The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 42-30 on Sunday afternoon, pushing their season record to 2-2.
Here are five things we learned from the victory.
1. The defense can do its main job
The Eagles had clearly learned much from watching how the Los Angeles Chargers had defeated the Chiefs in Week 3. Rather than depending on Jalen Hurts' legs to gain yards on the ground — which nearly everyone had expected — the Eagles chose to come out of the gate with a short passing game, which they used to chew up the Kansas City defense during their first-half drives. In addition, they were aggressive on fourth down, extending their second drive — which ended in a touchdown — with a fourth-and-2 conversion.
Essentially, the Eagles looked like they had the Kansas City defense tied to a string, gaining yards at will during their first four drives — and made Hurts look like Tom Brady.
But in three of the Eagles' first four drives, the Chiefs' defense did something that they had trouble doing during the first three games of the season: they managed to prevent the opposing offense from scoring a touchdown.
Sometimes it was ugly — like when L'Jarius Sneed had a strip-sack of Hurts to end the final Philadelphia drive of the half, and Chris Jones failed to simply fall on the loose ball. Or like when the Eagles got the ball at midfield to start their first drive of the second half and the defense again held the Eagles out of the end zone. But after Kansas City went offsides on Philadelphia's field goal attempt, the Eagles were able to score a touchdown — one that was called back for offensive pass interference — and the Eagles ended up kicking a field goal anyway.
So the Kansas City defense wasn't much fun to watch. In fact, in some moments, it was horrible to watch. But it accomplished its primary goal: holding the opponent to fewer points than the Chiefs scored. In Week 4, that was enough. Whether it will be enough in the weeks to follow is yet another question.
2. Clyde Edwards-Helaire can do his job
For the second consecutive week, the Chiefs' second-year running back looked like he might end up being worth the first-round draft pick Kansas City used to acquire him. He had 14 carries for 102 yards — plus another 12 on two receptions — and frequently had significant gains through large holes provided by the offensive line. But even when they weren't there, Edwards-Helaire did what he could, fighting for additional yardage. He averaged 7.3 rushing yards per attempt, bringing his season average to a respectable 5.0.
Running in the second position, Darrel Williams was also effective, picking up 4.2 yards per carry on 10 attempts for 42 yards — and a pair of receptions for 16 yards.
The Chiefs' 1-2 punch combined for 24 carries for 144 yards and a touchdown, averaging 6.0 yards per carry.
But more importantly, it allowed the Chiefs to continue doing what they did on offense during the Chargers game: remain patient and take what the opposing defense gave them. And while holding the lead in the fourth quarter, having an effective running game gave them a luxury they have rarely had since Kareem Hunt was released from the team: the ability to run a drive that took a big chunk of time off the clock — and ended with a touchdown.
3. Charvarius Ward might be better at his job than some think
After the loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2, I used part of this space to point out that the Chiefs' defense can afford to give up a lot of rushing yards — simply because running the ball isn't an effective way to outscore the Kansas City offense.
A week later, against the Chargers, Kansas City was effective in stopping the run — but not effective in stopping the pass. That played a significant part in the team's Week 3 loss.
We saw the same weakness on Sunday afternoon. It's one thing to give up a lot of passing yards to Chargers quarterback Justin Hebert — but giving up 387 passing yards (and a passer rating of 105.1) to Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts is another thing altogether.
As I noted before, the Chiefs' passing defense tends to do pretty well. But in the last two games, it hasn't. Am I crazy to think that cornerback Charvarius Ward missing these two games could be part of the reason?
I'm aware that there are many observers who don't want to give Ward much credit. I've always assumed it was because he entered the league as an undrafted free agent; it's too easy to assume that he doesn't bring much raw talent to the table.
But he has proven to be competent — if not spectacular — cornerback. Is it unreasonable to think that his absence in these games might have been part of why the Chiefs had so much trouble defending against the pass?
I think it's a fair question. With any luck, he'll be back for Week 5 against the Buffalo Bills. Perhaps we'll learn he's a better cornerback than we have realized.
4. On this job, Kansas City shouldn't put the shovel down
If you had told me on Saturday that the Chiefs would try their goal line shovel pass twice during Sunday's game, I would have said that one of them wouldn't work.
The first went to Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the opening quarter. Before the half ended, the Chiefs tried it again — this time to tight end Jody Fortson. Kansas City scored touchdowns on both plays — and neither of them went to their usual target: tight end Travis Kelce.
Kelce, however, played a significant role in Fortson's touchdown. Before the snap, he turned to Mahomes, waving his arms as if his teammates were in the wrong formation for a pass coming to him. Right up until the ball was snapped, it appeared that the play — whatever it was supposed to be — was likely going to be a disaster.
Kelce had fooled everybody. At the snap, he immediately turned and ran to the left. Eagles defenders — who had worked hard to keep Kelce out of the game — followed, leaving Fortson little resistance to catch the pass and score.
5. Josh Gordon is likely to start his new job very soon
Whether you like it or not, the Chiefs will likely have their new wide receiver Josh Gordon on the field when they play the Buffalo Bills in Week 5.
Gordon was on the field before Sunday's game, warming up as if he would play. Never mind that he is still on the practice squad — and hadn't been elevated for the contest. He was still going out there to run some routes with his new teammates.
It was enough to attract the attention of national NFL reporters, who took turns giving additional information about Gordon's readiness to play.
Talking to #Chiefs folks here at the Linc and they’re backing up what @RapSheet says here. Josh Gordon arrived in incredible shape for a guy who hasn’t played in almost two years. He’s at 7 percent body fat at 230 pounds. Freakish. https://t.co/BWRKcgv1cm— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) October 3, 2021
While attending Gladstone's Gladfest on Saturday night, I had conversations with several Chiefs fans who are upset that the team has signed Gordon — rather than a player who could help the defense. I'm certain that this will make them — and others — even more unhappy.
But it's sure looking more and more likely that we're going to see Gordon on the field — sooner rather than later.