In unfriendly setting at KC, Birds hoping defense leads
The Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs have few secrets.
The only thing they don’t know is who leaves Arrowhead Stadium Sunday with a perfect record (1 p.m., Fox29, WIP 94.1-FM).
Chiefs coach Andy Reid is 8-3 against his former assistants. Eagles coach Doug Pederson, who was Reid’s offensive coordinator for three years, is undefeated in September.
The Eagles should benefit from such resources as quarterback Nick Foles, who spent last season with the Chiefs; assistant defensive backs coach Dino Vasso, the Ridley High product who coached under Reid; and even De’Vante Bausby, the former Chiefs cornerback the Birds added to the practice squad. The Chiefs have, what’s this, defensive tackle Bennie Logan, who played for the Eagles last year?
“We’ve done everything we can at this point,” Foles said. “Now we’ve got to go play. I know how hard they work. I know how hard we work. So I know it’s going to be a really good game. We’re going to be going at each other. So it will be fun. And it’s going to go down to execution. Who executes the game plan better, executes the goal for that week better?”
Reid’s reputation for preparation and his effectiveness in games where he has extra time to prepare are becoming legend. It’s been 10 days since the Chiefs trounced the Patriots, 42-27, in their opener in New England. The Eagles are coming off a 30-17 win at Washington. Coupled with the mastery of former assistants, that can’t be good.
“For who?” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “If I was a betting man, I’d say he’s probably due a loss. I think there’s familiarity on both sides. I don’t know if it’s that much of an advantage. The good thing is they don’t run our defense. It is a different defense. They might know our offense but not necessarily our defense.”
The Eagles’ defense limited the Redskins to 264 yards, including 64 rushing, and collected four takeaways. Brandon Graham contributed two sacks to turbo-charge the pass rush. His strip sack set up Fletcher Cox for a defensive touchdown. Cox had a strip sack, too.
Quarterback Alex Smith and the Chiefs were extraordinary their first time out. The 42 points were the most ever against the Patriots with Bill Belichick as head coach.
Rookie running back Kareem Hunt bounced back from a fumble on his first touch to register 246 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. Tyreek Hill added seven receptions for 133 yards, including a 75yard TD.
The Eagles’ linebackers checked their opponent out over steak a couple of Thursdays ago at Del’Frisco’s.
“They do have some firepower,” Nigel Bradham said. “We know some of their top players. Travis Kelce had a great game. They have Tyreek Hill. And they’ve got the new running back, Kareem Hunt, who had a big game. So we’ve definitely got to be prepared for him because we know they’re going to try to give him the ball. And then the quarterback, Smith. Can’t forget about the game manager. So we’ve got to get him off his spot and not let him manage the game.”
The Eagles disposed of a seven-game road losing streak in Washington to set the tone for the season. To beat the Chiefs, they’ve got to stop the run, and that starts with playing technically sound defense.
“The biggest thing for us, I think, is they do a lot to get you unsettled whether it be motion, shifts, gadget plays, misdirection,” Jenkins said. “Getting lined up, knowing your assignment and taking care of only your assignment and trusting the next guy to do his job helps. When guys start overplaying or they get the defense moving around too much, that’s when you get gashed. And if you can weather that storm, they get pretty vanilla.
“If you struggle with it, you’ll see it all game long. I think that’s what you saw versus the Patriots. They never really got comfortable with all of the jet sweeps, the motions, the guys in different formations and so they kept seeing it. As you watch the tape you’re seeing this is literally the same play over and over again and they just couldn’t match it.”
The Eagles also would help themselves establishing a ground game. The Patriots gave up on the run and wound up one-dimensional.
Big back LeGarrette Blount thinks the Eagles are close to a breakout rushing game. Offensive tackle Lane Johnson echoed his teammate.
“It’s one block, really, away from breaking a long run,” Johnson said. “This place we’re going to is so loud, if we can get the run game going, take the crowd out of the game, it can really be good for us. If we move the ball early, get a few touchdowns, get up and take the crowd out of it that would be really beneficial for us.”
If the Chiefs get off to a good start, the Eagles will know what the Patriots felt like. Hill, Towns, Kelce and De’Anthony Thomas can fly. The last thing the Eagles need is to see Kelce, whose brother Jason starts at center for the visitors, launch into a new TD celebration.
And of course, there’s the legend of Arrowhead Stadium.
“It’s one of the loudest stadiums,” said Bausby, who grew up in Kansas City. “The fans, they take pride in being loud and crazy. You see teams taking frustration timeouts and banging their helmets because they can’t hear and stuff like that. The receivers, when they’re bunched up, they’re asking the guy next to them, ‘what did he say, what did he audible too?’ It gets crazy. And the fans, they feed into it, they love it, they go crazy when they see stuff like that.
“Especially a frustration timeout, they go nuts.”
Eagles defensive end Chris Long, left, and safety Malcolm Jenkins led the effort to subdue Kirk Cousins and Washington last week. Given the familiarity of Kansas City skipper Andy Reid with protege and Eagles coach Doug Pederson, the Birds defense...