Playing Against Chip Kelly’s Offense

Chase Thomas was in no mood to crow.

The Stanford linebacker was part of a defensive attack that slowed down Chip Kelly and Oregon last season. The Ducks failed to score at least 35 points just one time in 2012 – against Thomas, head coach David Shaw and the Cardinal in a 17-14 loss.

“I wouldn’t say a lot of success,” Thomas replied, when asked about his team’s performance. “It took us three years to figure out a way to slow it down. I think it just came with experience on our defense this year. We had a lot of experience. We had a lot of depth. So we could rotate guys in against that hurry-up style of offense.”

Thomas was right. The previous three years, Oregon scored 53, 52 and 42 points, respectively, against Stanford.

“It took every ounce of effort we had out there to slow them down,” he added.

Getting ready for Kelly and Oregon required dramatic changes in Stanford’s preparation during the week. For example, they had two scout teams rotating in and out on offense to simulate the Ducks’ tempo.

Cal cornerback Marc Anthony was part of a defense that didn’t experience the same level of success. Oregon dropped 59 on the Golden Bears last season.

“Just being in shape and ready to go,” Anthony said, when asked about the challenges of facing Oregon. “Corners don’t really come out of the game. As their offense is going, they can switch in receivers, so just being in shape and conditioning throughout the week is always a big plus for your defense.”

The question now is how that up-tempo attack translates to the NFL. We’ve referenced several times how Tom Brady and the Patriots have used it. And an increasing number of teams are allowing quarterbacks to get to the line of scrimmage early to take advantage of defenses.

It’s not a completely new phenomenon either. As Greg A. Bedard of The Boston Globe pointed out, Bill Walsh predicted in his 1998 book, Finding the Winning Edge, that teams would only huddle when the clock was stopped.

After having faced Oregon, Thomas doesn’t think the up-tempo attack is a fad. He sees it as the wave of the future.

“If I was an offense, I would [go up-tempo] because it definitely throws off the defense,” he said. “Every defensive guy really enjoys it when the team huddles up and takes some time. …Defensive guys never really enjoy going against high-tempo.”

Anthony agreed.

“I don’t know how he’s going to do it in the pros,” he said. “I hope he doesn’t take that tempo to the NFL.”

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