To paraphrase Thomas Edison winning is 99% perspiration 1% talent. Put another way there is no substitute for hard work. It might be trite or obvious to say these things but it is a fact.
It is a fact that Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles understand and it is a fact that has come back to haunt first the Jacksonville Jaguars and then, in a pulsating game of Monday Night Football, the Indianapolis Colts.
Colts dominate early
For over just two quarters of football everything looked almost too easy for Andrew Luck and the Colts. With over fives minutes gone in the third quarter the Colts had 20-6 lead
of 14 points.
They had taken the lead with Andrew Luck's second second possession of the game. Starting with the ball on their own 28 yard line Luck and Colts drove down the field on a 9 play 72 yard drive that culminated with a short pass to Ahmad Bradshaw who ran it into the endzone unopposed. Indianapolis followed this up with two field goals and another 60+ yard drive to put them two touchdowns ahead.
It looked to all the world like the Colts were going to win their first home game of the season and go 1-1. For as good as the Colts looked the Eagles looked as bad.
Working off a hard count Andrew Luck succeeded in getting the Eagles defense to jump off side time and time again. Whilst the Eagles run defense performed the unprecedented feat of making even Colts running back Trent Richardson look good. Up until the time that the Colts were 20-6 ahead and Richardson had taken 15 carries for 65 total yards at average of 4.3 yards per carry. How did the Eagles manage to overturn a two touchdown deficit away from home?
Colts can't handle the Eagles pace
The seeds for the Eagles' second half comeback were a long time in fruition. The ground was prepared in pre-season training camps. As ex-NFL player and NFL writer Ryan Riddle disclosed to me on twitter the Eagles have the “fastest pace” in training.
The seeds were then planted in the first half as the Eagles set about using this "fastest pace" to good use. The Colts managed to take the lead by playing excellent red zone defense against the Eagles. Early on the Colts restricted Philadelphia to three field goal attempts of which only two were successful from three red zone trips.
The drives that led to these red zone attempts however, left the Colts defense completely drained. The Colts defensive line that was having to deal with both Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy was beginning to look like it was out on its feet and so it proved.
In the drive after the Colts second field goal the Eagles marched down the field to
score a touchdown.
Even worse for the Colts though was the decisions that the tired defense forced Chuck
Pagano into making. Wanting to eat up game time Pagano turned not to the arm of Andrew Luck but the rushing and ball protection skills of Trent Richardson.
Needing to give the defense a long rest now that it was 13-20 the Colts handed the
ball off to Trent Richardson who promptly fumbled the ball on his own 25 giving the Eagles the perfect field position to tie the game up. Which they did thanks to break away 21 and 19 yard rushing plays from McCoy and Sproles that exploited tired defensive legs.
From that point onwards the pattern of the game was set. Even when the Colts scored a
third touchdown to go ahead they still looked to eat up time through turning to the rushing game rather than allow Andrew Luck to air the ball out, grab another score and put the game to bed.
For a point of comparison. In week one at Denver Andrew Luck attempted 53 throws and the Colts only attempted 11 rushes. This week at home Luck attempted only 34 throws and the Colts rushed the ball 32 times.
Ultimately, the Eagles no huddle offense ran the Colts defense off the park and forced the Colts to lean on a weak running game. Unable to then keep the ball on offense the pace of Sproles and McCoy exploited the tired legs of the Colts defense to win. This was an Eagle's victory that was built in the off-season where their extra hard work made them the fittest team in the NFL.
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