The most anticipated matchup of the NFL's Week 11 slate will happen when the 7-2 Kansas City Chiefs host the 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles on "Monday Night Football." The primetime showcase combines a pairing of the league's two best records with a rematch of last year's Super Bowl. The Chiefs defeated the Eagles 38-35 in Super Bowl LVII.
Appearing on this week's episode of "The Adam Schefter Podcast," Chiefs cornerback Trent McDuffie explained that while the focus must be on this season and not what happened in February, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has had a challenge for the squad as they return from Week 10's bye.
“You definitely have to look at it as a new experience because they’re a different team [and] we’re a different team. One of the big things that coach Spags said this morning was he hinted back to the last Super Bowl and he was like, ‘I don’t know about you guys, but they put up 35 points against us.’ I know this year’s defense, we’re like ‘None of that.’ We’re not trying to give up points. So there’s definitely that stigma. Even though we won, that wasn’t our best defense. We definitely have something to prove.”
Against Philadelphia, the Chiefs' defense likely turned in their worst performance of the 2023 calendar year. Since the start of this season, the unit has been among the league's best at holding down opportunities. In spite of the Chiefs' reputation for a high-scoring offense with quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce, the club's defense is the biggest reason Kansas City currently sits atop the AFC.
McDuffie knew from when he and his teammates returned to the facility for the offseason's organized team activities (OTAs) that this year would be different.
“We’ve been trying to change the narrative. Yes we have Pat. Yes we have Travis. Yes we have [Chiefs’ head coach] Andy Reid. But this defense — I said it in OTAs [and] I said it in training camp — I said, ‘This defense is just different this year.’ Whatever we did over this past offseason to come together when guys went away and came back, I think it’s a mentality thing that is the biggest difference.”
The second-year pro finds motivation and accountability in his teammates' high level of play.
“It’s almost like it’s selfish in a sense where everybody wants to be so great at what they do that the standard is for four quarters, we’re going to be the most relentless. Those guys say, ‘Yeah, you might have coverage breaks. Yeah, you might get a long wall, but you better strap it up the next play. You might get one play on us, but we’re here for four quarters.’ That’s something that I haven’t played with.
“I haven’t played on many defenses where I can truly look around and be like, ‘He’s bringing it.’ I better be on my game because these all ten of them are on their game. It just makes you play harder. It makes you want to study harder. You really want to be on your game, because everybody else around you is.”
As he returned to the team after watching his alma mater, the University of Washington Huskies, play over the weekend, he sees no issue getting back into things to extend the Chiefs' strong recent record of victory following a week off.
“Last night, I came home off the plan a little groggy. I was like ‘Oh man, I’ve got to get up and got to get to practice.’ Earlier this morning, we started watching some of the tape and I got kind those little butterflies and I was like, ‘I’m back. Now we are back into things.’ When you start getting that excitement, it’s always a good thing.
“The butterflies are because I get to go play football again. That’s as honest as I can be. I got to go out there today and actually put the pads on and move around a little bit. I’m one of those guys that I need to move around all the time. During the bye week, I’ll just be saying, ‘Dude, I’m bored. What am I going to do?’ It’s so great not having to practice, but I don’t have to get up in the morning. So when you get back into that routine, you’re like, ‘OK, I feel kind of good again.’”
What will also feel good again will be the Chiefs' hosting one of the season's biggest games at Arrowhead Stadium.
“I already know it’s going to be rocking. I would say Germany was a good crowd — and I’m a soccer fan. You talk about a Super Bowl rematch, you talk about Monday night — a game where the fans get to tailgate for 24 hours. They get the whole weekend plus another day. I’m sure that place is going to be electric — which makes the defense even more excited.”