Winners and Losers of Philadelphia Eagles' Week 2 Performance
Walking into a raucous Arrowhead Stadium, Philadelphia appeared to be in a defensive slugfest throughout an opening half that didn't see a touchdown in either direction before things opened up in the third quarter.
The Eagles led briefly after the game's first touchdown, but the defense softened up down the stretch just as Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and his running game started to click.
There are no moral victories in the NFL, but aspects of every game can be spun in a positive way. The Eagles had plenty of chances to notch a second consecutive road victory, and with that comes plenty of learning experiences.
That said, head coach Doug Pederson has his hands full with a number of units that are struggling mightily through two games. As the Eagles head home with a 1-1 record, let's assess the winners and losers from Week 2.
Loser: The Run Game
Nobody expected the Eagles to be a ground-and-pound team, but they won't be able to have much of any offensive consistency with the run game they currently employ.
The Eagles rushed the ball on 17 occasions Sunday, four of which were scrambles from Carson Wentz, the team's leading rusher with 55 yards. LeGarrette Blount didn't see a single carry and caught one pass for no yards. Darren Sproles had the only real impact out of the backfield, carrying it 10 times for 48 yards.
Pederson explained that playing behind the chains contributed heavily to his team's abandoning of the run, per 247Sports' Jeff Kerr:
"A lot of times, when you're in these games like this, and you struggle to run your core runs, it becomes hard. And then you put yourself in a second and 12, a second and 13, or even a first-down sack and it's hard. Now you're playing—you're going uphill."
As good as Wentz can be at moving the ball with short-yardage throws, it's impossible to win with consistency in the NFL without some semblance of balance on offense.
The Eagles did play a nasty defensive front, but there are plenty of those to reckon with in the NFC, and the offensive line needs to be able to move bodies up front when called upon.
The Eagles were embarrassed in that aspect of the game Sunday, and it's easily the most worrying sign to emerge from the trip to Kansas City.
Winner: Alshon Jeffery
Prior to Sunday, the start of Alshon Jeffery's Eagles career had been disappointing at best. He followed an injury-riddled preseason with a lackluster Week 1 performance in Washington but finally showed signs of being a true dominating No. 1 threat in Kansas City.
Jeffery finished with seven catches for 92 yards and a score, hauling in an impressive 16-yard catch for the game's first touchdown.
Lining up against Chiefs No. 2 corner Terrance Mitchell, Jeffery could hardly be stopped and showed the type of dominance Eagles fans expected when he came to town this offseason.
As strong as the Eagles' passing offense looked in the opener, Jeffery's disappearing act for much of the game had Philly fans worried. But he refused to give himself credit for his strong personal outing, per CSN Philly's Dave Zangaro: "They won the game. None of that s--t matters."
Many diehard Eagles fans would agree with Jeffery's sentiment, but the ones looking for positives from Week 2 will be relieved to see him looking like the star wideout he's expected to be.
Add a mean streak of competitiveness on to that, and perhaps the Eagles have found an authoritative No. 1 receiver after all.
Loser: Isaac Seumalo
The Eagles were high on offensive guard Isaac Seumalo entering the season, so much so that they basically traded Allen Barbre to get him to the lineup at left guard.
Among the many young Eagles needing to step up and become a strong every-game presence, Seumalo is right at the top.
The second-year pro got bullied against the Chiefs. He gave up a whopping three sacks on the day, which is enough for many offensive linemen to earn a permanent spot on the bench moving forward.
Giving up those sacks proved detrimental, but his struggles didn't end there. His inability to get any consistent push up front played a big role in the Eagles' failure to establish a ground presence.
The Eagles have one of the league's best offensive lines on paper, but the biggest X-factor presided in the ability of Seumalo to step in without skipping a beat. An otherwise veteran-laden line has one young buck in the fold, and he's failing to hold up his end of the bargain.
It's a small consolation that Philly retained reserve guard Stefen Wisniewski, who is sure to see a start in the near future if Seumalo's struggles continue.
Winner: The Pass Rush
Consistent pressure on the pocket from the Eagles' pass rush appeared to be the main reason why the Chiefs' offense stalled for a majority of Sunday's game.
Philly got to Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith four times on the day, with a healthy mix of Eagles getting on to the stat sheet. Mychal Kendricks, Fletcher Cox and Chris Long amassed one sack each, while Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Graham combined to bring Smith down a fourth time.
The depth up front is becoming perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the pass rush. A unit that basically got carried by Graham a year ago saw a mass of contributors Sunday, with Vinny Curry and Derek Barnett getting some burn on the first defensive drive and making their presence felt.
