I turned on sports radio yesterday morning on my 25-minute drive into work. It took me all of 30 seconds to switch to a music station. I couldn’t bear the Monday morning overreactions and calling for players’ and coaches’ jobs.
After a hard-fought 27-20 loss at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Philadelphia Eagles have plenty to be proud of.
To begin with, the Chiefs are coming off a season-opening pounding of the defending Super Bowl Champions. They also had ten days’ rest, which we all know head coach Andy Reid thrives off of (see, record after bye week). Kansas City also has one of the top defenses in the league to go with a star-studded offense. After two weeks, rookie running back Kareem Hunt looks like a super star. It is nearly impossible to defend the insanely fast and dynamic Tyreek Hill. And tight end Travis Kelce, Jason’s brother, is a beast.
On Sunday afternoon, the Eagles were the better team for three quarters. The defense contained the Chiefs’ weapons and had quarterback Alex Smith battered and bruised. As the teams headed into halftime, the Eagles had sacked Smith three times while adding another seven hits.
The Eagles’ offense moved the ball well and was a 30-yard missed field goal by Jake Elliot away from heading into the half knotted up and receiving the ball to start the third quarter. I said before the game that I felt the rookie would impact the game, I just hoped it would be the other way.
The Chiefs win was decided by four series in the fourth quarter.
Eagles ball 3rd and 12 on their own 31 yard line
Tie game. Running back Darren Sproles tried to sneak through the line of scrimmage, heading to the right for a screen. The screen was set up beautifully and had quarterback Carson Wentz and Sproles connected, it would have gone for a huge chunk of yards. Instead, Sproles tripped on a Chiefs defender and hit the turf, forced to hold onto the ball for longer, Wentz faced too much pressure and tried to throw the ball at Sproles’ feet to avoid what could have been a worse play. Only this was THE worst. The ball deflected off a defensive lineman’s helmet and popped straight up in the air. The only player who kept track of the ball was Chris Jones, who came down with the interception.
Chiefs ball 3rd and 4 on the Eagles’ 25 yard line
Defensive end Vinny Curry made a great move to beat the left tackle and burst through the line. Curry had Alex Smith dead to rights at around the 36 yard line. Easy sack. Not so much. Curry left his feet, Smith squirmed away and ran for the first down. Ten players on the defense did their job on that play, Curry didn’t finish his. Two plays later and Kelce is flying through the air for the touchdown. Chiefs take a 20-7 lead with 6:25 to play.
Eagles ball 1st and 10 on their own 25 yard line
This drive was ugly. It started with a sack on Wentz in which he had very little time to get anything set up. Then an incomplete pass to Zach Ertz. On third down, Wentz had a defender draped on his back almost as soon as the ball was snapped. He got the pass off but it fell incomplete. Time to punt.
Chiefs ball 1st and 10 on their own 44 yard line
The quick three-and-out on the previous drive gave the Eagles defense very little time to catch their breath and it showed. The Chiefs took six plays to get into the endzone. Zero yards, 35 yards, four yards, three yards, 12 yards and finally two yards for Kareem Hunts’ second touchdown of the game. The Eagles had no answers for the Chiefs on the drive that put them up 27-13.
Here is where one of the biggest positives coming out of the game comes in. The Eagles very easily could have quit at this point. They were down two possessions with just over two minutes to play and had no offensive production to speak of in the last ten minutes of game time. However, Wentz and the offense weren’t giving up just yet. Wentz orchestrated a great two-minute drill that got the Eagles into the endzone and within one score with 14 seconds remaining. Rookie kicker Jake Elliott placed an onside kick beautifully, Trey Burton tipped the ball to himself and recovered to give the Eagles a shot at a last minute Hail Mary attempt.
The outcome wasn’t as poetic as we all wish but the Eagles fought one of the toughest teams in the NFL to the bitter end. Doug Pederson was one play away from taking down his mentor, Andy Reid.
The fight that the Eagles put up until the clock hit triple-zero, in and of itself, would have been enough to show that the Eagles are in a really, really good spot. That wasn’t all there was to take away, though.
The Eagles defense is elite. At the very least, their front seven is. The defensive unit contained a Chiefs offense that had its way with the Patriots defense in week one. Alex Smith had a good game but the Eagles were able to get to him four times for sacks. Rookie superstar Kareem Hunt was held to just nine yards on eight carries before breaking his 53-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Tyreek Hill only caught four passes for 43 yards. The Eagles picked their poison and shut down Hill and Hunt while Travis Kelce had himself a day (8 catches, 103 yards, go-ahead TD). Oh, and the Eagles did all of this with their top cornerback out for the game and without safety Rodney McLeod and safety/cornerback Jaylen Watkins for three quarters.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Eagles were able to move the ball very well against one of the top defenses in the league. Wentz became the first Eagles quarterback since Michael Vick in 2012 to pass for more than 300 yards and run for more than 50 yards in a game. He also put together a great two-minute drill that was just too little too late.
Hopefully I don’t jinx it but Zach Ertz is putting together the breakout year that we’ve all been waiting for. Without Jordan Matthews in the mix, Wentz has identified a new safety blanket and favorite target. Through two games, Ertz has 13 catches for 190 yards. He is tied for the league lead with 11 first down receptions and his 190 receiving yards is third in the NFL. It took a week but Wentz and Alshon Jeffery also got into a groove to the tune of seven hookups for 92 yards and his first touchdown in midnight green.
I’ll reiterate. The Kansas City Chiefs are arguably the best team in the NFL after two weeks. They have a potent offense and a destructive defense. If the Eagles have a few plays go differently – Elliott hits the FG going into the half, Wentz throws the ball into the ground, Curry finished the sack – this is a whole different ball game. The Eagles stuck with the Chiefs for three and a half quarters and fought hard to come back from the hole they dug themselves into at the end of the game.
The Eagles now head into a stretch of six, very winnable games before the bye week. They have fought hard the first two weeks and have put themselves at the top of the NFC East. When the Eagles get Ronald Darby back and if they straighten out the run game, look out NFC!
Don’t go firing anyone just yet. The Eagles aren’t in a bad spot. They have actually shown that they can go toe-to-toe with the best of them.
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Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports