The Kansas City Chiefs take on the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday night in a much-anticipated showdown. The Chiefs will be bringing one of the top defenses in the NFL to Philadelphia, hoping to slow down the vaunted uptempo attack the Eagles deploy.
The Eagles have shown themselves to be quite capable of putting up points in a hurry this season, but they have struggled in stopping opponents from doing the same down the stretch. The Eagles are averaging allowing 20 second-half points per game.
Kansas City head coach Andy Reid no doubt wants to win this game very badly. Reid was unceremoniously fired by the Eagles this past offseason after winning only four games. The losing season was Reid's second since 1999 when he took over as the Eagles head coach. Reid guided Philadelphia to 10 second-place or better finishes in the NFC East and nine playoff appearances in his tenure there.
Here's how Kansas City's game plan breaks down.
While the strengths of this Chiefs team thus far appears to be in the defensive and special teams units, this is a game where the offense is going to have to step up and score points. Kansas City should endeavor to do this by utilizing Jamaal Charles heavily on first down. Charles is averaging 4.1 yards per carry, but he only has a long of 18 yards on the season. This means he is consistently getting positive yardage out of each carry.
Utilizing the run early in the game and on early downs not only keeps Kansas City ahead in the down-and-distance game, it also sets up play action and keeps the defense honest. While the Eagles defense has been surrendering points like the French do wars thus far this season, they are an athletic defense. Becoming one dimensional and allowing them to pin their ears back is a recipe for disaster. As the Chiefs have struggled in finding the vertical passing game thus far this season, the last thing they want to do is put themselves in a position to need to execute vertically.
The Chiefs are led by their defense, which averages the second-least yards and points allowed per drive in the NFL. On defense, the Chiefs game plan starts up front. Dontari Poe has been on fire the first two games of the season and gets, perhaps, his tastiest assignment yet. Poe, a 346-pound nose tackle, will be matched up on teammate Travis Kelce's brother, Jason Kelce, a 295-pound center who is nursing a thumb injury.
The Chiefs will use Poe to generate interior pressure and force Philadelphia's read-option game outside where Tamba Hali and Justin Houston will have to contain the outside. The Eagles love to run LeSean McCoy to the outside, allowing him to showcase his speed, so open-field tackling by Houston and Hali will be tantamount to executing the Chiefs defensive game plan. Look for safety Eric Berry to be used heavily in a "spy" role, shadowing highly mobile Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and ensuring he doesn't gouge the Chiefs for huge gains with his legs.
In the secondary, expect to see a lot of press coverage from Kansas City. Primary Eagles wide receiving threat DeSean Jackson is extremely quick but undersized. Look for cornerback Brandon Flowers, who struggled mightily against the more physical Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys, to have a bounce-back game covering Jackson.
It all starts for the Chiefs with field position. Kansas City punter Dustin Colquitt has put seven punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line thus far this season. Keeping opponents pinned deep is vital for a Chiefs team that doesn't have an explosive offense that can score points in bunches. Studies have shown what common sense always dictated, that the further back you can push you opponents, the less likely they are to score. The field position game is also helped by Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop, who has kicked off nine times thus far this season and produced seven touchbacks.
The Chiefs have had a punt and a kick blocked in consecutive weeks. Expect them to work carefully on their protections going into this game.