Beneath the hype, a sloppy Birds loss

Andy Reid is approached by an official during an injury delay involving a Chiefs player. RON CORTES / Staff Photographer
Andy Reid is approached by an official during an injury delay involving a Chiefs player. RON CORTES / Staff Photographer
Posted: September 21, 2013

Somewhere hiding beneath the hoopla surrounding the returning coach and his prodigal quarterback progeny, there was a football game on Thursday night and, to be honest, not a very good one.

The Eagles fell to 1-2 for the season with three straight road games on the horizon after a 26-16 loss to the Kansas City Reids.

Strip away the cheesy overhyped story line that came with Andy Reid's return to Philadelphia and Donovan McNabb having his number retired at halftime, and what was left?

Well, four first-half turnovers for the Eagles, five for the night, and as disjointed a game as that would indicate. They looked like a team that was playing its third game in 11 days.

"The short week isn't an excuse. We don't make excuses. They had the same situation," coach Chip Kelly said. "You can't win a game turning the football over like that. You can't blame anything but poor execution."

The Eagles' performance let the helium out of a night that was so pumped up ahead of time that it threatened to blow away. Reid received a warm enough welcome when he came out before the start of the game, but it didn't feel like anything momentous. McNabb also got a decent greeting at halftime after the Eagles were smart enough to have Brian Dawkins introduce him.

It was particularly decent since the Eagles were trailing by 10 points at the time, but the crowd was still caught up in the pageantry of the night and figured there was plenty of time for Kelly's offense to overcome a lousy 16-6 deficit.

The fans weren't really there for Reid or McNabb, anyway, or for the attendant nonsense that is unavoidable when the national media decide there is a bone to be chewed upon. As always, through all the years, they came to see the Eagles and to decide if the team was truly worthy of them.

People don't know yet about this team, but they are willing to ride a while with Chip Kelly and the promise he has brought. They want to believe that his offense will make the team a cutting-edge wonder and that the defense will improve enough to keep things interesting. If that means a season or so of 31-28 games, well, that's fine as long as they are 31-28 wins.

Thursday night was something else entirely. The turnovers that deadened the first half - a muffed punt, a fumbled snap, and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown - led to 13 of Kansas City's points and kept the Eagles offense off the field.

When the offense was out there, the Chiefs generated a lot of pressure against Michael Vick, sacking him five times and knocking him to the ground another seven times. Near the end of the game, Vick had a defender roll across his ankles on a sack attempt that was ruled a fumble and he had to limp out of the game. He said he was able to shake off the hit quickly.

Outside linebacker Justin Houston of Kansas City, working mostly against rookie right tackle Lane Johnson, had himself a day. Houston had 31/2 sacks, six individual tackles, four quarterback hits, three pass defenses, and two recovered fumbles. He wasn't the only Houston defender winning the war up front, either.

The problem "was individual matchups against some good guys," Kelly said. "It comes down to one-on-one battles. We didn't win a lot of one-on-one battles."

The Eagles were able to break out for a few long gains, but their offense lacked the consistency to put together long drives. Even their lone score of the first half turned into a head-scratcher when Kelly followed a Vick touchdown pass to Jason Avant by going for a two-point conversion on a loopy, look-how-smart formation. It didn't succeed.

The Chiefs slopped around well enough to kick three field goals that went with their interception return for a touchdown for that 10-point lead when Reid trundled into the Chiefs locker room and McNabb entered from the opposite side of the field. It was a little surreal, but that was the nature of the evening.

It was amusing enough, but the humor had evaporated by the time Kansas City put together its first sustained drive of the game, a 62-yard march that wrapped around the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth and ended with a Jamaal Charles touchdown run that made it a 23-9 game.

Up until that point, the defense had been doing well enough against Alex Smith and the low-risk, dink-and-dunk offense of the Chiefs. The Eagles had contained Charles most of the night, even though they were mostly in nickel pass defense coverage. The other six guys did admirably cutting off the running lanes and getting to the edges before he could. That ended, however, when Charles got around the left side for an 18-yard run that set up the touchdown.

There was renewed hope when LeSean McCoy reeled off a 41-yard touchdown run on the Eagles' next possession, but the defense, perhaps feeling the weight of having been on the field so much, couldn't stop Smith after that. The Chiefs went on an 8-minute, 15-second drive to a field goal that essentially put the game away. By then, the stands were empty and there would be no more cordial applause for returning heroes.

Eventually, they packed up all the cameras and turned off the lights and the out-of-towners left with their neat story. The Eagles fans were left with another home loss, the eighth straight. This one wasn't Andy Reid's fault, depending on how you look at it.


Contact Bob Ford at bford @phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @bobfordsports.

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