The Eagles went Walter White on the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs Monday night before a national TV audience at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs may have forgotten who they were playing, so it took the fourth quarter for the Eagles to finally clue them in. The Eagles were always in danger. They then became the danger with an ugly 21-17 win over the Chiefs.
The Eagles, who improved to an NFL-best 9-1, did not convert a third down until there was 6:24 left in the third quarter. Jalen Hurts was a pedestrian 14 of 22 for 150 yards with an interception, while reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes was 24 of 43 for 177 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception.
The Eagles defense, however, shut down Mahomes—with some help from a Chiefs’ receiving corps that leads the NFL in dropped passes—in the second half. The Eagles only got to Mahomes once, while Hurts was sacked five times—all in the first half.
The Eagles went Walter White on the defending Super Bowl champions in their house. They are the ones knocking on the Super Bowl door.
It’s the first time the Eagles defeated their former coach, future Hall of Famer Andy Reid.
“We found a way, I don’t even know what to say,” Hurts said afterward. “We didn’t get first downs. We were horrible. We didn’t play good offensively. Our defense had us strong. In this league, you get to this time of the year, you just want to find ways to win. That’s the only thing that matters.
“In this league, it’s about finding a way to win. Weather it’s ugly in the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, how are you going to find a way in the end.”
There was a pile of ugly, a good portion of bad, but the Eagles were good when they had to be good in their 21-17 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Josh Jobe taking down the dangerous Kadarius Toney on a punt return at the Chiefs’ nine with 2:49 to play.
Receiver DeVonta Smith’s consecutive fourth-quarter catches. First, there was his 13-yard catch on third-and-five at the Kansas City 42, followed by Hurts’ arcing 41-yard bomb to Smith that beat Chiefs’ safety Mike Edwards. The next play, Hurts bulled in behind the “Brotherly Shove” for a 21-17 Eagles’ lead with 6:20 left to play. On the 41-yarder, Smith made a great adjustment to the ball, slowing down to track what was an underthrown pass.
Hurts’ 10-yard touchdown run up the middle with 4:05 left in the third quarter on a third-and-five. The Eagles had done nothing offensively to that point. The Chiefs’ defense had Hurts and the Eagles’ offense very confused, holding A.J. Brown to one catch on four targets for just eight yards.
Britain Covey’s 26-yard punt return to start the Eagles’ third drive of the second half. It was a great boost, considering the Eagles’ offense had been doing nothing and Hurts was scrambling for his life. It was something after three-straight three-and-outs. It jumpstarted the Eagles.
Safety Kevin Byard’s interception in the end zone with 6:45 left in the half, answering a Hurts’ interception. It was the best play Byard made so far as an Eagle. He was actually beat in the play by Justin Watson, who beat Byard earlier in the game on the Chiefs’ first touchdown, but Mahomes uncharacteristically underthrew the ball. It bailed the Eagles out of a jam, because they could have easily been looking up at a 14-7 deficit.
Defensive tackle Milton Williams popping Isiah Pacheco for a one-yard gain on the first play of the Chiefs’ third drive.
Left Tackle Jordan Mailata getting out on Chiefs’ Trent McDuffie and center Jason Kelce getting down field on safety Justin Reid on Swift’s 17-yard run that set up the Eagles’ first score.
Running back D’Andre Swift’s consecutive runs of 17 and then four yards that eventually got the Eagles in the end zone on their second drive. Swift’s 35-yard carry on the Eagles’ third drive of the third quarter led to the Hurts’ first touchdown.
Nickel corner Bradley Roby coming up to nail Jerick McKinnon for a head-over-heels hit on a third-and-19 at the Chiefs’ 20 for a four-yard gain on the third play of the game. Roby later punched the ball out of Travis Kelce’s hands on a first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 10. The play kept the Eagles in the game—and was the second Red Zone turnover for Kansas City.
Edge rusher Haason Reddick plastering Mahomes on the second play of the game for a nine-yard sack back at the Chiefs’ 16, forcing Mahomes and the Chiefs into a third-and-19.
Mailata’s holding call with 3:13 to play on a second-and-22, which pushed the Eagles back from the Kansas City 47 to the Eagles’ 43. The penalty took the air out of the Eagles’ momentum with a chance to seal the game.
The first two plays after the fourth quarter Travis Kelce turnover. The receiver screens to Smith and Julio Jones netted nothing when the Eagles had gained the momentum shift. The Eagles wound up punting thanks to stale play calling.
Nickelback Eli Ricks getting flagged for illegal contact on a third-and-eight at the Eagles’ 44 with 1:40 left in the third quarter. The penalty prolonged a Chiefs’ drive.
