Night of Discomfort for Eagles in Kansas City

Pressure came at QB Kevin Kolb from all directions as the Chiefs defense surprisingly looked dominant…

One of the bright spots was Michael Vick played better…a lot better…during extended reps.

You’d think the Eagles had just been hammered by Dallas in a playoff game with all the post-game anguish expressed by Philly media and fans, but the Eagles won the game, 20-17… and the Eagles defense did a real nice job of containing Matt Cassel in the opening half of the game— the true test of the regulars.

The problem, according to the naysayers, is how the Chiefs’ 3-4 defense managed to overcome its weak reputation and virtually shut down Kevin Kolb and the Young Gunz.

The Chiefs’ defense was on fire… After the Eagles’ second play from scrimmage, in which RB LeSean McCoy scooted up the middle of the field for an 18-yard touchdown run,  the Chiefs defense clamped down. The Eagles didn’t score another touchdown until 23 seconds left in the fourth quarter. QB Kevin Kolb had a miserable night throwing the ball. He was just 2-of-7 after the first quarter and 4-of-13 after the first half. And he threw an interception under pressure and off his back foot into a disastrous double coverage situation, something that actually has more than a few fans in Philly today mourning the departure of #5…

The most discouraging stat for the Eagles offense: Five sacks allowed.

For the Chiefs, that may as well have been a million. As Josh Looney of pointed out this morning, the Chiefs defense hasn’t had five or more sacks since Sept. 23, 2007.  Think about this: that’s half of all their sacks in 2008. It’s nearly a quarter of all their 2009 sacks.

OLB Andy Studebaker had a pair of sacks as did LB Demorrio Wiliams. Defensive end Dion Gales added one in the fourth quarter.

“Yeah, I don’t know what (The Eagles) were thinking, but we had some success, no doubt about it,” Studebaker said after the game.

The Chiefs were blitzing a lot and having a lot of success at it. I imagine the Eagles didn’t game-plan much (if at all) for the Chiefs, so part of that blitz success was a lack of preparation on the Birds’ part…or an intentional strategy of classic Andy Reid misdirection to find out how his young quarterback and running backs would respond to picking up the blitz. 

Without the Birds’ own defensive success, the Eagles’ rally late in the game wouldn’t have been enough to capture the win. Brandon Graham, the team’s 1st-round selection in 2010, didn’t get into the Chiefs’ passing pocket for a sack, but he got credit for two “hurries” and played a solid run defend, notching four tackles.  Starting outside linebacker Ernie Sims, who was undeniably one of the most aggressive Training Camp competitors, finally made his presence felt with a team-high five tackles, one of which prevented a Kansas City touchdown. Rookie cornerback Trevard Lindley (four tackles, one interception), first-string free safety Nate Allen (four tackles), and OLB Akeem Jordan (four tackles, one sack, one forced fumble) were also among those that played well on defense.

To be fair to the portrait of Kolb, he did finish his stint with 11 for 25 in passing after the horrendous 4 for 13 first half. And he did show more than a little mobility to escape a lot of the pressure. But oh, those attempts to force the ball into tight coverage looked nasty…and upset a lot of high-strung Philly fans.

One bright spot I haven’t heard much about yet is how much better QB Mike Vick played in this one, and how much better football shape he is in compared to last season… Also, rookie quarterback Mike Kafka, given the reins of the offense in the final quarter, was clearly one of the main reasons the Eagles came away from Kansas City with a win. With the clock winding down and the Chiefs in the lead, he directed an eight-play, 80-yard drive down the field and capped it off with a beautiful 18-yard TD toss to rookie WR Riley Cooper. Kafka finished with 93 passing yards and missed on only four of his passes, but he insists that it was a team effort in the rally. “I think it was just a great win for the team,” he said. “It wasn’t about me. It was the team. We kind of got things going in that situation and it was a lot of fun out there. It was big for us as a team.”

Nice to hear that kind of positive energy from a player combined with positive results…but tune in the Philly sports talk radio shows today, and oh the negativity! Hmmm, do these hosts and callers not realize by now Andy Reid and OC Marty Mornhinweg are running a game behind the game in the preseason?  Football analysts in the know take absolutely nothing from these games except for observing physical conditioning, timing, and response to game speed and pressure… Knowing a little about how Andy thinks, he’s probably glad his offense got pushed around a little by a Chiefs team that’s not “supposed” to be able to do that. For Andy, this week of practice before the Jets exhibition will become a supreme opportunity for many “teachable moments”…I know, a tired cliche, but it’s what Andy does best — teaching young players to learn from adversity.

More good news: MLB Stewart Bradley looks terrific; the game injuries to all-pro’s WR DeSean Jackson (back strain) and  DE Trent Cole (ankle sprain) apear to be relatively minor, and both players are listed as day-to-day…

Note: The Eagles have until next Saturday to reduce the roster to the 53-man limit.  Released after the K.C. game were guards Zipp Duncan and Greg Isdaner, linebacker Simoni Lawrence, safety Ryan Hamilton and wide receiver Jared Perry.




Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.