Here’s a roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles this week. Read more »
Two things kept me from wanting to hurl after the Eagles lost an ugly game to the Minnesota Vikings: the Cowboys’ epic fail and my fantasy football teams.
Just as important as Tony Romo’s latest choke-job (at least in my mind) is that I pulled off a first in my roughly 15 years of pretend-sports management — both of my teams advanced to the championship. In one league, that wasn’t a surprise, as I had Jamaal Charles. The Kansas City running back scored five touchdowns on Sunday; the 51 points he spotted me was virtually impossible to overcome. By comparison, Shady McCoy’s team-record-setting Snow Bowl game the week earlier netted 34 points.
But Charles’ gonzo performance got me thinking about someone else who’s in Kansas City these days — Andy Reid, who clinched a playoff berth with Sunday’s win.
Kansas City Keeps Finding Atrocious Ways to Remind Andy Reid of the 14 Years He Spent in Philadelphia
Poor Andy Reid. He leaves Philadelphia after 14 years, gets a great fresh start in Kansas City—4-0!—but finds out that the people there will probably always know him best for … the 14 years he spent in Philadelphia. Once again, the man can’t win. This time, though, at least it’s not because of poor clock management.
Anyway, Exhbit A for our argument here is … the Kansas City Chiefsteak. Pitch Weekly’s Jonathan Bender describes this new offering (from the concessions crew at Arrowhead Stadium, natch) as a “footlong bun loaded down with smoked brisket, primary-colored swatches of cheese and bell peppers, and a burping river of barbecue sauce.”
Bender adds: “The stadium has introduced its newest sandwich in homage to Andy Reid, the mustachioed head coach whose most recent previous job was in the city of angioplasty. (Philadelphia has not officially adopted this slogan. Yet.)”
Mostly, the sandwich is a mess. “Add the Chiefsteak to the list of Philly-hopeful sandwiches that fall short. But some things – like football fans who use Cheez Whiz to dull their battery-throwing, expletive-spewing pain in the wake of the great Chip Kelly experiment – are best left to that city anyway.” Just like we can leave the lazy clichés to Kansas City alt-weekly writers!
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Chip Kelly has used some version of the same line several times since he was hired as the Eagles’ head coach back in January.
“If you weren’t in the room with Amos Alonzo Stagg and Knute Rockne, then you stole it from somebody,” Kelly says. “We didn’t invent this.”
It’s Kelly’s way of denying that he’s some kind of innovator or revolutionary, labels that make him uncomfortable.
And in the end it was all media manufactured hype.
Andy Reid walked out of the tunnel to a shower of applause and cheers from the adoring and standing fans at Lincoln Financial Field. Twitter responded in amazement (see below), as if Eagles fans suddenly stood upright for the first time.
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Two things happened after last night’s loss to Andy Reid. (Because that’s what it was. Andy vs. the Eagles. And Andy won.) One, Andy Reid completely shredded Sal Paolantonio during a post-game interview. He spent a fair amount of time ignoring Sal to embrace other people, and actually accused Sal of “blocking” his path. And then delivered these two zingers.
About Sal: “This guy’s not that important right here.”
About a big 3rd down conversion, sardonically: “That was as big as Sal Paolantonio, baby.”
Two, in doing so, he revealed a striking amount of actual personality. New team, new man.
Why might Andy be pissed at longtime Philly scribe Sal Pal? Maybe it was this extended takedown of Andy he gave in January, during which he suggested no NFL team in its right mind would want to hire Reid.
So I don’t know why [Arizona's] Bidwills would want to hire a guy who they just, you know, they killed the team when they were out there. It was one of the most embarrassing performances by the Eagles all year long. So, frankly, I was shocked that there was that much interest.
Well, Andy got the last word. Several times.
Video here, via ESPN.
Andy Reid has never been one to pour out his emotions publicly. And he predictably deflected questions about his return to Philadelphia this week by turning the conversation to the game at hand.
