to change was a big asset.
One of Sam Bradford's most anticipated new duties when he was the starter in Philly under Pederson was that he'd be able to change the play at the line of scrimmage under the West Coast-ish offense implemented under the new regime. Last year the pace was too fast to make any kind of change. Carson Wentz, a rookie who had very little preparation before the year, was able to line up and alter plays, whether it was offensive line protections or making a run to the right go to the left.
"We give him in the play call," Pederson said. "For instance, a run right, run left … and he uses his cadence to see what the defense is going to do. And from there, it's either we leave the original play on or we check it or kill it to the other play. It's just things that most teams do nowadays. You get so many multiple looks on defenses that you've got to put your quarterback and your offense in those positions and he handled those very well."