Chiefs defense stymies Eagles' attack
September, 20, 2013
By Adam Teicher | ESPN.com
John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/MCTEric Berry intercepted Michael Vick's second pass and took it back for a 10-0 Chiefs lead.
PHILADELPHIA -- The world will no doubt find fault with the fast-paced, no-huddle offense of Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles now that it has proven to have a few flaws.
A better idea might be to give credit to the Kansas City Chiefs, who left town after a 26-16 victory Thursday over the Eagles, for having one of the league’s best defensive teams. Burdened with a sputtering offense that settled for field goals to end four drives, the Chiefs controlled the game with a defense that scored a touchdown on Eric Berry’s 38-yard interception return, forced three other turnovers and sacked Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick five times.
The Eagles had 431 yards of offense -- including 260 rushing -- and inflicted some damage. But it added up to little. The Chiefs were the clear winners in that battle.
“They are an explosive offense," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “They have a great scheme and they have a great guy, a great coach, calling the plays, so I knew it was going to be a challenge. They’re going to get a big play here and there. You’ve got to try to limit that as best you can, and I thought our guys did that. Our defense is coming together each week."
The 3-0 Chiefs were actually excellent defensively right from the start. They strangled the Jacksonville Jaguars in the regular-season opener, then held off the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2. The Chiefs headed to Philadelphia having allowed just 18 total points, second-lowest in the league to Seattle's 10.
So it should have been no secret the Chiefs had something good going on defense. But the Eagles had something special going on offense, having scored at least 30 points in each of their first two games.
Something had to give. The Eagles had four plays of at least 40 yards Thursday, but the Chiefs made the plays that determined the result.
Kansas City had a short week to prepare for Philadelphia’s unorthodox offense, and conventional wisdom held that would give the Eagles an advantage. But the Chiefs have been preparing for some time, either directly or indirectly, for Philadelphia’s fast pace.
“We’ve been working on the no-huddle since [offseason practice]," linebacker Justin Houston said. “They’re not the only team that’s going to do it. We know Denver is going to do this, too. We were prepared for this."
With both Vick and LeSean McCoy having big nights rushing, the Chiefs were often embarrassed when the Eagles ran. McCoy in particular was able to make the Chiefs look bad on a number of tackles, showing that in one regard, at least, Kansas City has some work to do.
But the Chiefs probably won’t face another team with a combination of skilled runners like the Eagles have in McCoy and Vick.
The passing game was another matter entirely. Vick entered the game as the NFL’s third-leading passer. DeSean Jackson entered the game as its leader in receiving yardage.
The Chiefs battered Vick early and often, intercepting him twice and sacking him five times. Jackson had one big catch, a 40-yarder, but otherwise accounted for 22 yards.
Houston took advantage of his matchup with Philadelphia rookie tackle Lane Johnson by getting to Vick 4.5 times. Houston leads the NFL with 7.5 sacks and could wind up challenging the Chiefs single-season record of 20, set by Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas in 1990.
“There is no limit for him," nose tackle Dontari Poe said. “You can tell he wants it."
Otherwise, pass-rushers credited good coverage for the consistent pressure on Vick, while the defensive backs credited the rushers. There’s enough credit to go around, though the Chiefs don’t seem to have much interest in it.
“We don’t need anyone else outside of our group telling us how good we are," said cornerback Sean Smith, who had an interception. “We know how hard we practice, how hard we work and how well our talents complement each other."
The upcoming schedule could set up the Chiefs for a nice defensive run.
Their next game is against Eli Manning and the Giants. After that, though, they face this succession of quarterbacks: Jake Locker, Terrelle Pryor, Matt Schaub, whoever the Browns use and rookie EJ Manuel. They’ll face some of the better quarterbacks in the league over the season’s second half, including Peyton Manning twice, Philip Rivers twice, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.
By then, the world might indeed know what the Chiefs already do about their defense.
“It doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks," Houston said. “We’re just going to keep rolling. We’re on a mission. We have a bigger goal in mind."