But as time began ticking off the clock Thursday night and victory was his, the generally stoic Reid looked downright giddy. His players topped the night by giving their new head coach a Gatorade bath and carried the celebration in the locker room. Reporters waiting for Reid in the press conference area could hear the festivities loud and clear.
“It was a big roar, a big cheer, we were cheering Andy on,” said running back Jamaal Charles. “He wanted to get this win. He may not tell anyone but at the end of the day, he had the biggest smile on his face.”
Reid still wore the look of a happy man as he made his way to the podium.
“You put it out of your mind the best way you possibly can,” said Reid of returning to Philly as an opposing coach, less than nine months after being relieved of his duties with the Eagles. “I mean, 14 years is 14 years — that’s a long time, especially for a chubby old guy. I can tell you I enjoyed every minute here. I am enjoying my time in Kansas City. Coming back, I didn’t think much about it until the game was over. It was great to see the guys, the players that are here, and I got a chance to speak to a couple of them after the game. It’s all kind of settling in right now. I’m not sure exactly how I feel other than I’m glad we won the game.”
His wife, Tammy, was in the room as is custom, and was all smiles as she watched her husband answer questions about his triumphant return.
Downplay it all you want, but this couldn’t have been just any game for Reid, right?
“Yeah, it was different. I’m on the opposite end of the field…but I wasn’t caught up in that part of it,” he said. “I was too busy — it was probably a good thing it was a short week — I was too busy trying to make sure we had the offense and the defense and the special teams going right that I didn’t have time to think about all the other stuff that goes along with it.”
Reid joked during the week that he was going to have Donovan McNabb come out of the tunnel with him to help take some of the heat the Philadelphia fans may throw his way. But it was all love on this night, at least before the game. He received a standing ovation as he took the field, and the Eagles put up a “Thank you” message on the big screen briefly, listing all of his achievements while head coach of the Eagles.
“I did, I saw that, I appreciated that. It was very kind of the Luries, and of Jeffrey to do that and for the fans the way they reacted there,” he said.
Reid talked briefly with Chip Kelly before the game. Spoke with Jeremy Maclin and several of the players during warm-ups. The game soon took over and his former players morphed into the opponent. He was back in his element, where the task at hand blocks out all the “fluff,” as he called it on Tuesday. But when the task was completed, we saw the human side of Reid come out.
“We wanted it for him,” said cornerback Brandon Flowers. “We appreciate Coach and what he does for this franchise. Even though he thought it was just a game, we definitely wanted it for him.”
If you missed the first cheat sheet, click here.
Now, 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ defense matches up with the Chiefs’ offense.
1. Billy Davis and company used an effective blitz-heavy package to slow down Robert Griffin III and the Redskins in Week 1. But the Eagles’ D looked much more like the unit everyone was expecting going into the season last week against the Chargers. Philip Rivers completed 36 of 47 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns. He was sacked once, and the Chargers were 10-for-15 on third down, effectively keeping the Eagles’ offense off the field. Through two games, the Eagles’ defense ranks 29th, according to Football Outsiders. The Chiefs have been efficient, though not spectacular. Kansas City scored 17 points in a win against Dallas last week, and Andy Reid’s offense ranks 12th overall, per FO.
2. The Chargers’ game-plan was pretty simple: Get Rivers to the line of scrimmage early, force the defense to show its hand, audible into a play that works, and move the football.
“They’d get up, take a look, then come back, sometimes they checked, we checked, and then they checked again,” Chip Kelly explained. “I think when you’re playing a quarterback like Philip Rivers, I think basically they put the game in his hands and he was making a lot of checks at the line of scrimmage depending on the looks we were presenting. That’s what you get when you’re going against someone as talented as him. You’ve got to get lined up and you’ve got to play because you just can’t say they’re not going to run a play here. When they’re ready to run a play, you’ve got to be lined up ready to run a play.”
Davis believes strongly in disguising looks and confusing opposing quarterbacks. But the Chargers’ offense controlled the game by lining up early and dictating when the ball was snapped.
