Marquez Valdes-Scantling turned on his jets, raced past Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Bradley Roby for multi-yard separation and outstretched his arms.
With less than two minutes to play, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes launched a pass 45 yards into both of Valdes-Scantling’s hands. Then, the pass ricocheted off of his fingers, Valdes-Scantling tripping within five yards of the end zone as he fumbled both the ball and the Chiefs’ last close chance at a victory.
A penalty and an incompletion later, the Chiefs were accepting their 21-17 loss to the Eagles team they'd beaten nine months earlier in the Super Bowl.
That is, if you call the booming slam of a helmet off the tunnel walls a sign of acceptance.
Mahomes knew the drop would haunt Valdes-Scantling. The quarterback insisted he could have thrown a less demanding pass, adding that Valdes-Scantling’s drop alone wasn’t the key to the Chiefs’ third loss this year.
"We went up against one of the best, if not the best, NFC team and we were this close," Mahomes said after a 24-of-43, 177-yard night with two touchdowns and an interception. "In the NFL, if you don't make those big plays in the big moments, in the red zone and in those two-minute drills, then you lose. That's what we did today.
“Starts with me. I’ve got to make better throws at certain times, continue to move the ball down the field, and just be more consistent throughout the game.”
Mahomes’ humility aside, the Chiefs’ latest loss exposed their clear Achilles heel to the NFL world on national television. The Eagles, meanwhile, reminded the league that they win in just the way the Chiefs lose.
And they might ride that recipe to the win they most want, in February.
Mahomes says he has ‘no regret’ on pass that Valdes-Scantling dropped
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni didn’t wait for a question about his defense’s performance.
Holding the defending Super Bowl champions scoreless after halftime?
“I know you didn’t ask about the defense, but I’m gonna talk about the defense,” Sirianni told reporters about halfway through his postgame media conference. “I can’t say enough about the job our defensive staff and defensive players did.”
Sirianni was right: The Eagles' two-takeaway, no-points-allowed-after-halftime performance highlighted their savvy front office (hello, Kevin Byard trade), impressive first-year defensive coordinator Sean Desai (even Mahomes knew the Eagles had intentionally pressured him into throwing to less reliable targets) and execution across all three levels of the defense.
But frankly: Valdes-Scantling’s drop, and the offensive woes that doomed the Chiefs on Monday, say far more about Kansas City than they do Philadelphia.
This was the third straight game that Kansas City failed to score after halftime.
Chiefs pass-catchers now lead the league in drops, with 26, per ESPN Stats and Info.
Sure, Mahomes can and will take the blame for perceived areas in which he could improve his precision and communication. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid rebuffed the notion his players weren’t on the same page, instead qualifying that “they’re on the same page but we were maybe off a tick.”
That tick has cost the Chiefs games in which their defense has played well enough to win (think: five sacks of Eagles QB Jalen Hurts in the first half alone Monday). Mahomes can say he’ll “keep firing it,” but passing in the NFL requires two capable parties. Too often lately, Chiefs plays have had just one.
“I have no regret,” Mahomes said of trusting Valdes-Scantling with the game on the line. “They triple-teamed Travis [Kelce] so I went to the guy that won down field, and Marquez won down field. Just didn’t come away with the ball [so we] got to continue to try to get better and better.
“Defense is keeping us in games. If we can find a way to just get a little better as an offense, we’re gonna win a lot of these games.”
The Eagles, with that formula, already are.
Eagles’ ‘gritty, grimy, nasty’ reason to believe another postseason run looms
No, Hurts emphasized throughout last week and again on Monday night, the Eagles did not view this as a revenge game.
“We weren’t thinking, ‘Hey, we were coming up here to avenge a loss,’ because they’re different,” Sirianni said. “It’s a different magnitude of game. [The Super Bowl] was for everything.”
But the Eagles did celebrate outlasting a talented and win-laden team in a loud road environment with soggy weather conditions.
“Whoever was going to win that game was going to do it gritty, grimy, nasty,” Sirianni said. “We were able to come out on top.”
Astute NFL fans shouldn’t have been surprised.
Because while the Chiefs have alternated between escaping close games late and squandering them, the Eagles have steadily clawed their way back into them or maintained their lead.
Philadelphia has averaged 13.9 points per second half compared to the Chiefs’ 5.3.
The Eagles’ mark ranks fourth-best in the league. The Chiefs are dead last, 0.7 points behind the 2-9 Arizona Cardinals, who rank second-worst.
Hurts rushed for both of the Eagles’ second-half touchdowns, earning Philadelphia’s first lead of the night with 6:23 to play. And his 150 passing yards don’t reflect the level of mental processing he was doing on the field.
Nearly a third of Hurts’ air yardage came on a 41-yard go ball to DeVonta Smith that catapulted the Eagles to the 1-yard line, and set up the near-lock “Brotherly Shove" for the go-ahead touchdown. Hurts’ loft from a collapsing pocket was far less orchestrated than his poise made it look.
Sirianni admitted he did not call the go ball that Hurts dialed up.
“Huge play that Jalen actually checked to [and] a heck of a check,” Sirianni said. “That’s what good quarterbacks do: they make three or four plays that change the game with their mind.
“Jalen did that tonight.”
There’s reason to believe he will again.
So while the Chiefs no doubt still prefer their Super Bowl rings to Monday night’s bragging rights, and the Eagles will continue to peddle aphorisms such as the best part of winning Monday was that it was their next chance to win, Monday’s game taught fans plenty about what to expect in this year’s postseason.
Counting Mahomes out is dangerous, but the Chiefs’ current roster is so pass catcher-deficient that there’s legitimately reason to believe even he can’t compensate.
The 9-1 Eagles, meanwhile, bring the best record in the league into Thanksgiving because they not only make plays, they make them at the moments most needed to win games — even after earlier-game circumstances raise the stakes of those plays.
“I don’t think we played clean tonight; nowhere near our standard,” Hurts said. “But the thing you can’t test or quantify is the resilience that a team has and the ability to persevere and see through things and overcome things. And this team has that.
“We’ve yet to put up a performance to our standard, but we’re continuing to find ways to win. And when you win games like we’ve won games, that builds a ton of character.