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Chiefs' Crossing-Route Attack Burns Eagles

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QB Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs completed 22-of-35 passes for 273 yards and no interceptions in a 26-16 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 19. Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images.
QB Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs completed 22-of-35 passes for 273 yards and no interceptions in a 26-16 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 19. Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images.

In a Week 3 home loss on Sept. 19, the Philadelphia Eagles limited Dwayne Bowe, the Kansas City Chiefs' top receiver, to one catch for four yards. However, the Eagles failed to account for WR Donnie Avery, who incinerated Philadelphia's second-line defenders for 141 yards on seven receptions.

Bowe credited QB Alex Smith for exploiting the opportunity. "Once the other team started rolling coverage, he knew other guys were open," Bowe told the Kansas City Star.

Avery entered the Thursday Night Football matchup with four catches for 49 yards in two games so far in 2013. He had exceeded those numbers by halftime against the Eagles, with five receptions for 103 yards.

The Smith-to-Avery connection repeatedly rescued the Chiefs from down-and-distance predicaments in their own territory:

  • - 15-yard gain on third-and 15 from Kansas City's 15 yard line (4:27 left in the first quarter)
  • - 51-yard gain on third-and-5 from Kansas City's 23 yard line (10:18 left in the second quarter)
  • - 26-yard gain on third-and-19 from Kansas City's 30 yard line (5:08 left in the second quarter)
  • - 23-yard gain on second-and-14 from Kansas City's 34 yard line (1:41 left in the third quarter)
  • - 15-yard gain on third-and-10 from Kansas City's 5 yard line (10:10 left in the fourth quarter)

The Chiefs successfully scouted up the Eagles suspect pass defense, which had relinquished an AFC Player of the Week performance to San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers the week prior  with 36-of-47 passing for 419 yards and three touchdowns.

Part of the Chiefs' plan was to manipulate Eagles LB Mychal Kendricks, who entered the game ranked last among NFL inside linebackers in allowing a reception every 5.4 times in coverage. In the first two games of 2013, Kendricks had been targeted 18 times on 81 snaps in pass coverage and allowed 15 completions for 129 yards.

Aside from Avery's outstanding performance, Smith proficiently directed the Chiefs' offense with no turnovers and 22-of-35 passing attempts for 273 yards. In contrast, Eagles QB Michael Vick completed just 13-of-30 passes for 201 yards and two interceptions, with one of them being a pick-six two plays into Philadelphia's opening drive.

Jamaal Charles added a solid effort for Kansas City with 92 rushing yards on 20 carries and 80 receiving yards on seven catches.

The lone bright spot for the Eagles was RB LeSean McCoy, who rushed 20 times for 158 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown run that put the Eagles within seven points with just under 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

McCoy had apparently injured his right ankle after an 18-yard gain late in the second quarter, and retired to the locker room for X-rays which proved negative. "I'll get treatment on it and I'll be fine," he said after the game.

The Eagles, who fell to 1-2 after losing to the Chiefs, have a 10-day break before hitting the road to take on what may be the NFL's best team in the Denver Broncos. Philadelphia fans looking for a silver lining may have to pin their hopes on the NFC East's collective weakness, with Dallas at 1-1, New York at 0-2 and Washington at 0-2 entering the games scheduled for Sept. 22.