Another week of Philadelphia Eagles football is under wraps, and fortunately for me and my wife, Brooke, we didn’t just watch Andy Reid best his former team from the comfort of our own home.
No, we spent a good 12 hours on the road just to ensure we saw it in person. And we enjoyed every minute of it.
This wasn’t business as much as it was a departure from it — an opportunity to do some exploring and, all the while, reconnect with the team to which I clung as a child in Pennsylvania and then warranted my coverage even after I relocated to Minnesota. Kansas City, then, site of the Eagles’ Week Two showdown, made for one of the closest road games of Philadelphia’s 2017 season, and I’ve documented our journey there as a lead-in to the updated game-by-game Eagles notebook ...
Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017
10:22 a.m. The trek begins. Kansas City awaits. Just under six hours of driving ahead.
4:58 p.m. Arrival. We pass through an overcast St. Louis, heading straight for check-in at our hotel, which is actually located in Kansas, a few miles across the border. A couple of Chiefs-themed McDonald’s billboards dot the sides of the highway. “Necessary Loudness,” one says.
5:42 p.m. We get to West 39th Street in K.C., eyeing Q39 Midtown, a barbecue and wood-fire grilling restaurant that we’ve been recommended by a friend to try. Quite the urban rustic feel on 39th. And quite the tow of Eagles fans at Q39, where half the people waiting for a table are sporting green jerseys.
6:25 p.m. After perusing the local strip of shops nearby (personal favorite just for the name: “Miami Ice,” the Rita’s of hipster Kansas City), we stand outside Q39, awaiting our table and observing car after van after truck of Eagles fans arriving for dinner. And there, at our first real stop in a state to which we’ve never been after a six-hour drive and a whimsical choice to take the friend’s recommendation for food, out of the front doors walks Howie Roseman, Eagles executive vice president. My wife, to no fault of her own, thinks nothing of it as the unofficial general manager strolls past her, glancing him off as any other 40-something in a blue button-up. My stomach, meanwhile, drops like it’s on the amusement-park pirate ship if only because, out here on our own free-flowing road trip, my mind couldn’t comprehend that we’d just stumbled upon the pre-game dinner establishment of Howie.
6:26 p.m. After taking a call on speaker phone at the corner of the parking lot, Howie makes his way back toward Q39’s doors. I stop him on his way back in to say hello. His comments: “Go Birds. It’ll be loud out there.”
6:37 p.m. There is talk in the men’s restroom of a Jeffrey Lurie sighting at the restaurant.
6:57 p.m. No longer do I wonder why, of all places, Howie Roseman chose this place to eat. The brisket is as tender as I’ve ever tasted. Props to you, Kansas City. Props to you.
7:15 p.m. Ah, yes. The Lurie sighting is confirmed. The Eagles owner flashes his smile from an enclosed dining area, out of which Roseman eventually comes as well, and upon leaving the restaurant, he makes no less than 10 stops for pictures with fans. A couple of “E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!” chants ensue. Everyone loves Q39. (And maybe, now, they will sponsor next week’s column.)
Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017
10:40 a.m. I’ve handled the commute to Kansas City, so my wife takes the wheel as we prepare to park at Arrowhead. The line of cars waiting to get in is about as long as you’d expect, and the lots look to be filling up. We pull up to the attendant booth and, without hesitation, our red-shirted friend tells us this:
“I’m sorry. I told the people in front of you the same thing: You’re going to have to go in, turn around and go out the exit ...” (and it’s at this point my wife is staring intently at this attendant, concerned we won’t find a parking spot) “... and then you’re going to have to drive all the way home because you’ve got the wrong jersey on.”
Brooke has every right to blame me for giving her a white No. 87 Brent Celek jersey. But she doesn’t. We get well wishes from the attendant and are on our way.
10:55 a.m. Not sure I’ve ever smelled more of a hearty barbecue than in Arrowhead parking lots.
11:19 a.m. Game time. Almost. Salute to the Arrowhead architects, by the way, for going with a spiral ramp rather than a never-ending staircase.
12:00 p.m. Game time (in local time). For real. In all honesty, I cannot say the place is substantially louder than any game at Lincoln Financial Field, even though Arrowhead is hyped and marketed, especially during the game, as the loudest in the NFL. Even so, it’s got an impressive look.
3:56 p.m. We make our way out of the Arrowhead lots. A close game — and at least, thrill-wise, a satisfactory finish — is in the books (see notebook below).
3:57 p.m. Ready for the next week of Eagles football.
Week One: Eagles 30, Redskins 17: Year Two of the Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson regime started with the Birds ending a five-game losing streak to the Redskins at FedEx Field, where Jim Schwartz’s front-four rotation led the way. Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan combined for four sacks and two forced fumbles, the second of which was returned 20 yards for a touchdown by Cox, sealing a two-score, fourth-quarter lead. After fellow cornerback Ronald Darby was carted off with an injury, Jalen Mills also aided an Eagles “D” that gave up just 64 rushing yards and three third-down conversions, intercepting Kirk Cousins on a red-zone pass when the ‘Skins trailed by two. With uneven protection and a non-existent running game, Wentz (26-39, 307 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INTs) was the victim of a Ryan Kerrigan pick six but channeled his inner Donovan McNabb on an opening-drive scramble and 58-yard TD heave to Nelson Agholor, then extended plays with tight end Zach Ertz (8 receptions, 93 yards) to set up three Caleb Sturgis field goals and a Gatorade bath for Pederson.
Week Two: Chiefs 27, Eagles 20: Late-game grit and a stout start for Jim Schwartz’s defense weren’t enough for Doug Pederson to best ex-Eagles coach Andy Reid at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs used a 53-yard touchdown run from rookie Kareem Hunt, back-to-back fourth-quarter scores and six sacks of an overburdened Carson Wentz to decide a close one. Big stands from a banged-up Eagles secondary offset a rare Darren Sproles fumble on a punt return inside Birds territory, holding Kansas City to a 6-3 halftime lead, but heavy pressure on the Eagles QB led to a tipped interception and more red-zone chances for Reid’s unit. Still, Wentz (25-46, 333 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) started efficiently (7-of-9), spread 19 first-down throws to Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Zach Ertz and scrambled his way to a team-high 55 rushing yards on another dismal day for the backfield. Down two scores with :14 left, his 9-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor preceded a perfect onside kick from fill-in Jake Elliott, who made up for an earlier 30-yard field goal miss and set up a game-ending Hail Mary try.