PHILADELPHIA -- That was really a nice touch by the Eagles. Making Andy Reid feel right at home like that.
On the night Kansas City's new head coach returned to the city where he spent 14 NFL seasons, a lot of the same old nagging problems that led to his departure from Philadelphia resurfaced and took center stage for the Eagles in a galling 26-16 loss to Reid's undefeated Chiefs.
It was all so familiar and recognizable on Thursday under the lights. With Reid and ex-Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb in the house at Lincoln Financial Field -- No. 5, as he likes to call himself, was getting his No. 5 retired in a halftime ceremony -- there were the flood of Philly turnovers (five, all but one in the first half), costly and untimely breakdowns on defense (K.C.'s Donnie Avery and Jamaal Charles combined for 313 yards of offense), shoddy special teams play (a muffed punt by Damaris Johnson, and a missed field goal by Alex Henery), and the glaring lack of a home-field advantage (eighth straight loss at The Linc).
Add it all up, and the Eagles (1-2) did everything but roll out the Chiefs-colored red carpet for Reid, and leave a gift basket of snacks in his name on the Kansas City sideline. Not that Reid needed any extras. He was just happy to take the road win and roll on with his 3-0 Chiefs, who have already topped their victory total from all of 2012 and are off to their best start since 2010, the last time Kansas City won the AFC West.
Reid down-played the win as much as he possibly could in terms of any revenge factor, but his own players belied the truth, dousing him with a Gatorade shower in the game's final minute, as if it were playoff-berth clinching win or even a January postseason victory. This one had significant resonance for Reid, and for the Chiefs' turnaround-season-in-the-making.
"He wanted to get this win,'' said Charles, who rushed for 92 yards on 20 carries, caught seven passes for 80 more yards, and scored K.C.'s only offensive touchdown on a 3-yard fourth-quarter run. "He might not tell nobody, but at the end of the day he had the biggest smile on his face. It was very emotional (in the locker room). There was a big roar, a big cheer. We wanted to come out here and do our job and win in Philly.''
Playing on the road in a short week is never any picnic, but the Chiefs were more prepared, more opportunistic, and more resilient than Chip Kelly's new-look Eagles, who have yet to regain the momentum they generated in the first half of their eye-opening Week 1 win at Washington. This was no fluke. Kansas City's Week 1 win at Jacksonville got the it-was-only-the-Jaguars treatment, and last Sunday's narrow victory over Dallas came in the Chiefs' home opener. But at 3-0, with a win at Philadelphia and a mini-bye weekend just ahead, Kansas City is suddenly the NFL's best story of the young season, just months removed from the 2-14 debacle of 2012.
"It's a dream,'' Charles said. "I feel like a lot of people want it. We've got a lot of people on this team who've been through a lot.''
The Chiefs' heroes were many. Kansas City receiver Donnie Avery ran wild in the middle of the field, catching seven passes for 141 yards and torturing the Eagles defense on third down as if his name was Larry Fitzgerald. Safety Eric Berry got Kansas City's other touchdown with a 38-yard first-quarter interception return for a touchdown against Michael Vick, and linebacker Justin Houston had a monster night, with 3.5 sacks, four tackles for loss, three passes defensed, one fumble forced and two fumbles recovered.
Quarterback Alex Smith was anything but spectacular, but his solid, turnover-free play is becoming the norm for him in Kansas City as it was the past two seasons in San Francisco. He finished with 273 yards passing without a touchdown or an interception, completing 22 of 35, with five sacks, and an 87.0 passer rating. Four Ryan Succop field goals kept the pressure on Philadelphia, as Kansas City won the time of possession battle by almost a 2-to-1 margin (39:07 to 20:53) and ran 77 plays to just 63 for the Eagles.
Basically, the Chiefs out-Eagled the Eagles, looking explosive, yet careful with the football, a trick Philadelphia's acclaimed up-tempo offense has yet to master. Kansas City was poised and never panicked, even when the Eagles closed to within a touchdown, making it 23-16 in the fourth quarter, and had the Chiefs backed up on their own 5, facing a pivotal 3rd-and-10. In the game's crucial play, Smith calmly found Avery over the middle once again for 15 yards and a first down, with that drive turning into a 15-play, 75-yard march that produced Succop's game-icing 38-yard field goal with 3:21 remaining.
"Alex is so cool with the football, so poised,'' Chiefs cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "And Donnie Avery had an amazing game tonight. Those two are finding their chemistry and we're finding our chemistry as a team. This team believes. This is the NFL and you've got to understand there's going to be back and forth in a game. They're going to make plays and we're going to make plays. But at the end of the day, we never thought we were going to lose this football game.''
The Eagles made Reid available for hiring in Kansas City because there were far too many games like this the past two seasons in Philadelphia, when the sacks and turnovers came in bunches (five of each), the defense and special teams let down at the worst possible time, and once-invincible home-field edge disappeared. But you can't blame Reid anymore for what ails the Eagles, who are suddenly under .500 and staring at a season-high three-game road swing through Denver, the Giants and Tampa Bay.
For a season that opened with such a sense of promise and excitement, things are going south in a hurry in Philadelphia, and Kelly doesn't have all the answers after all. His Big Green Machine has sprung a major leak.
"You can't turn the ball over like that in this league and expect to win,'' said Kelly, whose club just lost twice to visiting AFC West teams (San Diego and Kansas City) in a span of five days. "We can move the ball up and down the field. We've proven that. But if we're going to put the ball on the ground as we did in the first half and throw interceptions, that's not going to win a football game for us. You can't lose the turnover battle.''
The Eagles running game was superb all night, with LeSean McCoy rushing for 158 yards on 20 carries and Vick adding 95 more on just five rushes. But even a 260-yard rushing game (9.3 average rush on 28 attempts) couldn't erase the damage done by the five turnovers (two Vick interceptions, a Vick fumble, the punt muff by Johnson and a botched snap by center Jason Kelce). And Vick finished with just 13 completions on 30 pass attempts, for 201 yards, one touchdown, and a 49.4 rating, numbers that won't cut it against anyone in the NFL.
"I solely take responsibility for what happened tonight,'' Vick said. "I was in control of the offense and I didn't get the tempo going. I didn't move the ball the way we were supposed to move the ball. We just didn't execute and they were the better football team. We have to go back to the drawing board, re-group, and figure this out.''
The Chiefs, almost giddy from their success, face no such early crisis to their season. With their next game still 10 days away (at home against the winless Giants), they have time to savor this one. That process was well underway by the time the final gun had sounded Thursday night.
"Man, this one meant a lot,'' Berry said. "Anytime you spend this much time in a place, like Coach Reid, to come back and win, I know he's feeling good. And I'm just glad we got it done. It's a wonderful feeling. Just a year ago, there wasn't anybody really looking at us.
"But the stage was set for us. It was a big game, Thursday night, with Andy Reid back in Philadelphia. We just came here to play ball, and he did a good job of keeping us focused on just the game the whole week, without getting too caught up in what was going on around the game.''
What was going on around this game was impossible to ignore, starting with the short, but gracious video tribute to Reid the Eagles posted on the stadium scoreboards in the pre-game. First came a nice ovation from the crowd, and then came the reward he wanted more than anything else, sweet victory back in his old familiar haunt. As it turned out, Philadelphia's overly generous Eagles showed Reid way more hospitality than they ever intended to.