Pardon me, Chiefs fans, as I forgot to introduce myself last week - my name is Ryan Scott Hall. I'm sure you're all familiar with one of my best friends HisDirknesS, the brains behind Best and Worst and my co-host on Amateur Hour. In addition to doing the post-game show every week, I'm going to write you a preview of sorts that I like to call "Start Me Up".
Now would be a perfect time to crank up The Stones and get your mind in football mode.
Let's begin with a few choice words on the Cowboys game: the guts shown by the Chiefs on Sunday were something remarkable to behold. Beating a team of Dallas' caliber so methodically (on both sides of the ball) was nothing short of spectacular. The gameplan was executed with precision and patience, paying off late in the game. Was it perfect? Not at all... but it was certainly effective.
Here we are three days later, traveling to Philadelphia to play the team Andy Reid was coaching no more than 10 months ago. Think this Eagles crowd is gonna be hyped up? In addition to Big Red's homecoming on national TV, they're retiring Donovan McNabb's jersey tonight.
I believe the word I'm looking for is "hostile" when describing the atmosphere.
After just two games, Chip Kelly has burst onto the NFL scene with high-octane offensive principles. The Eagles have 63 points already and it looks like (barring injury) they won't be slowing down anytime soon.
In preparation for hiring a new staff last season, I spent a lot of time researching the former Oregon head coach... what I learned was downright astounding. Kelly is a marvelous and innovative play-caller that makes the term "unorthodox" seem like the understatement of the millennium.
If you really like to geek out, here are some tremendous articles I came across that will explain Kelly's offensive philosophy both while at Oregon and so far in Philadelphia. I highly recommend you read the Eagles one at the very least, if for no other reason than gaining a little perspective:
The basis of Chip Kelly's offense is an effort to exploit every decision your defenders make. Each play has as many as four options (two run choices, a bubble screen and multiple traditional pass routes). Something many people seem to lose sight of - this means that almost every single play is, at its core, play action.
The speed at which they play is, well, unlike anything you've seen before. It's staggering, really. One of the articles I mentioned goes into great detail on how Kelly believes in simple math: the more plays you run, the more chances you have to score. The Eagles attack is relentless; it keeps you off-balance and tires your defenders in a flash -- and tired players make mistakes.
You know the skill guys very well - Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek have been staples for years. They were electric playmakers long before Kelly arrived. If speed kills, these guys are the Roman Empire. The Eagles' offensive line has a couple bona fide studs in Jason Peters (LT) and Todd Herremans (RG), a couple solid veterans in Evan Mathis (LG) and Travis Kelce's older brother Jason (C), along with this year's fourth overall pick Lane Johnson at RT.
The only real weakness the Eagles have on offense is depth at flanker but that seems to be more of an issue league-wide rather than a special case in Philadelphia.
Let's curb the high praise for Philly's offense and ease our minds a bit, shall we?
Remember that time I told you the Eagles have scored 63 points in two games? Well, their defense has allowed 60. It's bad enough that one might consider describing the Eagles defense as the antithesis of their offense. I'm not sure I can find a single compliment for the way they've played thus far.
In a losing effort at home against San Diego, the Eagles' defense allowed the Chargers to go 10-15 on third down. Maybe I should use all the caps: 10-OF-15 ON THIRD DOWN.
While the Chargers have started the season much better than anyone expected, there's no way to explain how they racked-up 539 yards of offense (the most surrendered by an Eagles team since 1962) and had the ball for 40 minutes of the game. Shall I caps you again?
Perhaps most odd about how Bill Davis' defense has started the season is that he is anything but bereft of talent on that side of the ball. Transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 can be tough but the Eagles have pretty impressive personnel for being in their first season of schematic change.
Signed this offseason to play nose tackle, Isaac Sopoaga was a starter at DE and/or NT in San Francisco for years. Defensive end Fletcher Cox was selected right after Dontari Poe in 2012 and was the guy atop many Chiefs fans' draft boards. Their linebackers are Trent Cole, DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks and Connor Barwin - all four of which can start on a lot of teams in this league. They also have former first round pick Brandon Graham and last year's second round pick Vinny Curry as additional pass rushers. The secondary is a bit of a mess, but Cary Williams, Nate Allen and Patrick Chung have each had very productive seasons in the NFL as recently as 2012.
How to attack the Eagles defense: Play your game
It's that simple, ladies and gents. Alex Smith has shown that he refuses to put the team in bad spots. Turnovers are crucial and our new signal caller knows to avoid them at all costs. Teams have won by a touchdown or less in 22 of 32 games this year, proving that each possession is stunningly valuable.
Philadelphia has been very public about subtle changes in defensive philosophy this week, specifically saying they plan to execute a lot more zone coverage and a lot fewer blitz packages against Kansas City to try and ensure short passes don't turn into long gains.
