"Kansas City did a lot of good things against us, but I don't even feel like they stopped our offense. I feel like we stopped our offense," Eagles center Jason Kelce said yesterday, as the Birds returned to the practice field after a 4-day break. "That's been the way it's been every game this year. Not too many times has a defense done something overwhelming to stop us. It's when we start shooting ourselves in the foot, it's when we start turning the ball over . . . penalties . . . negating huge gains [against Kansas City]. If we can clean up the penalties and the turnovers, I think this offense is going to be geared up and ready to go against any defense we play."
The Eagles' offense turned the ball over four times against the Chiefs, including once on a snap snafu that was Kelce's fault. They had a drive blunted just before halftime when LeSean McCoy had to go in for ankle X-rays (McCoy practiced yesterday and apparently will not be hindered by the sprain he suffered.) Five offensive penalties in the second half, four of them on the o-line, helped the Chiefs' defensive effort considerably.
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick said the Birds "need to get the tempo up, need to get the number of plays up" after two games in a row when the opponent dominated the ball. "If we do everything right, we'll have 70 to 80 plays a game."
The Chiefs got pressure on Vick without blitzing a lot, and were able to play tight man coverage downfield. That isn't a recipe every team can follow. The Broncos, minus suspended linebacker Von Miller, who notched 18 1/2 sacks a year ago, don't have the Chiefs' pass-rushing bite. The Chiefs lead the NFL with 15 sacks; Denver has eight, one less than the Eagles. Though the Broncos are tied for the NFL interceptions lead, with six.
Denver has the top rushing defense in the NFL, allowing just 43.3 yards per game, though that might have something to do with opponents falling way behind quickly and needing to throw. The Eagles lead the league in rushing, gaining 209 yards per game.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly was asked if he tends to take more chances on offense when he knows the opponent is likely to put up a lot of points.
"I think you're asking, 'Do you go for it on fourth down in some of those situations?' You always have to factor in the opponent," Kelly said. "You also have to factor in your defense . . . I never look at it as a pure statistical thing. The statistics say 62 percent of the time, you're going to convert . . . It's where you're putting them, are you going to put that guy back out on the field? I know Bill Belichick had one a couple of years ago when he went for it on fourth down in his own territory because he didn't want to give the ball back to Peyton Manning. Didn't get it. His thought process was, if he's going to punt it, [Manning]'s going to march the field anyway. I think sometimes you definitely have to take your opponent into consideration when you make those decisions."
Kelly again defended Vick, who took responsibility for the loss after Thursday's game. Kelly said that while there have been times when Vick has held the ball too long, he doesn't see that as a pattern.
The loss to the Chiefs looked a lot like last season, not just because Vick made costly turnovers, but because he was under constant pressure.
"The way they did it - putting our tackles on an island - we're still very confident that we can put those tackles on an island and win most of those one-on-one matchups," Kelce said. "It was a good learning point for both of them. I think Jason [Peters] kind of reverted a little to his old habits with Howard [Mudd, the former offensive-line coach, who wanted an aggressive approach], kind of on default mode, almost. Then as the game went on he settled down and really anchored back in. Lane [Johnson]'s still a rookie a little bit. He got a little off-kilter in his sets. So the coaches were able to diagnose that in the film and correct it out there today."
The Eagles often use five-man protections, with no extra blockers, counting on the spreading out of offensive players to keep the defense relatively honest. (If your defense has somebody coming in unblocked, but you've left a receiver uncovered, most offenses will take that scenario.)
"It is a little more challenging on the tackle position when you're spread out," giving speedy defensive ends and linebackers room to work, Kelce said.
Right guard Todd Herremans said Johnson, the first-round rookie, might have had some bad moments against Kansas City but is progressing and will be fine.
"I think he's making good strides," Herremans said. "At least he's athletic enough to recover from a lot of the things that he's missing on. I think it's a little bit of an overstatement to say that he's struggled. He's a first-year player. He's going to make some mistakes. I think the thing you should focus on is how he bounces back from it."
Vick said the Eagles "have a sense of what we need to do as far as getting things back on track." Asked about being given so little chance to win, he said: "We don't even look at it like that. That's just the sports world. We're the ones who have to go live it. We don't look at it like we're the underdogs, we look at it like we're playing a good football team and we have to go be at our best."
On Twitter: @LesBowen