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November 20, 2023

First half observations: Chiefs 17, Eagles 7

Observations from the first half of the Eagles-Chiefs Week 11 Monday Night Football matchup.

It hasn't been the night Philadelphians envisioned. The Chiefs lead the Eagles 17-7 on Monday Night Football. Here are my observations from the first half and stay tuned to PhillyVoice for my final observations at the game's end.

Let's get after it...

The Highs

• Remember how the Eagles couldn't get home against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl? That may have been lingering extra hard in Birds fans' minds with the wet conditions at Arrowhead, but Haason Reddick crushed Mahomes on the second play of scrimmage for a sac. Now that is a tone-setting play. Huge. Not so nice this time around, eh, Sodfather? 

• A positive update on the Jalen Hurts mobility front... Hurts has been noticeably a bit slower this season with a lingering knee injury. He looked the best he has in a while with a six-yard gain on a QB draw that was good for a first down. Hurts wisely slid early and avoided contact. 

• After just one carry in Week 1, D'Andre Swift had electric back-to-back starts against the Vikings (175 rushing yards on 6.3 yards per attempt, one touchdown) and Buccaneers (130 rushing yards, 8.1 yards per attempt). His production and efficiency have dropped off since then:

 Opponent YardsYPA
Commanders 56 (TD)4.0 
Rams 704.1 
Jets  18 1.8
 Dolphins 62 4.1 
Commanders  57 (TD)3.6 
Cowboys  43 2.4 

That all changed in Kansas City. Swift was the catalyst for the Eagles' first scoring drive of the game, as the Birds tied things up 7-7 on a four-yard off-tackle run for a TD from Swift. In the first quarter alone, Swift had 37 yards (5.3 YPA) and a rushing touchdown. This isn't an old-man-complaining call to run the ball more when the Eagles employ Hurts, A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, but given the weather being iffy, it's a great time for Swift to find his early season form in conjunction with the offensive line getting healthier with the return of Cam Jurgens at right guard.

• It won't show up in the box score as a "sack," but a shoe-string tackle from Jalen Carter on Patrick Mahomes while the QB was off scrambling on a third down was just as important as one. The Eagles had just tied things up and forced Kansas City into a third and nine from their own 26. A three-and-out after Swift's touchdown was the sign of life this defense needed. 

• Kevin Byard is beating the comparisons to Robert Quinn. Byard picked off his first pass as an Eagle in the second quarter. Sprinting across the end zone, Byard perfectly read Mahomes and jumped in front of what could've been the second Mahomes-to-Watson TD of the game:

From Here. 

The fact that came after an Eagles turnover of their own proved even more massive. 

The Lows

• Kansas City matched the fierce energy of Reddick's opening sack during the Eagles' first drive. On a third and six, Hurts maneuvered around the pocket, tried to take off, couldn't find a target downfield and was sacked for a seven-yard loss. That's deflating after quickly stifling Mahomes.

• Nothing felt more intact when it came to this Eagles roster than the run defense, a unit that's the best in the league. This franchise has been built stacking stars and blue-chip prospects at the interior defensive line who can both stop the run and rush the passer. It's what made seeing Isaiah Paccheco rip off a 24-yard run right before Kadarius Toney picked up 14 yards on the ground so shocking on Kansas City's second drive. 

If Mahomes beats the Eagles? Well, he beats everyone. There's normalcy there. Putting the world's best quarterback into favorable field position after those runs is so back breaking. Seven plays later, Mahomes fired a touchdown pass into the end zone to Justin Watson. Mahomes making magic and doing a little jump throw TD pass is the type of stuff that can't ultimately be accounted for. He's one-of-one. Getting gashed on the ground though? Come on. It happened on Kansas City's second scoring drive, too. 

• Find someone who loves you as much as the Eagles' coaching staff loves Kenny Gainwell.

• Kadarius Toney: Gen Z's Joe Jurevicius. 

• Hurts was sacked five times in the first half. As discussed above, the first time came while hanging on the ball for a while and trying to come up with something big. Another sack saw some woeful pass protection from Gainwell. On the first play of the Birds' final drive of the half, the rush was right there, yet another cornerback sack from Trent McDuffie. Poor pre-snap recognition? Bad blocking? Insufficient scheme and play-calling given the on-field action from the opponent? Let's fill in the "D" bubble on the Scantron for "all of the above." 

• The Eagles should work out a punter or three this week. 

The Whoas

• It was nearly the greatest interception that Hurts ever threw... QB1 threw behind Brown in the second quarter, as the ball went straight into the arms of Kansas CIty's L'Jarius Sneed. No one seemingly touched Sneed as he went to the ground, however, the ball was live on the ground and the Eagles appeared to have recovered. Upon review, Brown's leg justtttt came in contact with Sneed when he was down, making it an official tackle. 

Credit to the ESPN broadcast for a great breakdown of what went wrong here, as it looks like Brown altered the route and started turning downfield with the open space in front of him while Hurts timed the route to Brown breaking in. That's a miscommunication down to a fraction of a second. As the entirety of the Delaware Valley learned back in February, it's as hard as anything in the sport to make mistakes like that and survive against Mahomes. 

• Brandon Graham tied a franchise record for most games played as an Eagle with 188, a mantle he now shares with former kicker David Akers. That's not too shabby for the bust 3-4 outside linebacker he was 10 years ago at this time. Fletcher Cox isn't too far behind them, playing in his 182nd game this evening. 

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