Fortunately for the Chiefs, a number of the Eagles' defenders tend to struggle in space. I would look for a lot of screens and draws to get the defense out of position and allow Jamaal Charles to get going early. The play action pass is something we haven't seen much of yet this year, which might change tonight. If Philly shows a lot of zone looks early, Andy Reid should get the ground game going and suck defenders toward the line of scrimmage. Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles have shown some excellent run fakes in limited opportunities, so this could just be the week that we attack someone downfield a time or two.
Also expect to see Dwayne Bowe's targets increase this week as he'll likely draw Cary Williams, an aggressive defender that was flagged for pass interference three times against the Chargers.
How to defend the Eagles offense: Stay disciplined
Whether it's with countless options for the QB on each play or bizarre formations that seem impossibly legal, Chip Kelly loves to confuse his opponent. Conversely, Bob Sutton has done an outstanding job of confusion himself. I don't think this game plan is so much about counter punches as it is about every man playing within himself. Hero ball is not an option. If all 11 guys do exactly what they're asked - literally no more and no less - the Chiefs should be in good shape.
A piece of advice to the defense: remain calm. Philly can move between the 20's with ease. The shorter the field, however, the more limited their options are. When you force Mick Vick to make the right read rather than just going with the first option on a scripted play, opportunities for turnovers increase dramatically. He may have a rocket launcher for a left arm but his accuracy is suspect and so is his decision-making. Bunker down when they get inside the 30 and keep them to three points.
Arguably the most difficult man to defend will be DeSean Jackson. The Chiefs defense is not especially fast in the back half and this kid can run past most NFL defenders. The Chiefs cannot allow Michael Vick time to throw because he will undoubtedly find Jackson down the field for big chunks of yardage and/or long touchdown plays. The Chiefs may need to roll their coverage over the top of Jackson repeatedly to ensure he doesn't get loose.
I talked with my buddy Nick Wright, who does an episode of Amateur Hour with HisDirknesS and I every Tuesday night at 8 p.m. and I asked him about how to defend the Eagles. He responded: "I would probably blitz Vick and hope to knock him out."
Wright has long been a fan of Michael Vick's dynamic ability and was reluctant to say he wanted to see a great playmaker get hurt. The fact of the matter is that Vick puts himself in position to get injured more often than necessary. He takes a lot of big hits - some because he refuses to slide and others because he simply holds the ball too long.
Key advantages for the Chiefs
1. Run defense - I'm fairly certain that Chip Kelly would prefer to run the football on every single play. While the style is a little wacky, you defend it in a very similar fashion. LeSean McCoy is the pulse of their offense - shut him down and Chip Kelly will be forced to dig deep into his playbook to try and find solutions... which brings me to my next point:
2. Coaching - I promise I won't give us the edge in this department every week, but Andy Reid has been a head coach at this level for 15 years. Chip Kelly has already shown some major rookie coaching tendencies, especially with clock management at the end of the San Diego game. Despite the new systems, Reid knows the Eagles inside and out. He knows how to rattle their QB, how to agitate their WR and the weaknesses of their offensive line. Let's also not forget that Chris Ault was brought-in during the offseason to help the Chiefs learn how to run (and defend) the pistol and read-option sets that Chip Kelly loves.
3. Pass rush - Vick is left-handed, so his right tackle (rookie Lane Johnson) protects his blind side. This will be Justin Houston's second crack at a rookie in just three games. His first contest? Three sacks against Luke Joeckel and friends. The Philly interior is the best Dontari Poe will have faced this year but the expectation is that he'll continue to disrupt the middle and make Vick uncomfortable.
Key Advantages for the Eagles
1. Short week / home field - I feel like when playing on such a quick turnaround, the home team is clearly more fortunate. Add in the crowd's fervor over Andy Reid's return and Donovan McNabb's Jersey Retirement Ceremony and this could be the toughest atmosphere the Chiefs will face all season.
2. Speed on offense - This applies to both the actual speed of the players and the speed at which they line-up and attack. My best explanation is to think of the no huddle on amphetamines. It may seem redundant by now, but you will marvel at their speed tonight. Buckle up.
Kansas City's defense has been profoundly disciplined and their offense seems to be just scratching the surface of their potential. Philadelphia, on the other hand, hit the ground running on offense but has struggled mightily on the other side of the ball.
Normally I'm not the most optimistic Chiefs fan you'll find, but I believe they match-up pretty damn well against this Eagles team. The game should be a heart-pounding 60 minutes of fiercely competitive football. For some reason, this just feels like a breakout game. No, I'm not going to predict a blowout... but I don't think the final score will be indicative of how dominant Kansas City plays. Problem is: the game will never feel like its in-hand with how quickly the Eagles are capable of scoring.
Here's to hoping you don't have heart problems because this is gonna be a wild ride...
Chiefs 27 - Eagles 22 - Ryan 13 (increasingly nervous cigarettes smoked during commercial breaks)