Philadelphia Eagles News

Inside the missed red zone opportunities that defined Sunday's outcome

WR Greg Ward added the final points with just four seconds left.

In a very real sense on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles went toe-to-toe with one of the NFL's heavyweights and traded haymakers, jabs, and some shots to the chin. But when you play a team like the Kansas City Chiefs, you have to be virtually perfect to win, and the Eagles were not perfect in a 42-30 defeat to fall to 1-3 on the season.

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes tossed five touchdown passes and the Chiefs rolled up 471 total net yards, 31 first downs, and scored five touchdowns on five trips to the red zone. Punter Tommy Townsend stayed on the sidelines as Kansas City had just one failed drive – an Eric Wilson interception – executing an offense that featured a strong running game (200 yards), a lot of Mahomes to wide receiver Tyreek Hill (11 catches, 187 yards, three touchdowns on 12 targets), and the kind of precision you expect from the Chiefs on a weekly basis. Amazingly, Kansas City converted 9 of 10 third downs and had only one play in the game for negative yardage – a Javon Hargrave sack of Mahomes.

Philadelphia pushed back with some offensive fireworks of its own in a game in which the teams combined for 932 total net yards. Quarterback Jalen Hurts was terrific as he completed 32 of 48 passes for 387 yards and two touchdowns, adding a team-high 47 yards on eight rushing attempts. He did it playing behind an offensive line that was literally put together only a few hours before kickoff, as right tackle Lane Johnson missed the game for personal reasons. The Eagles started Jack Driscoll at right tackle, Nate Herbig at right guard, Jason Kelce at center, Landon Dickerson at left guard, and Andre Dillard at left tackle. Only Kelce was a starter when the season began as the Eagles opened with their third starting offensive line combination in four 2021 games.

Where the Eagles lost the game was in the red zone – on both sides of the line of scrimmage. While the Chiefs' offense was perfect inside the Philadelphia 20-yard line, the Eagles punched it into the end zone just three times in six trips against a team that had allowed 12 touchdowns on 13 opposing opportunities in the previous three weeks, settling for three Jake Elliott field goals instead of touchdowns.

"It's not something I can really pinpoint," Hurts said. "I take accountability for everything on my end, whether it's being more decisive when we're down there or flat-out executing and getting in the end zone. We have a lot of playmakers and we have to get in. It was the difference in this game, clearly."

What happened on those three red zone trips that ended with three points instead of seven? We take a look here ...

Red Zone Opportunity No. 1

Taking the opening kickoff, the Eagles had some immediate rhythm and flow in the offense. Quarterback Jalen Hurts completed passes for 13 yards to Zach Ertz, DeVonta Smith for 22 yards, and Dallas Goedert for 21 yards to the Kansas City 18-yard line. On first down from there, Miles Sanders ran up the middle for 2 yards. On second down, Hurts missed an open Ertz on the left side. Ertz had a step on the coverage, but Hurts just overthrew the tight end. On third-and-8, Hurts scrambled for 5 yards, setting up a fourth-and-3 situation at the Kansas City 11-yard line. After initially keeping the offense on the field, indicating he was thinking of going for it on fourth down, the Eagles called timeout and sent out Jake Elliott, who converted a 29-yard field goal.

Red Zone Opportunity No. 2

On their second offensive possession, the Eagles again moved the ball with confidence and precision, overcoming two penalties. A short passing game that emphasized getting the ball out of Hurts' hand quickly put the Chiefs back on their heels and all of a sudden the Eagles were staring at a fourth-and-2 play from the Kanas City 20-yard line. Hurts completed a pass to running back Kenny Gainwell for 12 yards and a first down. A holding penalty on left tackle Andre Dillard moved the ball to the 18-yard line, but Hurts went right back to Gainwell for 15 yards to the 3-yard line and on the next play Goedert muscled the ball for a catch against cornerback Mike Hughes and the Eagles went ahead 10-7 after Elliott's PAT.