“There were times they checked, we checked, and then tried to give them a different look, and then he came back with a play,” Kelly continued. “You know, it becomes a‑cat‑and‑mouse‑game and you get going, but they’ve got to snap the ball at a certain point in time, and we’ve got to be lined up and ready to go. …We have to be prepared with a defense when he gets up on the ball, and then we’ve got to do a job of trying to give them a disguise and make sure that it’s not totally something that he’s going to see, and then we can rotate into some things. But sometimes your disguise ends up being a liability because you’re not close enough in coverage when you’re that far off.”
3. The crew at NBC’s NFL Turning Point did a great job of catching wide receiver Eddie Royal talking to coaches about a specific look the Eagles were showing. It came late in the third quarter. Royal noticed that safety Nate Allen was stationed about 11 yards directly behind Patrick Chung, who was playing slot corner. He raised his hand as if to say, “Chung’s blitzing here. You got me.”
That’s exactly what happened, but Trent Cole manhandled the left guard and forced Rivers to roll to his right where he dumped the ball off to Ronnie Brown. If Rivers had time, he would have had Royal open in the middle of the field.
But with 3:11 left in the game, on the Chargers’ final touchdown of the day, they got the same look.
The safety’s lined up directly behind the slot corner, who is going to blitz.
As soon as he gets the snap, Rivers knows it’s coming and unloads to Royal behind the line of scrimmage. You can see how far away Allen is. King Dunlap takes care of Allen, Royal jukes DeMeco Ryans, and the Chargers have a 15-yard score.
Davis wants the Eagles to be unpredictable on defense, but that didn’t happen last week.
4. So far in Reid’s offense, Alex Smith is completing 60 percent of his passes, but averaging just 5.7 yards per attempt. That ranks 29th among starting quarterbacks. Last week, the Eagles wanted to guard against the big play. But this week, there’s far less need to play their safeties deep. Per Pro Football Focus, just 4.3 percent of Smith’s throws have traveled 20 yards or more from the line of scrimmage. That’s 31st among starting quarterbacks. Smith will look to be efficient and control the tempo of the game, while keeping the Eagles’ offense off the field.
5. Up front, from left to right, the Chiefs have: Branden Albert, Jeff Allen, Rodney Hudson, Jon Asamoah and No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher. Albert will often get matched up against Trent Cole, who has exceeded expectations early on. Cole only dropped back into coverage three times last week, per PFF. Fletcher Cox leads the team with three QB hurries (coaches stats), but has been quiet overall. Isaac Sopoaga, Damion Square and Bennie Logan have been unimpressive at nose tackle. Same goes for Clifton Geathers at LDE. And Cedric Thornton has been OK. A lot of questions about Vinny Curry. My take? The Eagles don’t think he fits, and he won’t see the field unless someone is injured. We’ll find out about 90 minutes prior to kickoff (when inactives are announced) whether I’m right or not.
6. The Eagles have been blitz-heavy in each of the first two weeks. Against San Diego, Davis sent five or more pass-rushers at the QB 53.8 percent of the time. Rivers completed 76 percent of his attempts and averaged 8.4 yards per attempt against the blitz. But it must be noted that his numbers were even better when the Eagles didn’t send pressure (77.3 percent, 9.5 YPA). Alex Smith was not blitzed much through the first two games. He’s 9-for-11 for 73 yards against extra pressure and has been sacked twice, per Stats, Inc. While the Chiefs rely on a short-to-intermediate passing game, Smith doesn’t get rid of the ball as quickly as you might think. Per PFF, it takes him on average 2.76 seconds to make a decision (attempt a pass, run or get sacked). That ranks 20th in the NFL.
7. On the ground, the Chiefs feature Jamaal Charles. Ready for a stat that will blow your mind? Since 1920, among running backs who have had at least 300 carries, Charles has the highest yards-per-attempt average at 5.72, per Pro Football Reference. And last year, he piled up 1,509 yards while averaging 5.3 YPC. I know what you’re thinking: Good thing Andy won’t give him the ball! Charles is averaging 16 rushing attempts per game, 12th-most in the NFL and down slightly from last year’s mark (17.8).
