Defense, Turnovers the Difference for Andy Reid's Chiefs

Christopher HansenNFL AnalystSeptember 18, 2013

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 08:  Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid looks on during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on September 8, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs visit Philadelphia on Thursday night to play head coach Andy Reid's former team. Although new Eagles head coach Chip Kelly spent the offseason re-shaping the roster in Philadelphia, the key players for the team are still largely the same as they were last year when Reid was patrolling the sidelines.

While the Eagles were flying high after a Week 1 win over the Washington Redskins, they were zapped by the San Diego Chargers in Week 2. The Eagles' offense may be able to prey on sickly defenses, but their own defense needs a couple more years in Kelly's nest before they are successful.

Reid's failure as head coach in Philadelphia had a lot to do with his inability to repair that defense. By contrast, Reid inherited a talented defense in Kansas City this year, and he left the task of finding more talent to general manager John Dorsey. 

In many ways, the two teams are similar from an offensive standpoint, as both teams have flawed but serviceable quarterbacks who are capable of winning games.

Philadelphia's Michael Vick is inconsistent, but he is brilliant when he's playing well. Kansas City's Alex Smith is very consistent but rarely brilliant. The quarterbacks have different styles, but the end results are pretty similar.  

Both teams also have great running backs. The Eagles' LeSean McCoy and the Chief's Jamaal Charles are both top-five running backs who are capable of carrying an offense. McCoy has carried his offense through two weeks against two struggling defenses. Charles is still getting his touches, but he hasn't yet had one of his signature 200-total-yard performances, even though the Chiefs are 2-0.

At the moment, both teams also have a No. 1 wide receiver with weaker No. 2 and No. 3 options in the passing game. Just like at quarterback, there is a difference in style here, but the results are nearly the same.

Dwayne Bowe is more of a weapon in the red zone and is a consistent possession receiver for the Chiefs. However, Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson is a deep threat that is more dangerous after the catch. 

Even the offensive lines are pretty similar. Both teams have a good veteran a left tackle (Jason Peters for the Eagles and Brandon Albert for the Chiefs) plus rookie 2013 first-round picks Eric Fisher (Chiefs) and Lane Johnson (Eagles) at right tackle. The Eagles do have a big edge inside, though, with Evan Mathis at left guard. 

The biggest difference between Reid’s 2013 Chiefs and his 2012 Eagles is turnovers. Reid’s offense turned the ball over 37 times last year, which was tied for the league-lead with—you guessed it—the Chiefs, as well as the New York Jets. Reid’s offense last year lost an astonishing 22 fumbles and threw 15 interceptions.

So far in 2013, however, Reid’s offense has yet to commit a turnover. That’s an amazing turnaround for a team that had 17 fumbles lost and 20 interceptions last year. To be fair, Matt Cassel was responsible for 19 of the Chief's 37 turnovers in 2012, and Brady Quinn had another eight. That means the quarterback position was responsible for 73 percent of the turnovers for the Chiefs last year.

The Eagles weren’t far off that number, with the quarterback position accounting for 62 percent of the team’s turnovers from last season. Vick had 15 turnovers, and Nick Foles added eight more. For both teams, it seemed like turnovers were a disease.

Defensively, the 2012 Eagles and Chiefs were also the worst at forcing turnovers, with each team having just 13 all seasons. Leading the league in turnovers and failing to force many of your own is a recipe for a losing season.

The similarities end there, though, because defense is the primary difference between Reid's old team and his new team. Two games isn't much of a sample size, but the early returns suggest that the Chiefs defense is good and that the Eagles defense is bad, which should come as a shock to very few. 

The Eagles have allowed 60 points in two games, and the Chiefs have allowed only 18. The Chiefs did play the Jaguars in Week 1, however, so that is certainly going to skew some of the defensive statistics.

Regardless, it's still hard to ignore the fact that the Chiefs have allowed a league-low 3.8 yards per play and are tied for the league lead in sacks with nine. The Chiefs also have the second-best rush defense in the league in terms of yards per game allowed, and they have yet to allow a rushing touchdown. 

The Chiefs have a lot of good players on defense, which is in sharp contrast to the Eagles. Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Brandon Flowers, Tamba Hali and Eric Berry are all good players, and nose tackle Dontari Poe is a rising talent. The core talent wasn't brought in by Reid or Dorsey, but they did supplement the leftover talent with players like cornerback Sean Smith and defensive end Mike Devito this offseason.

Kelly jettisoned most of the defensive players that played for Reid this offseason and switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense. The Eagles signed several veteran journeyman players to play key roles, and the results have been much the same as they were for Reid. Starters Cary Williams, Patrick Chung, Isaac Sopoaga, Connor Barwin and Bradley Fletcher were all brought in via free agency this summer.

While both defenses are forcing more turnovers so far in 2013, the Chiefs have been far superior at limiting yardage and putting pressure on the quarterback. The Chiefs have vastly superior defensive talent to the Eagles, and they have been set free because Reid’s new offense with Smith at quarterback has been able to avoid putting them in a bad situation.

When Reid brings his new team to Philadelphia, he’ll have a distinct advantage. The defense Reid didn’t put together will be clearly superior to the one that he left in shambles last year. While Reid’s team could only muster a handful of wins last year because of their defense and turnovers, the Chiefs are well on their way to a winning record because of their stout defense and good ball security.