WHEN THEIR relationship finished its tedious dissolve last January, Andy Reid and the Eagles’ brass both spoke of a fresh start.
Three games into their first season apart, Andy Reid has his. With yet another workmanlike victory last night, his Kansas City Chiefs have won their first three games this season, already eclipsing the total that gave them the first draft pick last April.
Meanwhile, after their first three games, the Eagles and their fans seem just as far from a fresh start as they did when Big Red was finally cut loose after 14 promising and trying seasons. They still give the other guys the ball too much. They still commit penalties at the most inopportune times. And, despite a new coach known for his quick offense and quick thinking, they still lose games because of head-scratching coaching decisions.
For too much of last night’s 26-16 loss, the Eagles played a whole lot like the 4-12 team of 2012 that finished Reid’s 14-season run here. Former Eagle Quintin Demps, of all people, gashed them for a 57-yard kickoff return to start the game. Until that point, no one in Philadelphia was even sure he could run that long without a water break.
A muffed fair catch by Damaris Johnson was recovered on the Eagles’ 8-yard line, leading to a field goal. Michael Vick, whose ball-security issue was on the list of what went wrong in the waning days of Reid’s tenure here, threw into double coverage on the Eagles’ first series, which was returned for a touchdown and a quick 10-0 Chiefs lead. He threw another pick later on, and flirted with at least two others. A snap that bounced off the leg of a lineman created another turnover.
As if offering a tribute to Reid, Chip Kelly opted for an unorthodox-looking two-point conversion after the Eagles pulled to 10-6 later in the quarter. That point left them a touchdown behind when LeSean McCoy finished off a microwave scoring drive early in the fourth quarter to pull within 23-16.
In some ways, Reid’s start in Kansas City has mirrored his start in Philadelphia. Here, he inherited a slew of good players on defense with something to prove, and the offense was his project. In Kansas City, he inherited a defense with five returning Pro Bowlers. The Chiefs’ promising early start has been fueled by that opportunistically stingy defense, and an offense that has acted uncharacteristically — for a Reid team anyway — conservative.
Last week, after Dallas had pulled to within a point of the Chiefs with 3:55 left in the game, Reid called for six straight running plays. By the time Kansas City was forced to punt, the Chiefs had run the ball in nine out of 10 plays using up all but 16 seconds.
Last night, after the Eagles pulled to within a touchdown with 11:36 left in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs ran and ran and ran the ball. A 15-play, 75-yard drive that included seven running plays burned up 8 minutes and 15 seconds and finished with a game-sealing field goal.
That’s right. Andy Reid protected a fourth-quarter lead. Twice in the same week.
“He wanted to get this win,’’ said Jamaal Charles, who slogged for 92 yards on 20 carries. “He might not have said it. But when it ended he had the biggest smile on his face.
“Fourteen years is 14 years,’’ said Reid, when asked about his emotions coming back. “That’s a long time, especially for a chubby old guy. I can tell you I enjoyed every minute here. And I’m enjoying my time in Kansas City.’’
Much has been made about Reid’s new wrinkles on offense, about using some read-option with mobile quarterback Alex Smith, and even some pistol. What jumps out at you as much if not more, though, is his willingness to take his time moving up the field, employing his running back in a way he was criticized for not doing with McCoy.
“You go back and evaluate everything and look at things and where the game is today,” Reid had said to the Philadelphia media earlier this week. “There are still some fundamental things we’ve really focused on and the guys have really done a great job with. Those other things are kind of superficial things but they are also part of the time right now. It’s a blend. Life and football continuously change, man. It’s all part of it. There are certain things that you hold strong to and there are other things that might be a little bit better that you learn from.’’
Whoa. “Life and football continuously change, man’’?
Who is this guy?
Reid slipped in some hints of our past, though. His mystifying clock management at the end of the first half — which included a delay-of-game penalty after a spiked ball — may have cost him three points.
But that was a small blip in what was otherwise a wise and prudent game plan that focused on ball possession and grinding out drives. When the game ended, Reid’s new team had run the ball 37 times and passed it 35 times and won the time-of-possession game by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.
If he continues to coach like that? If instead of trying to be smarter than everyone else, he takes what the defense gives him, moves in a methodical and time-consuming manner up and down the field, allowing his defense ample rest and ample opportunity to play with a lead?
Well, then the fresh start did him good.
Us? We may need more than that.
Fresh players would seem a good place to start.