Don't Kill The Mellinger

September 19, 2013

Numbers and video and let’s talk about the Chiefs and Eagles

The Chiefs are playing one of the most interesting games of the NFL weekend in Philadelphia tonight, and not just because of The Andy Reid Story. But even if you leave the human parts of this to the side, it’s a fascinating football matchup.

Don't Kill the Mellinger

Columnist Sam Mellinger's thoughts on sports and other important stuff

The Chiefs are playing one of the most interesting games of the NFL weekend in Philadelphia tonight, and not just because of The Andy Reid Story. You know that Reid coached 14 years in Philadelphia, through the franchise’s most successful stretch and, at the end, through a brutal period for Reid’s family


But even if you leave the human parts of this to the side, it’s a fascinating football matchup. New Eagles coach Chip Kelly is apparently attempting to revolutionize NFL offenses and the pace of which games are played, and even if that storyline is a bit overplayed^ the NFL hasn’t seen much of this.

Peter King’s MMQB points out

that Kelly’s Eagles are on pace to run all of one more play than Reid’s Eagles did a year ago. The difference, as it always, is in the production. They’re averaging nearly two yards more per play, and 3.6 yards more per Michael Vick pass attempt.

The Chiefs will be the best defense the Eagles have played so far, and it’s not particularly close. The Eagles shredded the Washingtons in Week 1, and then the Chargers in Week 2. That’s drawn plenty of attention, and rightfully so, but this is also true: the Washingtons were shredded by the Packers in Week 2, and the Chargers were shredded by the Texans in Week 1.

Here’s a point I mentioned

on Twitter

yesterday: the Eagles have forced four punts in two games.

Anyway, the matchup with the Chiefs could go any number of ways. I picked the Eagles to win 28-27, my thought-process being very similar to why I picked the Chiefs to beat the Cowboys by a point last week^.

I know, I know. But I have no idea how many of these picks I’ll get right. So I’m going to brag when I nail them. Sue me.

Basically, I just think it’s a huge ask for the Chiefs to go to Philadelphia, with all the emotion and energy, with everything that’s required of preparing for the Eagles, on a short week in front of a big and loud prime-time crowd that will have had all day to get, um, lubricated.

I looked this up, so you’re stuck with the math:

Since the NFL Network started broadcasting Thursday night games in 2006, the home team is 39-27. I don’t know the point spread of each of those games — anybody know a good database to look up that kind of information? — but the home team had the better record going into only 20 of those games. The road team had the better record 32 times. These numbers include Thanksgiving broadcasts, but not season-openers, since the short-week part of this equation doesn’t really exist for those.

I think the Chiefs could win this game at Arrowhead, and maybe even in Philadelphia on a normal Sunday afternoon. But just like they caught a good break playing the Cowboys in the home opener, they caught a bad one having to play this game on the road on a Thursday.

Anyway, some notes from watching the Eagles’ loss to the Chargers:

• San Diego’s problems on offense, rare as they were, mainly came when Rivers couldn’t get the ball out. When he had time, he carved the Eagles up. And there were lots and lots of plays when he had lots and lots of time. The Chiefs had some protection issues against the Cowboys, particularly early in the game, so this will be important to track.

• That’s because the Eagles defense is just awful. Terrible. They’re giving up 6.2 yards per play, and when you watch them play you can see why. Like, early in the Chargers game, Mathews ran for 20 yards basically because Eagles cornerback Cary Williams whiffed the tackle. Mathews is a good back, and I suppose the play wasn’t completely routine, but, jeez. I’m certain he hung his head in shame when he saw the tape.

• Defending the Eagles’ offense must feel a bit like trying to detonate a bomb. It’s a rush to crack the code, each passing second bringing along another chance to be blown up. It can happen in an instant. LeSean McCoy turned a short catch over the middle into a 70-yard gain because the Eagles got him isolated on Chargers safety Eric Weddle. McCoy gave him one quick move, juked to the inside, caught it in stride, and one missed tackle later he’s 70 yards down the field.

• But, seriously, Rivers must’ve felt like he was going 7-on-7 in training camp a few times. There are plays where it looks like the Eagles’ philosophy is to leave a guy or two uncovered and hope Rivers doesn’t notice.

• There was a classic play in the second quarter, the kind of thing TV will replay a hundred times to show you how difficult the Eagles are to defend. Vick is in the shotgun, with McCoy to his side, and he has at least three options. He decides not to hand to McCoy, and decides not to run it himself. This one’s an easy call because the threat of the run has left the middle of the field WIDE open, and Jackson has a catch for around 25 yards.

• My goodness, the Eagles miss lots of missed tackles

• Keep in mind that the Chargers scored 33 points and left a lot of points on the field. Antonio Gates fumbled near the goal line late in the second half, trying to stretch out for another yard.

• Right after that, the Chargers got the ball back (Eagles went three-and-out) and shoved again. Deep pass to Floyd, then Vincent Brown got a pass interference call on Williams (who had a particularly rotten day), but then Mathews fumbled. Unlike Gates’ fumble, the Eagles should get some credit for this one. The ball appeared stripped out.

• In that way, the Eagles play a self-aware type of defense. They know they’re going to give up yards, so they’re trying to make up for it by forcing turnovers. I think this plays into the Chiefs’ strengths, particularly Alex Smith, who is wealthy man and respected NFL quarterback in large part because he makes good decisions.

• Then again, a LOT of what the Chargers hurt the Eagles on were deep passes. Five-step drops, the ball is zipped down the field 30 yards or so. This is Smith’s weakness.

• Eddie Royal’s second touchdown catch was an enormous fail for the Eagles, who dropped eight into coverage and still didn’t have anyone within shouting distance of Royal, who basically fair-caught the pass, stopped to call home, checked his text messages, and then walked into the end zone.

• But, again, the Eagles are going to be a mother to defend. On the same drive, Jackson came within a half yard or so of what could’ve been a long touchdown catch — the Chiefs are going to need safety help to keep him from breaking 50 or 60 yard scores on them — and a what would’ve been an actual long touchdown catch called back on an illegal formation.

• Eddie Royal’s third touchdown was terrible tackling. There was a lot of this in the game.

• The Chargers got the ball at the 21, tie game, with 1:46 left in the fourth quarter. At that point,

the Win Probability at Pro Football Reference gave the Chargers about a 68 percent chance of winning. That seems awfully low. Anyway, two plays into the drive the Chargers are in Eagles territory. One play after that they’re close enough for a long field goal. Two plays after that the field goal is more manageable. It turns out to be a 46 yarder. Eagles lose.

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