Here we have two teams about to clash that could not be coming off much different starts to their respective campaigns. The Kansas City Chiefs own a 2-0 record, thanks to a smothering defense which has allowed nine points per game—second-lowest total in the NFL. The Philadelphia Eagles are 1-1, but are second in total offense at 477.0 yards per game.
Unstoppable Force, meet Immovable Object.
Two games can be very deceptive, though. For instance, Kansas City’s opponents rank 24 and 32 (last) overall in total offense and considering one of those two teams was the Jacksonville Jaguars, the numbers are, undoubtedly, skewed a bit.
All of which serve as proof that you can’t always go by the numbers. The Chiefs defense is improved, but probably not to a point where they are a top-five or, perhaps, even a top-10 unit. The Eagles have the attention of defensive coordinators everywhere, but, then again, Philly has yet to face a D this season that features so many playmakers as KC.
Add in the not-so-minor detail that both squads will be on a mere three days’ rest, and there’s no telling what could happen. Here’s how the Eagles should prepare, though.
Eagles Defense vs. Chiefs Offense
Force Alex Smith to Go Over the Top
According to Football Outsiders Almanac 2013, only one quarterback (Ryan Fizpatrick) threw “deep” (16-25 yards) less frequently (7 percent) than Alex Smith last season (2012)*. Only one (Christian Ponder) threw “short” (five yards or less) as frequently (53 percent)*.
That doesn’t mean Smith is a bad quarterback. That just means the game plan should force the passing attack to go long.
Philip Rivers picked the Birds secondary clean in Week 2, and while a lot of the blame for that rests on the lack of any measurable pass rush, there weren’t many chances taken in the secondary either. Rivers rarely thought to go deep—historically, Smith is even less aggressive.
I’m not talking about surrendering Hail Marys on every play, but defensive coordinator Bill Davis should not be afraid to put his defensive backs in one-on-one situations down the field. If Smith proves he’s capable of exploiting the Philly defense for gains of 20 and 40 yards, by all means rein it in—but as long as I was head coach, I would need to see it first before I respected it.
Load Up the Box
The one person the Eagles defense cannot allow to beat them is Jamaal Charles. Unfortunately, the one person most likely to break off a run of 40 or more yards in the Chiefs offense is Charles.
In 2012, Charles was tied with running backs Doug Martin and C.J. Spiller for most carries of 40-plus yards behind only Adrian Peterson. During the 2013 preseason, the Eagles allowed the most gains of 40 or more on the ground with three—we explored the problem earlier this month.
So far, Philly has yet to concede a 40-yard run in the regular season, but they haven’t seen a home-run hitter quite like Charles either. Since Alex Smith isn’t much of a threat to beat your defense over the top, though, might as well stack up against the run and focus on not getting gashed for huge chunks on the ground.
The best thing the Birds defense can do is be aggressive at or near to the point of attack. They may not have been able to get much pressure in San Diego’s backfield in Week 2, but Rivers likes to attack downfield.
Against a passer who’s less inclined to test the deep end of the pool, Bill Davis could try to make it feel like the walls are closing in on Kansas City’s offense around the line of scrimmage.
Eagles Offense vs. Chiefs Defense
Keep On Keepin’ On
Whatever Chip Kelly has been doing with Michael Vick and company, he shouldn’t do any differently. In Week 1, the Eagles ran the ball for 263 yards. In Week 2, they threw for 411. The offense is predicated on taking whatever the defense concedes, and it’s still kind of difficult to tell what, specifically, Kansas City does well.
But in short, the pigskin should probably find its way into the hands of DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy. "DJacc" leads all receivers with 297 yards receiving, while Shady is tops in both rushing (237) and total yards from scrimmage (356).
You don’t have to be an NFL head coach to realize you should probably keep getting those guys the ball.
The Chiefs are easily the most complete defense the Birds will have faced up to this point in the season, but the Eagles offense is better up front than the Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys—KC’s previous opponents. Keep top-10 sack leaders defensive tackle Dontari Poe and outside linebacker Justin Houston out of Vick’s hair and allow those All-Pro playmakers to do the rest.