ReFo: Chiefs @ Eagles, Week 3
For the second time in five days the Philadelphia Eagles suffered defeat at home to an AFC West opponent, as they went down to a Kansas City Chiefs team looking to rebound from picking No. 1 overall in April’s draft.
I felt at the time that the Chiefs were too talented a team to be picking that high, and with improved coaching in this game and a new found confidence, Kansas City ran out fairly comfortable winners — in fact, the scoreline should have been even more comfortable than it was. The Chiefs’ passing game was the height of conservatism and, in spite of playing the entire game with the lead, Jamaal Charles carried the ball only 20 times with Alex Smith the team’s next leading rusher with 11 carries. In spite of the 3-0 start there is still work to do for the Chiefs and their coaching staff.
Meanwhile for the Eagles, this defeat sends them to 1-2 after two straight defeats. There were some struggles up front as the offense hit something of a stumbling point after their fast start against Washington little more than a week ago. Having played three games in 11 days to start the season at the pace they play fatigue could certainly be a factor. However, there are clear growing pains they need to work through in the next month to get back to the sort of electrifying form they showed first up.
Kansas City – Three Performances of Note
Houston Makes the Most of Opportunity
Just like last season, Justin Houston has started the year in tremendous form. He put in a stunning Week 3 display mirroring his three-sack performance against the Saints (+5.4) last season, with an even better game (+8.3) also featuring three sacks. Making the most of his matchup with rookie right tackle Lane Johnson he was a persistent presence in the Eagles’ backfield with six pressures (3 Sk, 1 Ht, 2 Hu) and two batted passes, to go with three stops in the run game. The whole Chiefs defense seems far less passive than last season, and Houston is using that to re-establish his momentum toward being one of the league’s elite 3-4 outside linebackers. Last night Houston rushed the passer on 90% of his pass snaps, he did that only twice last season. Chiefs fans will hope Houston continues to get the more attacking role that allows him to sustain this form all season.
Rough Start for Fisher
After two marginal negative grades to start the season, No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher had the roughest start of his career third time around against the Eagles. Things started badly for Fisher when he gave up a rapid hit to Connor Barwin on the first snap of the game, and he was beaten quickly on a number of pass plays throughout the game. In total, Fisher surrendered five pressures, one of which was nullified by his own holding penalty, but it was the speed with which he was getting beaten on plays that was his real problem. After that first play of the game he had trouble with Fletcher Cox, to whom he surrendered a sack and a hurry, and he was spared more by the quick work of Jon Asamoah late in the third quarter. Combined with a hold on Cox in the run game this was a tough outing for Fisher, with a rare bright spot coming on the Chiefs’ final drive before their kneel downs when he worked to the second level to drive Mychal Kendricks well downfield past the markers on a 14-yard gain by Jamaal Charles.
Ready to Roll, Ready for More
In a victory like that, it is a puzzle that Jamaal Charles got only 20 carries against an Eagles run defense that, outside of Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton, didn’t look like it would shut down the Chiefs’ ground game. Charles showed that he has his burst, his shiftiness and some power when needed in this game, but didn’t get the chance to grind the Eagles out of it. On one run he forced three missed tackles, and with his speed he is always a threat to go the distance. The Chiefs instead chose to use their short passing game to supplement the running game — in fact, they used it to supplement the entire offense. Andy Reid has often been accused of being shy of using his running game, and he certainly went light on the workload for Charles last night, and his backups for that matter, which could be justified as protecting Charles early in the season. That tactic was fine for this game, but it remains to be seen whether he is still reticent to lean on the run, or whether we will see Charles get more carries in future close games.
Philadelphia – Three Performances of Note
Strong Up Front
Starting on defense for the Eagles, this unit that wasn’t stressed by what the Chiefs were doing but couldn’t come up with big plays to swing the momentum in the home team’s favor. The two best players on the defense were the starting defensive ends, Cedric Thornton (+2.5 run defense) and Fletcher Cox (+4.7 overall). First-year starter Thornton set a career high with four defensive stops and marked his third straight game with a positive grade against the run by racking up 50+ snaps for the third straight time. The star of the piece though, was Cox — last year’s first-round pick continued the fine form he showed against the Chargers on Sunday with a strong game in both run defense and as a pass rusher. Cox matched Thornton’s +2.5 run defense grade, but also chipped in with three pressures (1 Sk, 2 Hu) for the third straight game. Both players did good work all across the line and are providing a strong launching pad for the Eagles’ defense in both base and sub-packages that the rest of the unit isn’t continuing behind them.
Tough Day for a Trio Up Front
Dropping back to pass protect 40 times isn’t an excessive amount, but three members of the Eagles’ offensive line were found wanting against the Chiefs’ resurgent defensive front. Both tackles struggled to match-up with the edge pairing of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Returning veteran Jason Peters showed his first signs of struggling since his return from injury, and let up six pressures (1 Sk, 5 Hu), all of them to Hali and for the most part to his outside. Meanwhile on the opposite side, Todd Herremans (-4.4 pass protection) and Lane Johnson (-5.2 pass protection) struggled, letting up 10 pressures (5 Hu for Herremans; 3 Sk, 2 Hu for Johnson) between them. Johnson, deemed to be a project from the draft process in April, was found wanting up against Houston. In his second poor outing of the season, Herremans struggled badly with Tyson Jackson, letting up two pressures, while a holding penalty nullified a third. Evan Mathis (+3.5) and Jason Kelce (+0.2) continued their strong starts to the season around these troubles, but for the most part the Chiefs had the upper hand up front.
Even a Bad Wheel Can’t Slow Down Shady
When he went down late in the second quarter, you feared that injury might be about to slow down LeSean McCoy’s rapid start to the season, but he returned to make an impact play in the second half. On the same number of carries as his Chiefs counterpart (20), McCoy ripped off 158 yards, thanks to a couple of big plays including his long touchdown run where he only had to get through one wave of defenders before outrunning the slow-reacting Kendrick Lewis to reach the end zone from 41 yards out. Through three games, McCoy is making the most of Chip Kelly’s wide open offense, racking up his second 150-yard game of the season. His missed tackle pace has, however, slowed — he forced only one in this game, having forced 14 in the first two games of the season.
– The Chiefs’ passing game was the personification of pedestrian. Of 32 targeted passes, only four were thrown 10 or more yards downfield.
– Tyson Jackson’s +4.0 pass rush grade (3 Hu, 1 hold drawn, 1 BP) is by far the best of his career. His previous best was a +1.6 in Oakland back in his rookie season.
– Both Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans racked up negative overall grades for the third straight game to start the season. Three missed tackles for Kendricks takes his season total to eight.
PFF Game Ball
He profited from a matchup with a rookie, but Justin Houston put on show with he sort of performance that, if it is sustained for 16 games, could see him in the reckoning for end-of-season awards.
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