Saints morning report: Playing catch-up

January, 1, 2014
Jan 1
8:00
AM ET
METAIRIE, La. -- Chip Kelly's offense is a lot like Sean Payton's offense. In fast-forward.

The Philadelphia Eagles' rookie head coach has introduced his innovative offense to the NFL this year after having great success with it for years at Oregon. His offense thrives on confusing defenses and exploiting mismatches.

Sound familiar? Payton has been doing the same thing for years as the New Orleans Saints' coach. However, the approaches are a little different.

While Payton likes to substitute several different personnel groupings on and off the field, Kelly will often keep the same players on the field in an up-tempo offense -- but he'll move them around in various formations, some of them unconventional.

That often forces defenses to keep the same personnel on the field and adjust on the fly.

“It's hard to prepare for,” Payton said this week. “It's hard to simulate in practice with the scout team. The pace is extremely fast -- extremely fast. And so we'll have our work cut out for us this week. ...

“There's a lot of variety. You have to defend the whole field. They can attack you down the field. They have outstanding weapons at receiver (led by DeSean Jackson). They've got a fantastic running back (LeSean McCoy). The tight end (Brent) Celek is exceptional. You can see the quarterback (Nick Foles) operating with great poise. They make you defend the whole field. They do a great job with misdirection. They do a great job creating those running lanes and really keeping you off-balance defensively.”

Saints linebacker David Hawthorne said the tempo is what stands out most when he watches the Eagles offense.

“They run a play, and they're back on the line within 16 seconds or something like that,” Hawthorne said. “He's really introduced that style of play to the NFL, and it's working for them. ...

"I just think you have to prepare and practice at that tempo. You don't want to be surprised when you get to game time. We'll probably keep a couple of packages in longer than they'd usually be in. If they sub, then we get an opportunity to sub. But if they're just tempo-ing us, we're just going to have to keep it rolling."

ESPN's Stats & Information's John McTigue wrote a great piece Tuesday, breaking down a lot of the reasons why the Eagles' offense really started to thrive during the second half of the season -- when they won seven of their final eight games after a 3-5 start.

Among the highlights he pointed out:
  • The Eagles led the league in scoring from the start of Week 9 to the end of the season, committing the fewest turnovers during that stretch.
  • The Eagles led the NFL in average yards per rush and pass attempt this season. The last team to lead the league in both was the 2001 St. Louis Rams.
  • The Eagles averaged a play every 24.0 seconds of possession this season, the fastest pace in the last 13 seasons.
  • The Eagles used the zone read 304 times this season, 135 times more than the next highest team.
More from Philly -- Lots of great stuff on ESPN.com's Philadelphia Eagles blog on Tuesday -- including a theory on what could work for the Saints' defense, a look at how the Eagles might choose to cover Saints tight end Jimmy Graham and a comparison of the Kelly-Foles bond and the Brees-Payton bond.

Back to work -- The Saints will hold their first practice of the week today. Stay tuned for comments from Payton and players following practice this afternoon.

Manning keeps record -- In case you missed it, the NFL officially decided to uphold Peyton Manning's single-season passing record on Tuesday. I don't have a strong opinion on the decision -- other than I'm glad I wasn't the one who had to make the call. But I will say this: Neither Saints quarterback Drew Brees nor any Saints fans should be upset that Manning gets to keep the record. No one should want Brees to hold the record just because of a loophole. ... And this doesn't take anything away from what a remarkable season Brees had in 2011.

Stills fined -- Saints receiver Kenny Stills tweeted that he got his first NFL fine because he “participated in a choreographed celebration” with fellow receiver Lance Moore after Moore's first-quarter touchdown last Sunday against Tampa Bay.

Mike Triplett

ESPN New Orleans Saints reporter

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