KANSAS CITY – The Eagles had the ball and a tie score in the fourth quarter as road underdogs in Kansas City. It’s a scenario that they would have invited upon arriving at Arrowhead Stadium before their 27-20 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday.
“Definitely,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “On the road? At Arrowhead? 13-13, that’s a great spot to be in.”
Jenkins made the statement while preparing for a frustrating flight home reviewing a game that the Eagles believed they controlled before a late collapse. A costly Carson Wentz interception started the slide. A failed Vinny Curry sack attempt allowed it to continue. And by the time they left the field, the Eagles were 1-1, with the home opener next week against the New York Giants.
The optimist would say the Eagles hung with one of the NFL’s best teams on the road through three quarters. But the realist would recognize that the fourth quarter showed the difference between Doug Pederson’s team and Andy Reid’s team. The Eagles finished with two turnovers; the Chiefs did not turn the ball over. The Chiefs found a big running play when they needed one; the Eagles seemed to leave most of their running plays in Philadelphia.
“The takeaway is you’re right there,” Pederson said. “A team that lit the scoreboard up in Week 1 in New England, to keep them tied, keep them held down for three quarters, the takeaway is offensively we have to address our own needs and how we’re playing.”
Wentz finished 23 of 46 for 333 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also had 55 rushing yards. Alshon Jeffery led the Eagles with seven catches for 92 yards and one touchdown. Darren Sproles rushed for 48 yards, although the Eagles called only 13 running plays. LeGarrette Blount did not have a carry. Pederson called 56 passing plays, which included six sacks and four scrambles.
“It starts with me as a play-caller,” Pederson said. “By no means do I want to throw the ball up that many times, but we’ve got to get the run game fixed.”
A passing play was sensible on a third and 12 from the Eagles’ 31-yard line with the game tied at 13 with 9 minutes 23 seconds remaining, but the result was disastrous. Wentz tried throwing the ball at Sproles’ feet when a screen play broke down, but the pass hit Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston in the helmet and ricocheted into the arms of defensive lineman Chris Jones.
“Obviously, anytime a ball gets tipped around, it’s bad luck,” Wentz said. “But obviously I’d rather not throw it into a D-lineman’s helmet.”
It was the Eagles’ second turnover of the day in their own territory and proved to be even more costly. The defense disrupted Kansas City throughout most of the game and almost bailed the offense out on a third and 4 from the 25-yard line. Defensive end Vinny Curry had Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith in his grasp for a sack, but Smith broke loose and scrambled for a 5-yard gain. A sack would have made it a difficult field goal attempt. Instead, the new set of downs allowed the Chiefs to score a touchdown.
“I had him. He just broke loose,” Curry said. “If we play again, he won’t break loose.”
The Eagles couldn’t come back. Wentz and the offense did little to threaten Kansas City, and the Chiefs had finally worn down the defense. They added a late touchdown to take a 27-13 lead, which the Eagles answered with their own touchdown with eight seconds remaining. They recovered an onside kick to set up one last chance from 39 yards away, but the pass fell incomplete. Reid won his ninth of 12 meetings against his former assistants and is now 2-0 against the Eagles since leaving Philadelphia.
“My hat goes off to Doug and the great job that he’s doing,” Reid said. “He’s got a great football team. That quarterback is something, his offensive line’s good, defensive line’s good, and he’s got good coaches.”
Before Wentz’s interception, the Eagles appeared Kansas City’s equal. Both Reid and Pederson script their early plays, and both teams connected on field goals on their opening drives. The difference in the first half was that Sproles fumbled on a punt return to put Kansas City in position for a field goal, and new Eagles kicker Jake Elliott missed a 30-yard attempt after Reid iced him.
Jeffery scored his first touchdown in an Eagles uniform to give the Eagles a lead in the third quarter, capping a seven-play scoring drive on which Wentz was 5 for 5. Jeffery took little solace in his improved performance Sunday, noting the final result.
The Eagles’ 10-6 lead lasted five plays. That’s how long it took before running back Kareem Hunt burst through the line for a 53- yard touchdown. Safety Corey Graham, who entered the game for Rodney McLeod, whiffed on a tackle as the last line of defense.
After the Eagles tied the game with Elliott’s 40-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, the defense forced a three-and-out. It was a chance for Wentz to lead the Eagles on a go-ahead drive. Instead, he threw the interception. That’s when the Eagles lost control of the game, and why a scenario they would have gladly accepted upon arriving at the stadium was one they bemoaned on the flight home.
“We felt like we had control of the game for three and a half quarters,” Jenkins said. “But you let a team, especially in that atmosphere, linger around in games, it’s tough to come out on top.”