8. Charles has also caught 11 balls, more than any other Chiefs player. The Eagles were a mess in coverage last week. Mychal Kendricks got worked over by Antonio Gates all game long. In the secondary, Cary Williams was called for three pass interference penalties. This week, the Eagles will get Bradley Fletcher back from a concussion. Fletcher played well in Week 1 against Washington. Brandon Boykin will go back to the slot full-time. The Chiefs’ top wide receiver is Dwayne Bowe. He’s got eight catches for 86 yards and a score through two games. Among Kansas City’s six players who have at least four catches, none has a yards-per-reception higher than 12.3.
9. At safety, the Eagles will once again go with Chung and Allen, but expect rookie Earl Wolff to once again rotate in. Last week, the Chargers killed the Eagles with in-breaking routes, and the safeties were slow to react and failed to provide adequate help all game long. There’s no need to be conservative against Kansas City. The Chiefs will also line up in the Pistol. It’s worth noting that the Pistol is not what Kelly and the Eagles run. It’s a formation where the quarterback sets up in shotgun, but is closer to the line of scrimmage (usually 4 yards). And the running back lines up directly behind the quarterback, instead of to one side or the other. Kansas City has hired Chris Ault as a consultant. Ault is credited as the creator of the Pistol from his time at Nevada. Matt Bowen has a good breakdown here of some of the new concepts the Chiefs are showing under Reid.
10. Brandon Graham has played just 21.6 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps through the first two games. …Casey Matthews saw some time at outside linebacker, backing up Connor Barwin vs. San Diego. …Derek Sarley has an excellent All-22 breakdown of the Eagles’ defensive woes on Philly.com. Also check out Tommy Lawlor’s always-informative detailed game review on IgglesBlitz.com.
Donovan McNabb said that 65 friends, family members and former teammates will be in attendance Thursday to watch his No.5 go into the rafters. His parents, Sam and Wilma, will be there. Brian Dawkins will emcee the ceremony. Chad Lewis, Correll Buckhalter, Jon Runyan, Bobby Taylor, Jamaal Jackson and more are expected to show.
And, by no coincidence whatsoever, his former head coach will be in the building as well.
“That was part of the decision-making,” said McNabb to a small group of reporters Wednesday evening at Lincoln Financial Field. “I wanted him to be a part of it. I think it it’s rightfully so, for me to go into the ring of honor and have my number retired, I want the person who was more than responsible for it, took a chance on me, stuck with me for 11 years and had success with me [to be there.]”
It was often said that the coach and quarterback were “attached at the hip” during their time in Philly. But Easter, 2010 served as a reminder that all unions in the NFL are temporary. McNabb was shipped to Washington, and headed south with a bad taste in his mouth. The negative feelings lingered for a couple years.
A lot of the ice was chipped off during a face-to-face meeting with Reid in March.
“We had lunch together at the [owners] meetings in Arizona. He ate more tacos than I did,” said McNabb. “It was needed. I wish it could have happened earlier but it was needed. We were able to talk about a few things and get some stuff out on the table. I think that conversation alone has given us the opportunity to move forward.
“I thought that it was important that we sat down and looked each other eye-to-eye and got a chance to talk about a few things.”
“First and foremost I wanted to know whose decision it was to move on, and what was the next step? What was your game plan when you decided to trade me? Was it to play Kevin Kolb or start a new regime to see what happens?”
Did he just blame Joe Banner?
“No. Well…No,” he said, drawing laughs.
McNabb did not reveal the answers to those questions, but obviously felt good enough with the answers to move on. And, as he gets set for Thursday’s retirement ceremony, he appears to be in a good place when it comes to the relationship with both the organization and his longtime coach.
That doesn’t mean he’s ready to take a bullet for the Chiefs’ head man. Reid has been joking that he wants McNabb to come out of the tunnel with him Thursday night to absorb any of the potential punishment that might come his way from Eagles fans.
