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Friday, January 3, 2014
Up-tempo chess match: Ryan vs. Kelly

By Mike Triplett

METAIRIE, La. -- All of the descriptions I've heard about the way Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly likes to move his players around in various formations to create confusion reminds me a lot of how we've seen Rob Ryan operate since he became defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints.

The two seem like kindred spirits in that sense. They've definitely been two of the most impactful hires in the NFL this year. And their chess match on the field Saturday night will be one of the most fascinating subplots of this wild-card round playoff matchup.

Ryan
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"I guess you can compare [Kelly's approach] to mine. It just moves a lot faster," Ryan said Friday. "I tell you what, he does a great job and [offensive coordinator] Pat Shurmur, those guys do a great job. This is a unique offense, there is no question. ... But we are excited about this challenge. We've worked hard and our guys feel good. We are ready to go."

Ryan is a known film junkie. So he didn't have much problem putting in some late nights and early mornings studying all the intricacies of the up-tempo offense that Kelly brought to the NFL this year from his previous job at Oregon.

Ryan's only complaint: "I did get a little tired watching Stanford against him in college after two games. One he was there and one he wasn't. But to be honest with you, when they hike the ball it is just going to be football."

The Eagles will often move from snap to snap without huddling up, and they easily led the NFL in snaps per game this year. To prepare for that tempo, Ryan and Saints coach Sean Payton both talked this week about how they sped up the pace in their own practice reps.

"I know they will be faster than I have ever seen, but that is fine," Ryan said. "Nobody is practicing at a faster tempo than us in the history of football, so I think we will be ready to go."

Ryan joked during his interview, "We just ran three plays and you weren't even looking. ... If they are faster than that, then we are in trouble. But we will be fine."

Ryan is always pretty fired up, so it's hard to tell if he's extra amped for his first playoff game in 10 years as a NFL defensive coordinator.

"I am undefeated, though," pointed out Ryan, who won two Super Bowl rings as a linebackers coach with the New England Patriots.

"It is exciting," he added. "It's an awesome thing. This is all you work for. ... To be in 16 years and 10 years as a coordinator, this is all you work for, all you want to do. You want to win. Nothing else matters, and that is why the attraction to come here and to get a chance to be a part of this is just an awesome deal.

"It has been awesome ever since I got here from Day 1. It just seems like yesterday I was up here trying to convince you we were going to be OK and I was a good hire."