Obviously, the Kansas City Chiefs could have played better. Maybe the offense misses the big plays that JuJu Smith-Schuster made to help lift them past the Philadelphia Eagles in last season’s Super Bowl. The referees could have also been better at their jobs.
Who was on their game, however, on Monday night? The Eagles. They were down by 10 at halftime and went on to shut out the Chiefs in the second half while scoring 11 points of their own. The Eagles ended up winning the game 21-17. That defeat was only the third that the Chiefs have suffered at home the last two seasons. The Eagles’ wins may not be pretty, but they have more of them than any team in the league in 2023.
Those who watch the NFL will always find reason to be critical of the Chiefs. The weeks in which Patrick Mahomes does not throw three touchdown passes in a 30-plus point performance will elicit questions about what is wrong with his offense. Watching him for five seasons and change, I am certain that we are spoiled by his greatness.
These new-look Chiefs who have become a defensive juggernaut, will be sent through the meat grinder all day Tuesday for all of the mistakes made by the pass catchers. Mahomes even deserves some blame for an ill-advised red-zone interception in the first half.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Justin Watson, and even Travis Kelce are deserving of blame but what was made plain on Monday Night Football in Week 11, was that the Eagles have a better football team than the Chiefs. Howie Roseman, you very much deserved a celebratory drink after the final whistle.
To be clear, I do not subscribe to that “organizations win championships” ethos that torpedoed the late Jerry Krause’s reputation in Chicago, along with current second-city sports villain Jerry Reinsdorf. Regardless of how the message was intended to come across all those years ago, the fact that my ears get hot when thinking about it around 25 years later is a problem. Negotiations and signatures do not win championships. Only great players can accomplish that.
While the players are the most important part of the equation, employees in the front office of professional sports franchises receive paychecks for a reason. They have a role within the organization that they are expected to perform well.
In any business, too many wrong hires will produce bad results. Personnel errors are far easier to make when evaluating football players than a pool of junior accountants.
The Eagles front office seems to hit on a rate higher than maybe even Jalen Hurts’ completion percentage. Roseman and his staff being excellent at their jobs allows the players to do the heavy lifting of playing NFL football with the confidence that the man beside him is a competent professional.
During the offseason, the Eagles lost Javon Hargrave, T.J. Edwards, Marcus Epps, and Kyzir White in free agency. Every one of those defensive players received a multi-year, seven-figure contract. They also lost their top running back from the previous four seasons, Miles Sanders.
D’Andre Swift is a much more talented running back than Sanders. The Eagles inked him to a four-year deal worth less than half of the guaranteed money that Sanders received from the Carolina Panthers. To be fair, if the Eagles are the gold standard in roster construction then the Panthers are a last-place finisher in the preliminary heat. Still, with Week 11 completed, both running backs have played in nine games, and Swift has more than doubled Sanders’ total rushing yardage and also caught nine more passes.
Losing a ton of defensive talent, along with injuries, has resulted in a vulnerable Eagles’ defensive backfield. Even with secondary problems, they have only lost one game because their front seven is still a monster. No Hargrave, no Edwards, no problem. Going into Week 11 the Eagles had totaled the third-most pressures in the entire league. Their top pass rusher, Josh Sweat, made his presence felt against the Chiefs when he forced Mahomes into that intentional grounding penalty on that final drive.
On the interior of their defensive line, the Eagles replaced Hargrave with 2023 top-15 draft pick Jalen Carter, and 2022 top-15 draft pick Jordan Davis — both Georgia Bulldogs. At the trade deadline, the Eagles knew that they needed help in the secondary, so they traded Terrell Edmunds, and two late draft picks to the Tennessee Titans for two-time first-team All-Pro safety Kevin Byard. He spent most of Monday night in Travis Kelce’s chest.
The Chiefs made a lot of mistakes against the Eagles but their largest one took place long before kickoff. On offense, they have not properly surrounded arguably the best player in NFL history with enough support on that side of the ball.
A.J. Brown is one of the best wide receivers in the league, and most certainly the Eagles’ top pass-catching option, but he was held to one reception in Week 11. Even with the drops and the fumble Kelce outperformed him, but when the Eagles needed a big play late in the fourth quarter, they had DeVonta Smith to turn to as opposed to Valdes-Scantling.
This loss to the Eagles is an indictment on the Chiefs’ roster building, but is also no reason to count out the defending champs’ chances at a repeat. Goodness, they lost to the Indianapolis Colts last season and still won a Super Bowl. After defeating Kansas City, later that season the Colts went on to hire a coach with no collegiate or professional experience straight off of the ESPN Get Up set.
With Mahomes and a decent team surrounding him, the Chiefs will always be championship contenders. In defeat, they still played like a championship contender even while making many mistakes. What the Eagles did make clear is that they have done a better job at assembling talent on both sides of the ball, while also having an expensive starting quarterback.
If these two teams should meet again in the Super Bowl, it will be a rubber match magnificence of Patrick Mahomes alongside his very good team, against the Philadelphia Eagles who are great on both sides of the ball.