KANSAS CITY — The day after, everybody was still blinking their eyes and wondering how in the world this happened.
How could the Kansas City Chiefs, with what they think is one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL, let a robust 18-point lead dissolve into a disquieting 37-31 loss?
One part of the equation is clearly Donovan McNabb and the strength of a Philadelphia team that represented the NFC last year in the Super Bowl. Once he got rolling, McNabb was unstoppable, jumping on every mistake and leading the Eagles on a stunning 31-0 scoring blitz.
But another, more painful reason was the Chiefs’ poor execution after they seized leads of 17-0 and 24-6. The feeling around Arrowhead Stadium on a gloomy Monday afternoon was that without four Kansas City turnovers, not even McNabb and the Eagles could have come all the way back.
Not in Arrowhead.
“It was very disappointing,” said Dante Hall, who returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, but whose fumble during a later return led to a Philadelphia score.
“It’s hard to swallow when you beat yourself. That’s just tough...tough to digest when you look back at all the mistakes you made and you realize that it really had nothing to do with them.”
Well, it had something to do with them. Although he was supposedly playing with an assortment of aches and pains including a painful sports hernia, McNabb threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Terrell Owens, getting open time after time underneath the Kansas City zone, caught 11 balls for 171 yards and a touchdown.
Coaching might also have been a factor. The Chiefs got two touchdowns and a field goal early and seemed to be moving at will. But then the Eagles adjusted their defense and the Chiefs managed only 72 total yards in the second half until their final touchdown drive.
By then, the Eagles had taken a 37-24 lead.
“The best thing that could have happened to us in the second half is to convert some third downs and not turn the ball over,” coach Dick Vermeil said. “They got 23 points off turnovers. We had a couple of dropped passes.”
It was the second straight loss for the Chiefs after a 2-0 start. A slow start at Denver on Monday night led to a 30-10 defeat.
“We were down 17-0 (at Denver) and we weren’t able to come back,” tight end Tony Gonzalez said. “They (Philadelphia) were down 17-0 and the crowd was in it, the team was in it and we just couldn’t get it done.”
The offensive line, in the meantime, was again having difficulty protecting quarterback Trent Green. Jordan Black, in place of injured Pro Bowl left tackle Willie Roaf, had another rough day.
“For a long time we played pretty well, but we had pass protection problems that we’ve had for a couple of weeks now,” coach Dick Vermeil said. “We’ve got to re-evaluate and solve some of them as coaches and players.”
But pass protection is never the sole responsibility of the blockers up front, guard Brian Waters pointed out.
“There are multiple things that go into protection, whether it’s backs, tight ends, whether the quarterback gets rid of the ball when he needs to, whether receivers are where they’re supposed to be and he can get rid of the ball,” Waters said. “There are more things than just the offensive line blocking and protecting. There were times when we flat out didn’t block guys. It’s a team effort and we messed it up as a team.”
Roaf’s hamstring injury is expected to be healed in time for the next game against Washington on Oct. 16. Also reinstated will be cornerback Eric Warfield and offensive lineman John Welbourn after serving their four-game suspensions.