The return to Philadelphia for long-time Eagles coach Andy Reid could not have gone better. Despite only having one offensive touchdown, the Chiefs controlled the pace of play, dominating TOP 39:07-20:53. The Eagles on the other hand, were plagued by sloppy play. I think any coach around the league will tell you losing the turnover battle 5-0 pretty much guarantees a loss. Two things predominantly stood out following Thursday night’s contest.
For the Chiefs, this win proved to me that they can win with defense. All the hype heading into this season was what will the marriage of Andy Reid and Alex Smith produce. The answer for last night was somewhat of a mixed bag. Smith made some clutch third down conversions, but rarely pushed the ball down the field. The Kansas City defense was more enjoyable to watch last night than their offense. They came up with game changing turnovers, and drive-killing sacks all night. The important thing for any defense is to have playmakers at each level. Dontari Poe is showing signs of elite defensive line play. He is two-gapping well in their 3-4 alignment, but also pushing the pocket well in pass-rush situations. Their linebacking core is filled with talent. Derrick Johnson is a prototypical inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He uses his speed to attack gaps and shed blocks, while also producing as their best cover linebacker in passing situations. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are the most productive pair of pass-rushing outside linebackers so far this season. The secondary has two solid cover corners in Sean Smith and Brandon Flowers, but ball-hawking safety Eric Berry gives them an added element of big-play potential on defense.
For the Eagles, the season-ending injury to Jeremy Maclin seems like a distant memory, but it will continue to haunt their 2013 campaign. The Eagles passing game struggled last night. Some of the blame undoubtedly and deservedly so will fall into the lap of QB Michael Vick, but no one on this Eagles roster can get separation in the passing game besides DeSean Jackson. I think teams going forward are going to play man coverage with a safety over the top on Jackson, and dare the other receivers to get open. Jason Avant has great hands, but struggles to consistently separate from defenders in man coverage. Riley Cooper is more of physical receiver, using his 6’3 frame to body defenders away from the ball. Neither of these two can make up for the production lost by Maclin’s injury. It’s easy to forget that Maclin led the Eagles last season in receptions, targets, yards, and touchdowns.