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John DeShazier: Saints understand challenges of up-tempo Eagles attack

Payton: 'It can have an adverse effect on your pass rush because of attrition'

Warp speed only has been a quick trip to futility so far this season for an Eagles offense that seeks to rip off plays at the most rapid pace in the league, but whose execution has been torn apart by opponents.

Entering Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints (1-3) at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia (1-3) is among the worst offensive teams in the league – last in third downs converted (13) and third-down conversion percentage (26.5), fourth from last in yards per game (294), fifth from last in first downs (72) and 22nd in the 32-team league in points per game (19.5).

The inefficiency has given opponents the advantage in two major ways.

First, opponents have been able to possess the ball significantly longer (37:12 per game, compared to Philadelphia's 22:48) and, second, they're run substantially more plays (73 per game, compared to Philadelphia's 60).

And yet, the Saints understand that the Eagles present unique problems because Philly will continue to follow Coach Chip Kelly's directive to run plays every 20-25 seconds. And the Saints haven't yet found a groove defensively, allowing 26 points (tied for ninth-most in the league) and 381.5 yards (No. 24) per game, and a league-high 6.5 yards per play.

"It challenges you with substitutions," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "There's a group on the field and they get going and they're moving and they're moving, it's hard to try to sub one for one, even, without getting caught short-handed or too many on the field.

"It can have an adverse effect on your pass rush because of attrition, it can have an adverse effect on a lot of areas if they get the rhythm and the tempo going that they desire."

Said safety Kenny Vaccaro: "You've got to be prepared for it, physically and mentally. Well-prepared, because they're going to be going at a fast pace, try to disorient you from play to play, and you've got to prepare well for a team like this."

One method of ensuring the Eagles remain discombobulated is making sure they don't have the ball – which means the Saints offense will need to be efficient when it has its opportunities.

"There's a give and take and a balance to that," quarterback Drew Brees said. "I think for us offensively, you're even more conscious of understanding that the speed at which they operate can be problematic for defenses.

"So, when we have the ball on offense, we want to try to possess it, we want to try to give our defense a rest, we want to try to wear them down a little bit and go down and get points. That's kind of the back and forth with a team anyway, but especially when you're going up against a Philadelphia team that operates so quickly on offense."

But Philly's offensive concept totally won't be foreign to some Saints players.

Several of them – including defensive end Cam Jordan, cornerback Keenan Lewis, linebackers David Hawthorne and Ramon Humber and defensive tackle John Jenkins – played against Kelly and the Eagles in the wild-card game in 2014, a 26-24, Saints victory at the Linc that was New Orleans' first road playoff win in franchise history. (Vaccaro, a rookie that season, broke his ankle in the next-to-last regular-season game and didn't play in the playoffs.)

"You've got to understand your assignment, personnel, different formations," Lewis said. "That's a team that likes the hurry-up offense, tries to run a lot of plays.

"They have a different group of personnel (since then). They brought in (DeMarco) Murray, one of the best backs in the league last year, they brought in (running back Ryan) Matthews, (Darren) Sproles. We've got to find a way to match up with them and not let them get into their rhythm."

Others players, like rookie Tyeler Davison, saw similar offensive approaches in college.

"It's a good challenge," said Davison, a defensive tackle from Fresno State who had a sack and four tackles in his last game, against Dallas. "It's a little bit different, especially here in the pros. But that's real common in college, a lot of us younger dudes will be a little bit more used to that, (feeling) at home playing against that type of tempo. But it's a good challenge. It's hard to keep everybody fresh, but I think we're looking forward to that challenge.

"Those type of teams, in order for them to be successful they've got to keep the drives going, keep them alive. Third-and-outs kill that type of offense, so it's critical for us to get off the field as quick as we can."

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