Perhaps it was ironic that Andy Reid was on the opposing sideline when, for the first time this season, the 2013 Eagles made many of the same mistakes that came to characterize the 2011 and 2012 lost seasons for the Eagles. The Eagles finished no better than 31st in the league in turnover differential over the last two seasons and tied for the league lead with 37 giveaways in 2012.
After winning the turnover battle in each of the first two games of the 2013 season, the offense reverted back to some bad habits during the 26-16 Thursday night loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, turning the ball over a debilitating five times. Beginning with a muffed punt by Damaris Johnson and ending with a Michael Vick lost fumble on the team's final, last-ditch possession, ball protection was consistently lacking for an Eagles offense that scored only 16 points despite racking up 431 yards of total offense.
"It's hard," said wide receiver Jason Avant. "It's one of those things that it sounds like a broken record. Year after year, this has been a story for the last three years. You just keep working at it, trying your best. It's not for lack of effort. Guys are playing really hard."
Head coach Chip Kelly has mentioned points scored off turnovers as a key indicator of success. Thursday night, the Chiefs offered up no turnovers for the Eagles on which to capitalize. On the other hand, Johnson's muffed fumble led to three points, Vick threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown and his second interception led to three points. Fortunately, a muffed snap by center Jason Kelce led to a long missed field goal by the Chiefs. In all, the Chiefs' 13 points off turnovers stand as the difference in the game.
"You can't turn the ball over like that in this league and expect to win," Kelly said after the game. "We can move the ball up and down the field, I think 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. You lose the turnover battle and you'll lose the football game."
Uncharacteristically for what we've seen from the Eagles this season to date, Vick was constantly hurried and harried by the Chiefs defense. The quarterback was sacked five times by the Chiefs and pressured throughout.
"We gave up too much pressure tonight," said Kelly. "A lot of times they're just rushing four and they're getting to the quarterback extremely quickly. You know, we're not even getting to the top of our drop and we're getting too much pressure. We can't put Mike in a lot of bad situations, and I think we've got to clean that up."
That the offense wasted so many opportunities to score hurts more considering the performance of the Eagles defense on the night. Bouncing back from a disappointing performance against the San Diego Chargers four days prior, the Eagles defense kept the Chiefs offense under wraps for much of Thursday night's game, save for Kansas City's clock-killing field goal drive to extend their lead to 10 points with just over three minutes remaining.
"I will credit out defense," Kelly said. "I thought they played with a lot of heart. I thought they played with great effort."
Kelly also dismissed the notion that the four-day turnaround played into the sloppiness on offense.
"A short week is not an excuse," said Kelly. "Let's not go there. They had the same week we had. We didn't do what we were supposed to do. We have nothing to blame on anything or anybody. That's not what we do. We don't make excuses. We didn't perform well enough."
With the team set to return to practice on Tuesday ahead of next week's trip to Denver for a clash with the Broncos, Kelly reflected on the mood in the locker room following the game. On a night when the fans in attendance were treated to the jersey retirement of Donovan McNabb, Kelly's players failed to hold up their end of the bargain.
"I think they're disappointed and rightly so," he said. "I think as a group we didn't do what we were supposed to do. We didn't execute. When that happens, you don't have a real good feeling and taste in your mouth. I thought our fans were outstanding. I thought the energy level that they had here was unbelievable and we didn't give them the performance that mirrored what they brought to the game."
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