The Eagles will be welcoming home former head coach Andy Reid Thursday night and hope to send him off with his first loss of the season. To do so the Eagles must succeed in these 5 Keys to the Game:
-This will be a very good battle as the Eagles are a top 5 rushing team and the Chiefs are allowing just 2.8 yards per carry. For the Eagles to win the game, they need to win this battle. Their offense is predicated on running the football and they need it to be working to be the biggest threat. Last week they got away from the ground game early and had just 20 attempts. They still averaged 4.5 yards per attempt (4.8 for McCoy), but just didn’t run the ball enough.
Now the scored dictated part of that, but the Eagles can’t afford to get away from it this week. Not only would that allow the Chiefs talented pass rushers to tee off on Michael Vick, but it neutralizes a lot of the dual threat of the play packages the Eagles have in their offense. It could be tough going early on, but the Eagles should be able to get the ground game going if they stick with it.
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-At times against the Chargers the Eagles tempo waned a little bit. That is something they can’t do this week versus the Chiefs. This is a good defense they are facing and they need to get them confused, spread out and most importantly tired. They need to put constant pressure on the Chiefs and force them to make some mistakes.
You aren’t going to beat the Chiefs on talent alone, so it is crucial to use any advantage here and the Eagles will hopefully be their most efficient here in getting the most plays off per drive. One key here is the penalties have to stop. They kill the tempo, and last week it nullified a touchdown on a drive where the Eagles had to settle for a field goal. Philadelphia can’t waste plays and scores like that this week and hope to win.
-Too many times the Eagles have not finished drives so far this season. They are getting in the red zone but having to settle for field goals (or the fluke fumble from the Redskins game). That can come back to bite you, especially when you have some concerns on defense. If the Eagles had finished just one more red zone drive last week, they are 2-0 right now. Philly can’t afford to leave any points on the field, so if they cross the 20 they need to make sure they end up in the end zone.
The Eagles might want to think about getting a bit more creative when they are in close, perhaps a direct snap/wildcat package with LeSean McCoy, or lining up DeSean Jackson in the backfield and either running him or sending him on a route from a different area to confuse the defense. This won’t be easy as the Chiefs have given up the fewest rushing and passing touchdowns this year, but Chip Kelly will be the best offense they’ve faced so far.
-You aren’t going to stop Charles so don’t even try, instead just be content with containing the Chiefs’ star back. Don’t let him get any home run plays and keep him out of the end zone. He might rack up a lot of yards on the ground and through the air, but if they can limit or preferably eliminate his end zone trips the Eagles should win this game. Expect Charles to be active in the passing game, so the Eagles need to keep at least one guy on him every time he goes out for a route. It’s not an easy job, but the Cowboys last week limited his rushing yards per attempt, though they failed to keep him out of the end zone and cover him.
-As we’ve seen the last two years in San Francisco, Alex Smith can be a solid starting quarterback of the game manager variety. He can be very efficient and effective if he’s allowed to throw the ball short and get the ball out of his hand quickly. When his first route is covered though and he has to look down the field, there he can look pretty pedestrian.
According to Pro Football Focus, Smith has completed just 48% of his passes when he is in the pocket for 2.6 seconds or longer. Typically you would expect a quarterback to do well with extra time because eventually someone will come free, for Smith though it is problem. The Eagles need jam receivers off the line to disrupt those quick routes and recognize the screen game early.
They should also try to blitz some and from different areas in an effort to confuse Smith on who’s coming and who is dropping off into zones. Maybe Smith will hit a bigger pass down the 15-20 yards down the field once or twice, but the Eagles will be disrupting the majority of the Chiefs’ passing attack.