On a rainy night under Monday’s primetime lights, the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles squared off in what looked like might be another great game. While nothing came easy for either offense, the Chiefs had a good first half; they headed into the locker room with a 10-point lead. But after that, it was downhill for Kansas City. A trifecta of mistakes (drops, penalties and turnovers) in key moments (in the red zone and in the final drive) resulted in yet another second-half shutout for the Chiefs — and a 21-17 loss to the NFC’s best team.
It isn’t all doom and gloom, though. There were great signs of life from the defense, on special teams and in the running game. But there is also plenty of blame to go around as the Chiefs fell to 7-3.
Here are a few who stood out.
Defensive lineman Chris Jones: We’ve seen him take over a game before, but Monday had a chance to be one of his best performances. Two impressive sacks ruined one drive — and he had four tackles-for-loss. If not for another Kansas City defender, he might have been the best player on the field.
Cornerback Trent McDuffie: What a performance from a young cornerback who can literally do it all! Used extensively as a blitzer, McDuffie had two sacks and a key batted pass. He was already one of the league’s best-tackling corners — and great in coverage. If he’s also one of the NFL’s best pass-rushing corners, what’s next for McDuffie?
Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed: The broadcast booth wanted to focus on how often the fourth-year cornerback gets penalized. While it is technically true, that angle ignores how great Sneed has been this season. Facing one of the league’s best receivers, Sneed was (once again) dominant in coverage, holding Eagles’ star A.J. Brown to one catch on eight yards from his four targets. With Brown, that just doesn’t happen. Sneed broke up two passes and had three solid tackles to round out a great evening for Kansas City’s top corners.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo: The Chiefs’ defense has been great all season, but Monday night might have been Spagnuolo’s master class. Seven of the Eagles’ 10 drives ended in a punt or interception. They were 3-of-11 on third down, gained just 238 total yards and allowed five sacks. Aside from quarterback Jalen Hurts, no player had 100 yards from scrimmage — and even he had only 179. Kansas City’s pressures were consistent and creative. The secondary played lights-out — and the linebackers were very good. Once again, it was a full team effort — and much of the credit has to go to the defensive coaching staff.
Wide receiver Rashee Rice: After a game like this one, it may be a surprise to see a receiver on this list — but it is once again clear which wide receiver gives the Chiefs the best chance to make plays. Rice caught four of five targets for 42 yards — and showed some impressive run-after-the-catch moments. Get him the ball early, often and late.
Punt returner Kadarius Toney: The elusive young wideout once again had a couple of catches — along with a couple of runs for 14 yards — as his long, slow season continued. If we’re assuming he’s being saved for the postseason run, at least we got to see some glimpses of his ability as a punt returner. Toney was electric (and nearly impossible to tackle) on his six punt returns. One 21-yard runback near the end of the first half put the Chiefs in position for what was (unfortunately) their final touchdown. Toney was banged up during the game, so we’ll see whether his usage changes — but he sure looks like a guy who can help.
Running back Isiah Pacheco: Speaking of electric guys who can help, the second-year running back was fantastic against a difficult opponent, collecting 91 total yards against the league’s No. 1 rushing defense. As usual, he ran with his trademark energy, busting through tackles and gesturing “feed me” to the sidelines. Pacheco is the spark plug that makes Kansas City’s offense go.
Wide receiver Justin Watson: It started well enough: he caught the game’s first score. Later, Mahomes tried to hit Watson in the end zone again — but that time, the pass was far enough behind the receiver that it was intercepted. Watson would haul in just five of his team-high 11 targets. A third-and-4 pass in the fourth quarter that would have given the Chiefs a first down at the Eagles 35-yard line went through his hands. Then on the team’s final (potentially) game-winning drive — on a beautiful Mahomes throw that would have converted a 4th-and-25 — the ball (and the game) slipped through his fingers.
Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling: We’re going to remember the deep shot that Mahomes threw two plays before that, too. On a second-and-10 from his own 49, Mahomes dropped a dime to Valdes-Scantling inside the Eagles’ 5-yard line. The wideout stretched out for it, but was unable to bring it in. Valdes-Scantling was 0-3 on the evening. That just about says it all.
General manager Brett Veach: The GM been brilliant in building the defense over the past season and a half, but the 2023 season may be remembered as the one where the receivers failed. Unable (or unwilling) to add make big investments at the position, Kansas City tried a shotgun approach that appears to have backfired. With Rashee Rice as the lone exception, the wideouts are failing to show development. Skyy Moore and Valdes-Scantling aren’t contributing. Veach traded to bring Mecole Hardman back, but that hasn’t led to any real production. Richie James hasn’t added anything, either. Justyn Ross’ chance seems to have disappeared following his arrest; he remains on the Commissioner’s Exempt list. The hopes for the entire position group are fading. It could be that this flaw in the roster will waste the season for an elite defense and quarterback.
Head Coach Andy Reid: If the lack of production from the wideouts group is a failure of roster construction, the other problems holding the offense team back may be from coaching. The Chiefs are consistently having penalties called against them — especially across the offensive line — that have been just as bad as the drops in killing drives. On Monday night, Kansas City once again lost the turnover battle — and, on one occasion, chose to punt from Philadelphia’s 39-yard line. When the offense is struggling, you can only waste so many drives and expect to win a game.