“No I told him if they boo him, they’re booing him,” said McNabb. “I’m not being a part of that one.
“Andy’s just going to keep the same straight face, he’ll probably pump the fist or something. I think the fans will truly show their appreciation for what he was able to do here.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Good All-22 look from Sheil on how Chip Kelly is getting DeSean Jackson loose.
What will the Eagles do to mark McNabb and Reid’s return? Here’s a look.
Stanford head coach David Shaw talks to The MMQB’s Peter King about Kelly.
Here’s a link to the Birds 24/7 podcast if you missed it. How can you resist Kapadia in stereo?
The Eagles sign cornerback Roc Carmichael.
Checking in on Fletcher Cox.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Ray Didinger shares an interesting conversation he had with Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi before the 1999 draft.
Accorsi knows a quarterback when he sees one and he was high on McNabb. He stunned me by comparing McNabb to Roger Staubach. “He is like Staubach,” he said. “He can do everything.”
Accorsi related a story from the Scouting Combine. He was in a restaurant one evening and a group of players were seated across the room. All were college stars in town to take part in the combine testing. They were from different schools and different conferences. Most had not met prior to that week.
“All through the meal I watched them,” Accorsi said.
Hey, when you’re a GM, you never stop scouting. And what did Accorsi see?
“McNabb ran the show,” he said. “All the conversation, all the energy revolved around him. He just had a way about him. The other guys – and, remember, they’re all big-timers themselves – deferred to him. He had that ‘It’ thing we talk about. I thought, ‘That’s a quarterback.’”
Bob Ford notes that Thursday’s game marks the end to the Eagles’ prime time schedule.
There is always the possibility, if the Eagles win more than expected, that some of their late-season games could be switched to showcase programming, but that seems like a long shot right now. Thursday’s game will probably be the last one in the national glare and if it also represents the final closing of the door on the Reid Era, then bring up the lights, cue the Liberty Bell and the city skyline and offer a hearty farewell to the guy who made the team a prime-time staple in the first place.
Game day. Eagles host Reid and the Chiefs at 8:25. We’ll hold a live chat during the game.
1. Two weeks into the Chip Kelly experiment, the Eagles boast the NFL’s leading rusher, leading receiver and third-best offense, according to Football Outsiders. And the truth is, the Birds have left plenty of points on the field. But the Chiefs figure to present a bigger challenge defensively than either the Chargers or the Redskins. Kansas City is No. 1 in overall defense, per Football Outsiders, and has allowed 18 points through two weeks. Sure, they got to face the Jaguars in Week 1, but Kansas City held the Cowboys to a touchdown and three field goals last week.
2. Offensively, the most encouraging sign for the Eagles might be that they’ve shown they can be productive in multiple ways. In Week 1, it was a heavy rushing attack behind LeSean McCoy, who has piled up 237 yards and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry. San Diego moved a safety up for much of the game and challenged Michael Vick to hurt them through the air, which he did. Vick completed 64 percent of his passes, averaged 11.9 yards per attempt, threw two touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over. He looked like he knew where to go with the football all day long, made quick decisions and avoided big hits (except for that final drive in the fourth quarter). When given time, he’s generally an accurate quarterback, but Vick missed a few throws against the Chargers that could have led to an even bigger game. He leads the NFL in yards per attempt (10.34) and is third in passer rating (119.0).
3. McCoy and the Eagles’ rushing attack will be challenged by a talented front seven. The Chiefs run a 3-4 and have a tackling machine in Derrick Johnson at inside linebacker. Eagles offensive linemen have been outstanding at getting their hands on linebackers in the run game, but Johnson will be the best they’ve faced so far. At the other inside linebacker spot is a familiar name: Akeem Jordan. The former Eagle was active last week against the Cowboys, forcing a big fumble in the third quarter. The Chiefs limited DeMarco Murray to 25 yards on 12 carries. The previous week, Maurice Jones-Drew managed just 45 yards on 15 carries against them. McCoy will get plenty of touches, and Bryce Brown will provide him with breathers.