The Eagles’ poor exchange between Hurts and Swift on third-and-one at the Eagles’ 34 on their second drive of the third quarter with 9:48. Why didn’t Nick Sirianni opt to use the “Brotherly Shove” play there that has been so effective this season? There was no sense in opting not to run a play that has been virtually unstoppable. The ugly handoff between Hurts and Swift resulted in a three-yard loss and forced the Eagles to punt.
Shades of Super Bowl LVII, when Kadarius Toney returned a punt 21 yards to the Eagles’ 45 with just over four minutes left in the half. Toney’s 65-yard punt return against the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII was the longest in Super Bowl history. Like the last time, Toney’s return led to a Chiefs’ touchdown.
Reddick getting sealed off by Chiefs’ right tackle Jawaan Taylor on Isiah Pacheco’s 24-yard run on the Chiefs’ second possession off the right side to the Philadelphia 47. On that same play, Fletcher Cox got inside by Chiefs’ right guard Trey Smith. Cox looked back at the refs tying to complain about being held as Pacheco ran down field.
The Eagles’ first possession going minus-three yards on a three-and-out.
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox’s roughing the passer penalty with 1:56 to play. The Chiefs just completed a 13-yard pass on a first-and-10, when Cox slammed his facemask into Mahomes. The 28-yard play took the ball to the Chiefs’ 49.
The Eagles’ offensive line in the first half. They gave up five sacks for minus-26 yards, though it may not have been completely on them. Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had Hurts seemingly frustrated, confused and hesitant over the first 30 minutes. It led to Hurts’ second-quarter interception. A calmer Hurts would have hit A.J. Brown down field instead of getting rid of the ball quickly and underthrowing him.
The middle of Eagles’ defense in the first half. It’s been an ongoing problem with the Eagles all season. This was most magnified by Mahomes’ 17-yard completion to Justin Watson down the middle of the field on a third-and-15 at the Eagles’ 34. The completion led to the Chiefs’ 17-7 halftime lead—their first halftime lead since Week 7—on a Harrison Butker 43-yard field goal.
The Eagles’ vaunted rush defense in the first half. With 6:51 left in the first half, Kansas City already had 86 yards rushing—20 yards better than the Eagles’ NFL-best 66.3 yards rushing per-game average. For the half, the Chiefs shredded the Eagles’ rush defense for 121 yards on 20 carries, averaging a hefty 6.1 yards a carry.
Hurts’ underthrown pass early in the second quarter to A.J. Brown that wound up in the hands of the Chiefs’ cornerback L’Jarius Sneed on the Eagles’ third possession on a second-and-nine at the Chiefs’ 30. It might have been a touchdown if Brown and Hurts were on the same page. The two were seen in an animated discussion on the sideline after the play. If Hurts had not underthrown Brown, he was open for a touchdown. In the 10th game of the season, you would figure the two would not have to work on that. The Eagles wound get it back when Byard picked off Mahomes in the end zone with 6:45 left in the half.
Byard was supposed to be a big addition to the Eagles’ defense. So far, he has not been. At least he was not on the Chiefs’ second drive, when Byard looked lost, because he was. Justin Watson slipped right by him, moving right to left, and ran right by Byard, to be all alone in the back of the end zone. Mahomes was not going to miss that—and he didn’t, hitting Watson for a three-yard touchdown on third-and-goal and a 7-0 Kansas City lead.
Cornerback Darius Slay whiffing badly on the receiver screen to Rashee Rice for a 14-yard gain to the Eagles’ 10 on Kansas City’s second series. Rice stuttered stepped right, then cut left and Slay was left in his wake swatting at nothing but air. Slay had his troubles in the first half. On the Travis Kelce touchdown with 1:45 left in the half, Chiefs’ receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling ran right into Slay and Byard, and the two got caught running into each other. That freed Kelce, and Slay should have switched over to pick up Kelce, instead forcing Byard to come across and pick him up. Later in the quarter, Slay was later flagged for a 16-yard interference call at the Eagles’ 46.
Mahomes’ seven-yard completion to Kadarius Toney on third-and-seven on the Chiefs’ second possession to the Eagles’ 29. It was ugly only because the middle of the field has been like a vacant lot for the Eagles’ defense this season for opposing teams to run over. Roby made the tackle on the play, but there was no safety leaving the middle of the Eagles’ defense exposed. Mahomes read the blitz perfectly.
Joseph Santoliquito is a hall of fame, award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.
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Title: Eagles vs. Chiefs: The good, the bad, and the ugly