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Spadaro: 12 takeaways from an instant classic vs. Chiefs

Kevin Byard comes up with the interception.
Kevin Byard comes up with the interception.

KANSAS CITY – It came down to the wire, as everyone expected it would. After a great Josh Jobe tackle on Braden Mann's final punt placed the Chiefs at their 9-yard line with 2 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the game, it came down to the Eagles' defense against Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Another Down-To-The-Wire Special, a hallmark of this 2023 Eagles season. This time, the defense won, and the Eagles left rainy GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium 21-17 winners, now 9-1 on the season. Thrilling. Amazing. Incredible.

Here are some takeaways from a heavyweight showdown between two of the league's best teams on Monday Night Football ...

1. Let's begin by talking about that last stand. There was some good fortune involved as quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw a strike to wide receiver Marquez Valdez-Scantling, who had gotten behind cornerback Bradley Roby, and Valdez-Scantling had the ball glance off his fingertips. But the Eagles played that last drive so well, highlighted by a great pass rush from Josh Sweat, who pressured Mahomes and forced him to throw the football away for an intentional grounding penalty. That set up a fourth-and-20 play and Mahomes' final pass to wide receiver Justin Watson was broken up by Darius Slay and it ... was ... all ... over. Kansas City gained three first downs on the drive and then the Eagles shut it down, yeah, with a bit of good luck involved. That's the way the football bounces.

2. Kansas City's defense won the line of scrimmage for two-plus quarters, effectively shutting down the passing game with a ferocious rush that came from everywhere. Tackle/end Chris Jones had a pair of sacks in the first half, as did cornerback Trent McDuffie. The Chiefs showed blitz and then dropped out, or they sent someone from the second and third level, or they just came after Jalen Hurts – and it worked. Other than one touchdown drive, the Eagles couldn't get into a rhythm. Midway through the third quarter, the Eagles had just 85 total net yards of offense and were 0-for-5 on third down and, remember, the Eagles entered the game leading the NFL in third-down conversion percentage. Hurts was sacked five times in the first half. Then it all changed on a great touchdown drive to bring the Eagles to within 17-14 – moving 61 yards with D'Andre Swift providing the big play on a jet sweep carry to the left side that gained 35 yards. Two completions to DeVonta Smith picked up 14 yards. Then Hurts took a quarterback draw on third-and-5 from the 10-yard line and put the ball in the end zone and all of a sudden it was a ballgame.

3. Two offensive possessions later, the Eagles finally went vertical after a series of quick passes and screens. Hurts had some protection and threw a perfect pass down the right sideline for DeVonta Smith, who made the catch and was tackled at the 1-yard line. The Brotherly Shove followed to end the 7-play, 80-yard drive that gave the Eagles their first lead, 21-17, after Jake Elliott's PAT. Patience, patience, patience. And give Hurts all kinds of credit because, through those first two-and-a-half quarters, the offense was unable to do much of anything (see below on the one-drive highlight). And then, success.

4. Third-and-12, 5:40 left and linebacker Zach Cunningham leaps and knocks down Mahomes' flip pass, trying to make more magic. Cunningham, aware that Mahomes makes something out of nothing, had the knockdown. Huge. Kansas City was forced to punt and the Eagles had great field position after a 19-yard Britain Covey punt return.

5. Covey, by the way, came up big again, averaging 17.7 yards on three returns, including a 26-yarder. He's a weapon.

6. Philadelphia's run defense entered the game leading the NFL in fewest yards allowed per game, 66.3. But Kansas City established the line of scrimmage, used a trio of running backs, and gained 168 yards on the ground. That helped the Chiefs' offense largely stay on schedule and helped them win on third down, converting 8-of-17 on the night. But let's look deeper at this. The Eagles shut out the Chiefs, who led 17-7 after two quarters, in the second half.

Shut them out. Zero points.

Kansas City had just nine first downs in the second half, five on a drive that ended with the Eagles forcing and recovering a Travis Kelce fumble in the red zone (the Eagles took the ball away twice in the red zone). Kansas City gained just 32 rushing yards in the second half and the Eagles completely shut them down in the fourth quarter. Sean Desai, that's a great job of adjustments.

7. Kansas City drove 80 yards on 10 plays on its second possession and presented a sample of what the Eagles' defense was up against: Mahomes got the ball out of his hands quickly, Kansas City was able to make positive yards running the football against the league's No. 1 rush defense, and the pass catchers made plays on the edge in space. The task is an enormous one when playing Kansas City: The pass rush has to be both aggressive and disciplined and it must reach Mahomes quickly. The Eagles registered a sack (by Haason Reddick) on the opening Chiefs possession and forced a three-and-out series. The second one was a far different story. Back-to-back gains of 24 yards and 14 yards on the ground allowed Kansas City to dictate, and Mahomes then completed all four of his passes, with some runs mixed in, for 26 yards and a 3-yard touchdown pass to end the drive. It's not always about how you start, right?

8. The answer to that Kansas City drive was perfecto for the Eagles, who drove 75 yards on nine plays, taking more than five minutes off the clock. It was a great mix of some on-point Jalen Hurts passing – he opened the drive with a 20-yard dart to DeVonta Smith, went back to Smith for 11 yards and a first down – and then it was a D'Andre Swift drive. He darted and drove and dashed and picked up 23 yards on five carries and his last two runs were beauties. Swift took a handoff to the left edge and made the defense miss on the way to a 17-yard run, just a tremendous play that highlighted his elusiveness. On the next carry, Swift ran right, turned the corner, and sprinted into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7. It was a critical answer for the Eagles and a big win in the red zone for the offense.

9. So ... welcome, Kevin Byard. He had the responsibility much of the night of covering tight end Travis Kelce (7 rec., 44 yards, 1 TD) and he played him tough, and he also did the job when he wasn't on Kelce, including making a terrific leaping interception in the end zone with 6:45 to go in the second quarter. The play ended a Kansas City drive that started after cornerback LaJarius Sneed picked off Hurts in Chiefs territory, so it was huge in, at that time, a 7-7 game. That Mahomes pass was intended for Justin Watson and Byard played it perfectly. Kelce is obviously a lot to handle, and Byard was right there with him throughout the game. But there was more than coverage in Byard's night. He was active blitzing the quarterback, he supported the run, and he was, generally, all over the field with 8 solo tackles, the interception, and two passes defensed.

10. On a night when wide receiver A.J. Brown was held to one reception for 8 yards on four targets, Smith picked up the slack with 6 catches for 99 yards on 8 targets. Swift was terrific, rushing for 76 yards on 12 carries and 3 receptions for 31 yards. Hurts had two touchdowns as the Eagles dominated with the Brotherly Shove.

11. How to compensate without tight end Dallas Goedert? The Eagles used a lot of four-wide receiver sets, used Swift and Kenneth Gainwell in the lineup at the same time, and just mixed all kinds of things up. Hurts had to get the ball out of his hands quite a bit with screens and quick throws to mitigate the pass rush. It was rough at times. But the Eagles hung in there and here they are, 9-1.

12. It was a slugfest. Don't complain about a thing after this win!

It's a Super Bowl rematch as the 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles travel to GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium to take on the 7-2 Kansas City Chiefs. It's the NFC's top team against the AFC's in front of a nationally televised audience on Monday Night Football!

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