4. The Chiefs have a talented group up front. Dontari Poe’s stock rose during the combine, and he appears to be taking a nice leap forward in his second season. Poe is tied for third in the NFL with 3.5 sacks, and he played all 67 snaps last week against Dallas. Eagles center Jason Kelce is playing at a really high level, but he’ll be challenged with Poe lining up across from him all night long. Kelce had his right thumb wrapped after suffering an injury against the Chargers, but he’s listed as probable. Keep an eye on his snaps in the early going.
5. Elsewhere up front, the Chiefs go with defensive end Tyson Jackson, a former first-round pick (2009) and Mike DeVito, whom the team signed away from the New York Jets as a free agent. Evan Mathis played well against the Chargers, but Todd Herremans had issues. Communication, as always, will be critical. Bob Sutton, the Chiefs defensive coordinator, spent the past several years under Rex Ryan and is not afraid to dial up blitzes when he has the opponent in obvious passing situations. According to Pro Football Focus, the Chiefs blitzed Tony Romo on 19 of 46 dropbacks last week. He went 12-for-18 for 108 yards and was sacked once in those situations.
6. Kansas City has impressive rush linebackers too. Tamba Hali, the Penn State product, had 35.5 sacks from 2010 to 2012. He has rushed 77 percent of the time and dropped 23 percent of the time on passing downs this season, per PFF. Hali will most often line up against Jason Peters, who has played well the first two games. On the other side, Justin Houston had 10 sacks and made the Pro Bowl last year. On the season, he’s rushed the passer 61 percent of the time and dropped 39 percent of the time. Houston already has three sacks in two games and will often get lined up against Lane Johnson. The rookie had a critical penalty last week and allowed a hit on Vick that caused hm to overthrow a wide-open DeSean Jackson deep. Overall, Johnson looks good, but he’s had his share of rookie mistakes, which is to be expected.
7. Jackson leads the NFL with 297 receiving yards, and Kelly is doing a remarkable job of maximizing the wide receiver’s ability in this scheme (All-22 breakdown here). Jackson said earlier this week that he’s expecting the Chiefs to play man coverage against him quite a bit. But that might depend on who Kansas City has healthy. The Chiefs’ top corner, Brandon Flowers, is questionable with a knee injury. At the other spot, Kansas City signed Sean Smith in the offseason. At 6-3, 218, he’s one of the bigger corners in the league. Last week, Tony Romo completed 30 of 42 attempts (71.4 percent) against the Chiefs. Nine of those completions (and 141 of his 298 yards) were to Dez Bryant, who looked un-guardable for much of the game.
8. At safety, the Chiefs go with Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis. Berry, the No. 5 overall pick in 2010, is a two-time Pro Bowler. Lewis has 37 starts under his belt. The Chiefs will show some “big nickel” looks too, playing with three safeties. They’ve got former Eagle Quintin Demps and Husain Abdullah on the roster. The Chiefs limited Jason Witten to three catches for 12 yards. Brent Celek was shut out last week, but rookie Zach Ertz had a pair of catches for 58 yards. Despite all the talk about using 2-TE sets under Kelly, the Eagles had just one tight end on the field for 81 percent of their snaps last week.
9. Special teams has been a major difference for the Eagles this year. The offense, on average, is starting drives at its own 30.92 yard line, per Football Outsiders. That’s sixth-best in the NFL. Last year, they started at their own 25.19, which ranked 27th. Turnovers on defense have helped too. The Eagles have five takeaways and are a +3 in turnover differential. The Chiefs, meanwhile, are a +4. They are one of two teams (Tennessee) that has yet to turn the ball over this season.
10. The Eagles used the read-option nine times for 54 yards last week. In Week 1, they used it 49 times. …The Eagles have scored touchdowns on three of six red-zone possessions. …The Chiefs have the second-fewest penalty yards through two games. The Eagles have the eighth-most. …The Chiefs have nine sacks, tops in the NFL. …The Eagles are 3.5-point favorites, according to Bovada. The over/under is 51.