Red Zone Opportunity No. 3

This one really hurt with the Eagles trailing 14-10 midway through the second quarter. On first down from the Kansas City 30-yard line, Hurts found wide receiver Quez Watkins for an 18-yard gain to the 12-yard line. Then Hurts threw short for running back Miles Sanders, who picked up 6 yards to the 6-yard line. On second-and-4 from the 6, Hurts threw left for Goedert, who made the catch and dived into the end zone for an apparent score. But, wait. Dillard was penalized for being downfield, negating the score. On the same play, Kansas City's Daniel Sorensen committed a facemask penalty against Goedert, giving the Eagles a first down and goal at the Kansas City 3-yard line.

Hurts threw to Greg Ward on the right side and Ward, dived toward the sideline and just couldn't bring the pass in for a catch and score. On second-and-goal, the Eagles tried Sanders on a run right and he lost 4 yards. On third down from the 7, Hurts threw incomplete for Watkins, and the Eagles settled for another Elliott field goal.

Red Zone Opportunity No. 4

Eric Wilson gave the Eagles some energy and life with an interception of Mahomes to end the Chiefs' first drive of the second half and the Eagles went to work at the Kansas City 49-yard line trailing 21-13. A completion to Smith gained 21 yards. Hurts had completions to Ertz and Gainwell, mixed in a couple of runs, and the offense had a first and goal at the 7. And then ... a delay of game penalty moved the Eagles back 5 yards. On first-and-goal from the 12, Hurts threw incomplete for Ertz and then went right back to him for a 6-yard gain. A third-down throw with nobody open in the end zone was incomplete. Elliott came on to kick a field goal, but the attempt was nullified by a Chiefs' offsides penalty. Sirianni decided to go for it from the 3-yard line. Hurts threw on the right side for Ertz, who made the catch for the ... touchdown, but oh, no. A penalty flag was thrown. Wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was called for offensive pass interference as he lined up outside Ertz and cleared out to give Ertz room in the right corner of the end zone.

"They thought that he pushed him downfield, and they thought it was (offensive pass interference)," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said. "You know what, they have a tough job. The referees have a tough job, we have a tough job, the players have a tough job. They're trying to get it right. I know they're trying to get it right. They are trying to do their best to get it right. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. I'm not saying one way or the other if they got that right. I'll keep my opinion to myself. But they have a tough job just like all of us."

Red Zone Opportunity No. 5

Early in the fourth quarter, the Eagles drew to within 28-23 when the offense overcame a sack that backed up the line of scrimmage to the 16-yard line for a second-and-goal situation from there. Hurts threw to Gainwell for 9 yards to the 7, and then the rookie took a handoff from Hurts and finished off his run with power to get into the end zone for the touchdown.

Red Zone Opportunity No. 6

This maybe matters down the line, but it didn't have an impact on Sunday. The Eagles trailed 42-23 after Mahomes found Hill for 44 yards to sting the defense, and with 11 seconds remaining in the game Hurts threw a bullet to Ward from 15 yards out for a touchdown. Elliott's PAT accounted for the final score.

There were a lot of very good things from this game, mostly on the offensive side of the ball. Hurts was relentless putting pressure on the Kansas City defense. Smith had a big game with seven receptions for 122 yards, but he had a touchdown taken off the board when he was forced out of bounds and then came back in bounds and was the first player to touch the football. That was another drive that stalled in Kansas City territory. The offensive line really battled and played hard and executed at a high level, despite the last-minute rearranging of the starters.

On defense, Hargrave had his fifth sack of his outstanding season and the Eagles limited tight end Travis Kelce to just four receptions.

At the end of the day, it came down to the red zone and those missed opportunities.

"I think we were five-of-six before this game today," Sirianni said. "We had the one in San Francisco where we weren't good enough on. Today three-of-six. When you're playing a team like that, you have to convert there. It's everything. It's the plays I'm calling. It's the lack of execution. I'll always have it start with me. When the plays don't work, that's on me. I have to call better plays. I have to put our guys in better positions to win. Everyone is going to look at themselves on all those plays too and say, 'I could have done that better on this play. I could have done this better on this play.' It's the greatest team sport there is. It starts with me. The plays that didn't work, that's on me. I have to come up with a better scheme and put the guys in position to make a play."

Take a glance at the best photos from the Chiefs vs. Eagles game.

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