Nothing has been easy for the Philadelphia Eagles since losing Super Bowl LVII nine months ago, so why should Monday’s night rematch against the team that beat them in that game, the Kansas City Chiefs, be any different?
It was truly a tale of two halves.
The Eagles were dominated in the first half, trailing by 10. They pitched a shutout in the second half while their offense found a way to score a pair of touchdowns and the Eagles defeated the Chiefs in their own backyard, 21-17, in a scintillating Monday Night Football game.
The win moved the Eagles to 9-1 and got this schedule gauntlet off on the right foot, with home games against the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers up next followed up by trips to Dallas and Seattle.
The victory also left a lot of sad faces in places like Detroit, as the Lions sit at 8-2, and San Francisco, where the 49ers have three losses. At 7-3, the Dallas Cowboys still have hopes of denying the Eagles a second straight NFC East title.
“In this game, it’s all about finding a way to win,” said quarterback Jalen Hurts as he left the field. “... We’re winning games when we still have yet to play our best ball. There’s a lot to be encouraged by for sure, but we’re far from a finished product.”
The win marked the first time Eagles center Jason Kelce, who started his 149th straight game, beat the Chiefs and his baby brother Travis Kelce for the first time in his career.
It was a rare defeat for Chiefs coach Andy Reid coming out of a bye. He was 27-4. He’s now 27-5. Reid was 4-0 against the team he coached for 14 years. He’s now 4-1.
This win was a total team effort.
“Whoever was going to win that game was going to do it gritty, grimy, nasty all those adjectives,” said head coach Nick Sirianni, who is now 3-0 coming out of bye weeks. “Guys stayed together, kept fighting, kept grinding and we were able to come out on top.”
Sirianni used the word resilient several times in his postgame news conference.
"Our guys were resilient," he said. "We just have a bunch of guys who know how to win, how to be resilient, know how to be together.
"It wasn't pretty. There were a lot of ugly moments in it, but they kept fighting and staying together. It was just a good team win."
If you would’ve said Hurts would throw for just 150 yards, complete only 14 of 22 passes, throw his ninth interception of the season, and finish with a passer rating of 64.8, I would’ve said the Eagles lose.
If you had told me the offensive line would allow five sacks in the first half, the defensive line would be dominated to the point that KC ran for 121 yards in the first half, A.J. Brown would finish with only one catch for eight yards, and I would’ve said the Chiefs win by a lot.
Except the Eagles overcame it all. They made enough plays to win.
Start with the defense, which forced a pair of red-zone turnovers. The first from newcomer Kevin Byard, who picked off Patrick Mahomes in the end zone.
Then the other newcomer, Bradley Roby, playing his first game in three weeks due to a shoulder injury after being signed just last month to play the slot, forced a fumble from Travis Kelce at the 10, which was recovered by linebacker Nick Morrow.
Mahomes threw for 43 passes but finished with just 177 yards and a passer rating of 71.6.
Then there’s the offense.
Hurts’ numbers weren’t great like they were in the Super Bowl, but they didn’t have to be. All he had to do was persevere, to be resilient, and he did, despite getting knocked around in the first half, absorbing five sacks. He didn’t get sacked in the second half.
The QB made enough big plays when they counted.
He had a 10-yard draw right up the middle that pulled Philly to within 17-14 with 4:05 to go in the third quarter. The big play on the seven-play, 61-yard drive was a 35-yard run by D’Andre Swift, who finished with 76 yards and a 6.3 yards per carry average and added 31 yards receiving.
Hurts added his ninth rushing touchdown of the season, and 35th of his career, with 6:20 to go in the game to give the Eagles their first lead. The big play on that was a 41-yard completion to DeVonta Smith put Philly at the KC 1-yard line. Smith ended with six catches for 99 yards.
The defense made sure the Chiefs never really threatened from there, despite making it to midfield at the two-minute warning.
KC was given a boost to get there when Fletcher Cox was called for roughing the passer, and the memory of James Bradberry’s hold late in the Super Bowl that allowed the Chiefs to win with a field goal in the final 10 seconds came flooding back.
This time, though, the Eagles didn’t let Kansas City take advantage of a penalty in its favor.
Josh Sweat made a huge play, forcing Mahomes to intentionally ground the ball as he was dragging down the QB. The play put the Chiefs in a fourth-and-25 situation, which they could not convert, and the game was over.
The Eagles won’t win a ring for this one, but it certainly kept their hopes alive to be the NFC’s No. 1 seed for a second straight year and try again to win the franchise's second Super Bowl.