Chiefs vs. Eagles: Takeaways from Kansas City's 26-16 Win
If you're a Kansas City Chiefs fan, or an Andy Reid fan, you were probably positively jubilant on Thursday night. The Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 26-16 in commanding fashion, taking an early lead and dominating throughout.
The Eagles showed flashes of potential throughout the game, but five turnovers, an inability to convert on third down, and allowing five sacks sealed their fate. Philadelphia is now 1-2 under Chip Kelly, while his predecessor (and opponent on the night), Andy Reid, has the previously hapless Chiefs sitting atop the division with three wins and zero losses.
Here are the takeaways from Thursday night's game.
The Chiefs Can Run...if They Want to
The Chiefs finished the game with 37 rushes for 147 yards.
Considering the run game had been mostly an afterthought in Kansas City's previous two games, this was a major advance in keeping the Chiefs offense balanced going forward.
Of particular note was the Chiefs getting rookie running back Knile Davis going. He had six carries for 25 yards. Given starting running back Jamaal Charles' history with injuries, it will be important for the Chiefs to have a backup plan in place. Davis appears to be that guy going forward.
The only impediment seems to be the play-calling. Andy Reid remains firmly entrenched in his pass first, pass some more, and when all else fails pass your way out of it mentality. Given the success of the run game, and the Chiefs' inability to go vertical in the pass game, it will be interesting to see how much Kansas City leans on the run game going forward.
Donnie Avery Acquisition May Have Been a Steal
It appears free-agent acquisition Donnie Avery, who signed a three-year, $8.55 million deal in free agency to come to the Chiefs, may have been Kansas City's most valuable addition.
Avery, a former second-round pick by the St. Louis Rams in 2008, provides the speed at the wide receiver position the Chiefs desperately needed. Avery has struggled with injuries throughout his career, but he's been healthy for Kansas City thus far and highly productive out of the gate. He finished Thursday night's game against the Eagles with seven receptions, on as many targets, and 141 yards receiving.
Look for the Chiefs to continue to use him in the mid-screen game while opponents double up the coverage on the other starting wide receiver, Dwayne Bowe.
The Passing Game Still Needs Work
While the box score looks like the Chiefs had an efficient and productive night passing the football, the tape tells a different story.
Early on Kansas City was struggling to move the ball though the air. The offensive line, specifically Eric Fisher, was letting rushers through with remarkable ease, and the receivers couldn't seem to separate and get open.
The Chiefs padded the box score with dump-off passes to Jamaal Charles and wide receiver screens to Donnie Avery.
Going forward they're going to have to involve Dwayne Bowe and be able to hit the quick slant if they expect to move the ball effectively.
This is a major cause for concern, though the Chiefs have managed to get by thus far.
The Chiefs Have an Elite Defense
For those who weren't ready to crown them (obligatory Denny Green reference), it's time to crown them. The Kansas City Chiefs have an elite NFL defense.
I said before the season that Kansas City may have quietly built a top-five NFL defense, and it's time to admit that "top five" may have been hedging it a bit.
The Chiefs are opportunistic, creating turnovers and negative yardage plays every time you turn around. Kansas City has generated nine turnovers and 14 sacks in three games. This has been vital in allowing a still-developing offense some leeway with their production early in the season.
While this level of production from the defense may not be sustainable over the course of a full NFL season, it has certainly been welcome early in the season, allowing other areas of concern to be worked on with the comfort of a lead.
Eric Fisher Is Still a Rookie
Eric Fisher struggled mightily for the Chiefs on Thursday night, so much so that Kansas City was forced to bring tight end Sean McGrath alongside him in pass protection on plays that would otherwise have had him running a route.
Fisher certainly has talent and will likely be a large building block on the Kansas City offensive line for many years to come.
But he looked every bit the rookie against the much quicker defensive linemen of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Given the struggles the offense has had in getting men open down the field, the Chiefs can't afford to be bringing guys out of pattern and in to block to cover for the rookie's deficiencies. Fisher needs to adjust to the pro game, and adjust quickly, or the momentum from the early-season wins will be all for naught by the middle of the season.
Special Teams Continue to Be Special
The Chiefs' special teams, while likely the most unheralded of the Chiefs' units, have been one of the most vital parts of the team thus far.
Punter Dustin Colquitt continues to pin opponents so deep in their own territory, statistically speaking their odds of scoring are about as low as they can get.
Kicker Ryan Succop missed his first non-blocked field goal of the season on Thursday but was 4-of-5 on the night with a long of 38 yards. Given the Chiefs' inability to consistently sustain long drives early in the season, his leg will likely be counted on heavily going forward.
Too often this unit is merely an afterthought on many teams. The 2013 Kansas City Chiefs are showing why coaches emphasize all three phases of the game, not just offense and defense.
On the season the Kansas City Chiefs are 15 for 46 on third-down conversions, which is less than 31 percent.
The Chiefs have been fortunate that the play of their defense has generated turnovers and limited opponents' opportunities thus far this season. Kansas City was 6-of-18 on third down on Thursday night, again showing an inability to convert when necessary.
Thus far the team has been bailed out by turnovers and great field position, but that is simply unsustainable. If Kansas City hopes to continue winning, third-down conversion percentage is a number that is going to have to climb significantly, and quickly.
Look for the Chiefs to begin to involve wide receiver Dwayne Bowe more on the quick slant on third down as Alex Smith continues to try and develop some synergy with him. If the Chiefs can't turn to Dwayne Bowe on third down as a reliable target, they're going to have to hope the defense continues to develop points and turnovers at this level, a pace that is historically unsustainable in the NFL.
Andy Reid and Alex Smith Are Difference-Makers
While it's easy, and probably correct, to point out that Andy Reid's clock management skills and play-calling have been a bit suspect so far, there is no doubt that this team is playing much better than they did last season.
The Chiefs seem better prepared and more energetic in their approach to the game than they have in recent years.
Andy Reid and Alex Smith have brought a culture change to Kansas City, and there's no arguing with the results. While there are certainly improvements to be made, and some of them appear glaringly large, the Chiefs are not turning the ball over (zero turnovers through three games), and they appear hungry.
Last season, and indeed dating back several seasons since the late Dick Vermeil/early Herman Edwards era, the Kansas City Chiefs have seemed listless at times on the field, a trait I don't see any longer.
The Chiefs now have 10 days to prepare to take on a tough New York Giants football team that has struggled uncharacteristically with turnovers early this season. It will be interesting to see what game plan is devised and how it is executed with 10 days to prepare.