AFTER THREE possessions Sunday, the stat sheet for the Kansas City Chiefs read as follows:
Fourteen plays, 0 yards gained, one 10-yard penalty, one 5-yard penalty.
The Chiefs needed a spark. Something, anything to move them away from their own end zone and open up all the pages of their playbook. Something that would allow new head coach Todd Haley to take a shot, to pick from his own set of trick plays.
Across the field stood Andy
Reid and that big menu of his. Everything on it seemed to be working: the Wildcat formation, passes to the wide receiver, passes to the tight end, runs. The Eagles drove to two touchdowns the first three times they had the ball, and were driving again, moving the ball to Kansas City's 44 early in the second quarter when they faced a fourth-and-1.
From there, Sav Rocca could pooch a punt and bury the Chiefs. The defense could bring heat. Already down two touchdowns, Haley's play selection would be severely limited.
Reid chose to go for it on fourth down. Rather than use
Leonard Weaver and punch into the Chiefs' Tootsie-Pop center, he tried a swing pass to the right side that Mike Vrabel, ghost of Patriots Super Bowls past, snuffed out and blew up.
The Chiefs got the ball on their own 44.
At last, Haley could use all of his playbook.
Which begs the question: What were you thinking there, coach?
"When the momentum reversed," Reid said yesterday, "I was thinking that wasn't very smart."
A flea-flicker play three plays into the drive netted the Chiefs 26 yards and moved the ball to the Eagles' 26, their first foray into Philadelphia territory. Three plays after that, Mark Bradley caught a touchdown pass. Dominated for the entire first quarter, Kansas City moved 56 yards in six plays for a touchdown and pulled to within 14-7.
"As I was going for it, I thought we were going to get it," Reid said. "Sometimes that's the way it goes. I thought we had an opportunity to pick it up. We've got to do a little better job on the edge. Dealing with Vrabel, he's a smart guy and he stretched the play out. Didn't get the edge quite sealed the way I wanted."
When people ask what I think about Reid as a coach, I think of how he thinks in these moments, how it gets him into bigger trouble when the opponent is something more than the Kansas City Chiefs. He has said repeatedly that defense wins championships, and his drafts and free-agent spending indicate that's not just lip service. But he spends a lot of time on his offense, his gadgets, and it can and has affected his decision-making.
Statistically, it's hard to argue his success. But when less quantifiable words like rhythm, flow or momentum are considered . . . well, it may explain something about those postseason fizz-outs. It's funny to hear people ask him whether he fears all these Wildcat formations will affect his offense's rhythm.
I doubt he considers that word when designing a game plan.
The Eagles can and have won by four touchdowns without there being much rhythm to it. They have built their success and reputation via 3-minute scoring drives, a formula that has often taxed good, solid defenses in the process - injured and depleted them, too. They outgained the Chiefs, 420 yards to 196, but had the ball only 1 minute and 10 seconds longer.
That had as much to do with Haley's conservative playcalling and eye on the future as it did
Reid's tendencies. But that one play, when this game was still a game, is the root to why you can lose faith in the guy as quickly as his team can lose its rhythm.
The right play there was a punt, for so many right reasons. At one time, Andy recognizing that after the fact would be refreshing, a lesson learned, a mistake that would not be repeated. But 11 years has taught you this is not so, that if faced with an identical situation on a cold day in January, with the stakes significantly higher, he might opt to pass instead of punt, might not want to put away his toys when he should.
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