Colts must move fast to contain quick Eagles’ offense

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Nose tackle Josh Chapman participates in a drill during Colts practice.

INDIANAPOLIS – So much for thinking “One Game at a Time.” Even if that was the Denver game that was on the Colts’ mind.

But with the schedule out a few months before the season and Philadelphia sitting as the second of 16 regular season games, you can’t fault the Colts for thinking ahead.

“We brainstormed and we talked about this the entire offseason in preparation for this game,” said head coach Chuck Pagano of the Eagles’ offense.

It’s certainly been worth the thought considering that Philadelphia head coach Chip Kelly has managed to do what many might consider to be the impossible: Bring a high-powered, college offense to the professional game and have success.

The former Oregon coach took his spread style to the Eagles and in 2013 watched his team gain 417 yards a game and score 27.6 points a game-both in the top five in the league in those categories. It helped the once rebuilding Philadelphia team win seven of its final eight games on the season for an NFC East title.

“It’s really hard to replicate the tempo and prepare for this type of offense that we’re going to see, they do a phenomenal job obviously,” said Pagano of the Eagles. “A large amount of plays run during the game. Our coaches and our look team, those guys did a great job today and we’re trying to do the best we can to simulate the tempo and all that kind of stuff.”

Tempo is the key word because the Eagles waste little time snapping the ball. In 2013 the Eagles had the ball for a league-low average of 26:24 seconds per game yet still managed to run 1,054 total plays in 16 games. If you calculate that number per game, the Eagles ran a play on the average about every 25 seconds, forcing the defense to stay on their toes.

“Mentally you have to know what you have to do and just be ready,” said safety Mike Adams of the most important thing when facing the up-tempo offense. “That’s the big thing, just being ready because when they get to the line, they get to the line and they go, and they go, and they go. We all see it all the time, and they catch guys off guard and score touchdowns because guys are in what they shouldn’t have been, things like that.

“We want to make them earn everything.”

Jacksonville was able to do that for a half during the Eagles’ opener last Sunday as the Jaguars managed to hold the hosts scoreless through 30 minutes. Kelly’s offense wouldn’t stay down long as they scored 27 unanswered points then added a late defensive touchdown to double up Jacksonville 34-17.

One person who does know all about this offense and might be able to help the Colts a bit is safety Colt Anderson, who spent 2013 with Kelly’s Eagles.

“It’s fast, nothing compares to it. I just say it’s a two-minute offense the whole game,” said Anderson. “We’ve got to get our calls and everybody’s got to do their job one play, the whole game. It’s going to be a tough challenge, but we’re excited.”

At least the Colts had somewhat of a picture of what they’ll face Monday last Sunday when the played Peyton Manning and the Broncos-the only other offense in the league with comparable numbers and speed.

Like in that game it might actually be Andrew Luck and the offense that can help the defense with some time-consuming plays to keep the fastest show on turf waiting a little while longer.

“Obviously scoring matters, but I do think long drives matter. I don’t think necessarily just in this game though. Long drives are great in every game,” said Luck. “We could have used more long drives in the first half of our opener to help our defense out. I don’t think necessarily because we’re facing an up-tempo offense.

“Obviously we do have a lot of respect for what their offense can do.”

Enough for coaches to put their clichés away for another day.