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10-03-2005, 10:29 AM
Birds dig a big hole, then bury Kansas City

By Bob Brookover

Inquirer Staff Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The first half ended yesterday at Arrowhead Stadium and Eagles coach Andy Reid left the field clapping his hands.

It seemed an odd reaction to the disastrous 30 minutes of football that had just unfolded in front of the coach's bifocals, but apparently the coach had a feeling about what lay ahead.

He wasn't alone and he was absolutely right.

By the end of the afternoon, the sea of red inside the stadium had emptied into the parking lot and the Kansas City Chiefs' 18-point lead had become a stunning 37-31 Eagles victory that wasn't as close as the score indicated.

"We could feel the momentum change," Eagles defensive end N.D. Kalu said. "You could see that look in their eyes that they were worried. I don't want to sound cocky, but when we got into the locker room at halftime, it was like we were the team ahead."

The Eagles weren't ahead. They were down by double digits to a team that rarely loses at home. Their new kicker had missed a field goal and their veteran snapper had messed up an extra point. They had fumbled the football away on one kickoff to gift-wrap seven points and allowed dangerous Dante Hall to return another kickoff for a touchdown.

Only an insane chef would consider that a recipe for victory.

And yet, all was well inside the Eagles' locker room.

"The Chiefs came out and shot their load in the first half," linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said. "Everything that could happen to us did and they were only up by 11 points. Our offense hadn't even warmed up yet."

Actually, the Eagles' offense never did warm yesterday. It went from ice cold through most of the first half to white-hot just before the end of the half.

Jevon Kearse, who spent most of last week answering questions about why he had not yet recorded a sack this season, made the defensive play that changed the complexion of the game.

With the Chiefs up by 18 and at midfield, Larry Johnson ran up the middle. Kearse met the running back head-on and forced a fumble that was covered by Sam Rayburn with 2 minutes, 40 seconds left in the first half.

At that point, the offense hadn't scored and quarterback Donovan McNabb, playing with a sports hernia, a bruised chest, a bruised shin, and who knows what else, was 9 for 14 for 84 yards and no touchdowns. From that point on, the quarterback went 24 for 34 for 285 yards and three touchdowns.

"For us to get in the two-minute drill and put points on the board, that was important for us," McNabb said.

McNabb finished the 50-yard drive by finding Terrell Owens in the end zone for a 7-yard TD, cutting Kansas City's 18-point lead to 11. That was Owens' only touchdown, but the Eagles' silent receiver had a huge day, catching 11 passes for 171 yards.

"In my opinion, he's the best receiver in the game," McNabb said.

When the Chiefs failed to counter with points before the half, safety Brian Dawkins lectured the Eagles' defense at halftime.

"We know what we have here as an offense," Dawkins said. "We know if we give them a chance, they're going to put up points. Give them credit, they came at us at the start of the game, but once we started playing the way we're capable of playing, all the other stuff stopped."

The Eagles got the ball after the half at their own 48-yard line and pushed into Kansas City territory to set up a 44-yard field goal by Todd France, the first of his day-old NFL career.

"I'm not sure if I can tell you that any of our phases did well in that first half, but we came back and we battled," Reid said. "Todd France is one of the leaders of that."

After the France field goal, Kearse delivered a second huge play, ending a Chiefs drive with his first sack of the season as he flattened quarterback Trent Green for a 6-yard loss.

The Eagles got even with two minutes left in the third quarter when McNabb hit Owens for two passes totaling 58 yards before finding No. 3 tight end Mike Bartrum for a 3-yard touchdown. The quarterback hit Brian Westbrook for a two-point conversion that evened the score.

The Chiefs' momentum was gone, and after France hit a 37-yard field goal with 11:38 remaining, the Kansas City lead was gone, too.

Linebacker Mike Labinjo forced a fumble by Hall on the next kickoff and Reno Mahe covered at the Chiefs' 25. McNabb found L.J. Smith for a 1-yard touchdown and, amazingly, the Eagles had a double-digit lead of their own.

After Sheldon Brown secured his second interception of the game, France kicked his third field goal and the Eagles' lead went to 13 with 3:22 remaining.

The Eagles had scored 31 straight points.

"You're damn right I was worried," Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said afterward. "You won't see a comeback like that very often on the road against a team like that. It was a character win."

Just three plays into the second quarter, the Eagles found themselves down by 17-0 and in serious danger of never being in the game.

Initially, they couldn't stop Priest Holmes from picking up huge chunks of yardage, and the result was a touchdown and field goal on the Chiefs' first two possessions.

Bad got worse for the Eagles when Roderick Hood fumbled the kickoff return following the Kansas City field goal. The Chiefs' Kris Griffin covered at the Eagles' 27-yard line and Arrowhead Stadium erupted.

Green converted a third-and-1 play with a quarterback draw to end the opening quarter. On a third-and-3 play, Green found Eddie Kennison just in front of the goal line and, in his attempt to make the tackle, Hood shoved the Chiefs' wide receiver into the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown.

"I had a tough first half," Hood said. "I just had to keep fighting."

Confidence didn't grow any when the first field-goal attempt of France's NFL career reminded us more of Mark Simoneau than David Akers, leaving the Eagles 17 points down with 7:07 left in the first half.

Brown gave the Eagles their first glimmer of hope on the Chiefs' next possession when he jumped in front of Kennison along the Kansas City sideline and intercepted a Green pass. His 40-yard return for a touchdown got the Eagles on the board, but more negative developments quickly followed.

The normally impeccable Bartrum fed holder Koy Detmer a low snap and France didn't even get a chance to try his first extra-point attempt.

When Hall followed by returning the kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, the Chiefs were back up by 18 points and the crowd noise was deafening.

Who knew that was going to be the start of the Chiefs' demise?

The Rick
10-03-2005, 10:35 AM
"The Chiefs came out and shot their load in the first half," linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said. "Everything that could happen to us did and they were only up by 11 points. Our offense hadn't even warmed up yet."
As miserable as the game was, you have to admit, this quote is funny. :(