It's no secret that the Eagles' weakness on defense is on the perimeter, and that makes a disruptive pass rush even more critical as to negate some of the issues in the secondary.
If the Eagles can get consistent pressure on the pocket for four quarters, they'll give themselves a great chance to win every week.
Loser: Offensive Balance
A huge priority for the Eagles this offseason was giving Wentz more help on offense, with the goal being twofold: give him more weapons to win with and reduce the need for him to carry them.
As for the latter, they failed miserably in Week 2 against the first complete defense they faced.
Wentz attempted 46 passes on the day and had to scramble out of pressure on four more occasions. The team only ran 13 designed run plays. It's not surprising then that the quarterback barely completed 50 percent of his passes.
He did rack up 333 passing yards, but the fact they had to throw the ball almost exclusively is especially worrying considering they weren't exactly playing from behind all game. And it's not like Wentz simply got to drop back and pick apart the Chiefs; they consistently pressured the pocket, sacking him six times.
Many teams across the league would see their season disintegrate if their quarterback went down with an injury, but few are more reliant on their gunslinger than the Eagles are to Wentz.
Protecting him not only with offensive line play but with balanced and responsible play-calling is critical to the Eagles' chances of playing meaningful games in December and potentially January.
The Eagles will struggle to win many more games, and they may struggle to keep their quarterback on the field if the balance issues from Week 2 continue.
Winner: Cornerback Play
The Eagles already had a relatively weak secondary heading into the season, a problem that became even worse when Ronald Darby suffered an ankle injury in Week 1.
Thrusting Jalen Mills into the No. 1 corner spot and making rookie Rasul Douglas a regular contributor was enough to raise the blood pressure of many fans.
All things considered, Philly has to be pretty pleased with the results from their new-look unit.
Only three Chiefs wide receivers caught passes in the game, with Tyreek Hill limited to four catches for 43 yards. Tight end Travis Kelce was the only pass-catcher with a touchdown and more than four grabs, and the onus there falls upon the linebackers.
Mills in particular turned heads with his handling of Hill. The second-year cornerback's biggest weakness is defending speedy receivers, and Hill might be the fastest wideout in the league. Time and time again, Mills locked down the pass-catcher and kept him from impacting the game.
Douglas was a healthy inactive in Week 1 before being thrust into the spotlight Sunday, and he performed pretty well. The Eagles may not have wanted to see Douglas see regular time this early in the season, but they have to be impressed with how he fared.
Loser: Injury Report
It's a good thing for Philly that its young corners showed some promise in Week 2, because they might be relied upon even more after another woeful week of secondary injuries.
One week removed from Darby's ankle injury, fellow cornerback Jaylen Watkins left Sunday's game with a hamstring injury and didn't return. Joining him was starting safety Rodney McLeod, who also left with a hamstring problem.
Jimmy Kempski of Philly Voice gave an update on McLeod:
"According to a source, the initial diagnosis is a grade 1 hamstring strain. Grade 1 is lowest of the grades, or the least severe. McLeod may or may not play this Sunday at home against the New York Giants, but the initial prognosis is that it is not a long-term, serious injury, assuming proper rest and treatment."
The Eagles need McLeod back as quickly as possible. Corey Graham came in to replace the veteran, and he didn't fare well, getting blown by on a 53-yard touchdown from Kareem Hunt. Graham started all 16 games for the Bills in the last two seasons, but he struggled against the Chiefs.
Watkins was a depth corner to start the season, but he started at the No. 2 corner spot Sunday before leaving the game. Philadelphia will have almost no depth left in its secondary if Watkins has to miss any time, making Douglas a likely starter in Week 3.
The Eagles didn't catch many breaks Sunday. The injury bug came to bite them again, Wentz threw a tipped-ball interception for one of the team's two turnovers, and they went two-for-five in the red zone.
Again, there are no moral victories. But the Eagles, who could have easily been overwhelmed and run out of Arrowhead Stadium against a serious Super Bowl contender, stood up to the challenge.
Despite being easily outmatched in facets of their offense, Wentz chipped away at the Chiefs defense, finding ways to get the ball down the field amid unrelenting pressure and throwing for over 300 yards.
When the game appeared out of reach, Wentz led them on a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to pull them within one score. They even recovered an onside kick with five seconds left, giving them a chance at a last-second heave.
The Eagles obviously got outplayed and outschemed by a team with better players and a better coaching staff. But they're still rebuilding this team into a contender, and resilient performances like the one on Sunday can set a tone moving forward.