We finally made it to the Super Bowl. All of the blood, sweat, and tiers put in by players, coaches, and their staff members has been for this. I’ve tried to guide you the entire way, and I’m not stopping here. With just the two 1-seeds remaining, we got to see which highly touted team would take the Lombardi trophy. The defenses could almost have stayed home, while the offenses treated us to a great game. Kansas City won in the final seconds, but there was so much more to this contest than that. I won’t keep you waiting; read on for my Super Bowl takeaways!
Kansas City Chiefs 38, Philadelphia Eagles 35
Kansas City started by differing on the coin toss, seemingly giving the Eagles what they wanted. Philadelphia scores often on their opening drive, and this one was no different. Thanks to some horrific tackling by the Chiefs and a dominant offensive line, the Eagles ran all over KC, culminating in a QB sneak TD by Jalen Hurts. Their version of the sneak, a power run in which two backs push Hurts forward, has been extremely effective all year long, and it didn’t fail even once in this game. The Chiefs responded immediately, with newly minted MVP Patrick Mahomes finding TE Travis Kelce for an 18-yard TD. Unsurprisingly, Kelce (6/81/1) was Mahomes’ most effective weapon. After forcing a 3-and-out, the Chiefs drove down to the PHI 24, but instead of going on 4th and 3, they attempted an FG. Harrison Butker pulled it left, and a scoring opportunity was lost.
Philadelphia scored on their very next drive and then made KC punt. The TD was more lucky than good; Hurts threw a prayer to AJ Brown (6/96/1), who made a nice adjustment while CB Trent McDuffie lost the ball. It could have easily been picked. Additionally, KC should have had a first down, as CB James Bradberry got away with a blatant hold. As the Eagles were driving again, G Isaac Seumalo committed a false start, turning 3rd and 1 into 3rd and 6. Hurts attempted a QB draw but lost the ball all on his own. LB Nick Bolton scooped it up and returned it for a TD, trying the game at 14. Bolton was the best defender on the field, as he was seemingly the only Chief who could tackle (9 total tackles). However, Eagles coach Nick Sirianni was far more aggressive than his counterpart. On the very next play, he ran the same draw that Hurts fumbled on, demonstrating his confidence in his QB. Hurts responded with a 14-yard gain, and the drive went for 75 yards and a TD in 7:19.
Time of possession was a theme all game. Mahomes only saw the ball for 8 minutes in the first half; Philly had the ball for 35:47 overall. Adding injury to insult, when KC tried to respond before the half, Mahomes scrambled and was tackled low. On the play, he reinjured his ankle and hobbled off the field. The Eagles quickly moved down the field for a field goal, taking a 24-14 halftime lead. Once a mediocre show by Rihanna was over, KC got the ball back, and all eyes turned to that ankle. A 75-yard TD drive that included a 14-yard scramble silenced any doubters (if there were any).
Kansas City nearly got more momentum when RB Miles Sanders appeared to catch and fumble a screen pass, which Bolton returned for another TD. However, the call was overturned to an incomplete pass. By the rulebook, the correct call was made, as Sanders didn’t have possession for long enough to complete the catch. I don’t think the spirit of the rule was upheld, however. That was a 10-point swing, as the Eagles scored 3 on the drive. On a 3rd and 14, Hurts threw a pass into double coverage, and TE Dallas Goedert somehow caught it, but it looked like he bobbled the ball. Philly tried to go fast, but they didn’t let KC substitute, so the officials stopped the play. Andy Reid then threw the challenge flag, but the ruling was upheld. I strongly disagreed with that, as both hands came off the ball. Goedert did not regain possession until his foot had come off the ground, so he was out of bounds.
One thing we need to discuss is the field. State Farm Stadium was trying some new grass to improve the footing after players complained earlier in the season. Butker himself got hurt in week 1 against Arizona. This move backfired spectacularly. I caught at least 9 instances where players slipped and fell. Some plays were short-circuited, and somebody could’ve been hurt. Chiefs WR Kadarius Toney seemed to be immune to this phenomenon. He caught a 5-yard TD on a wide open pass, and after a 3-and-out by the Eagles, he revered field for a 65-yard punt return TD. KC got the ball at the 5 and went up 35-27 three plays later. The Toney trade continues to look worse for the Giants, who might have just not taken the right approach with a talented young player.
Two personnel choices really stood out. KC activated former first-round RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire from IR but made him inactive. They opted to ride 7th-round rookie Isiah Pacheco (15/76/1), who really added another element to the offense. If not for SF’s Brock Purdy, he’d easily be the biggest 7th-round steal. On the Philly side, they activated P Arryn Siposs from IR, but he played. I have to ask why. He did not punt well all game (especially on the one Toney took back), and Brett Kern had looked better during his time filling in. That small decision really backfired in a big way.
Philadelphia wasn’t done yet though. The Chiefs busted a coverage, and Hurts hit WR Devonta Smith (7/100) for a 45-yard game. Smith couldn’t stay in bounds because the ball was underthrown; a better pass would’ve been an easy TD. Nonetheless, Hurts did his trademark sneak for his 3rd rushing TD of the game. KC shut down the RBs (17 carries for 45 yards) but not Hurts, who ran 15 times for 70 yards and those 3 scores, plus a 2-point conversion that tied the game at 35 following his last TD. Despite some lucky passes that were mostly amazing catches by his WRs, Hurts had an efficient passing day, going 27/38 for 304 yards and a TD. He was only sacked once, while Mahomes wasn’t sacked at all. These two teams led the NFL in sacks, but they also have mobile QBs protected by stellar lines, which neutralized the edge rushers.
With 5:15 to go, it was up to Mahomes to regain the lead. He didn’t disappoint. His weapon of choice on the drive was JuJu Smith-Schuster (7/53), who made chain-moving receptions on that critical possession. Mahomes broke the Eagles’ backs with a 26-yard scramble into the red zone, at which point the Chiefs tried to run out the clock. Philadelphia was about to get the ball back through the use of their timeouts, but on 3rd and 8, CB James Bradberry committed a crucial hold and provided a fresh set of downs. RB Jerick McKinnon took the next handoff, but the Eagles wanted to let him score. Obviously well-coached, McKinnon slid in bounds at the 2, and a couple of clock-eating kneel downs later, Butker redeemed himself with a 27-yard FG.
Hurts would get one last play, but his heave fell painfully short of any player on either team. Mahomes won his second MVP in 4 days, this time as MVP of the Super Bowl. He didn’t throw for a ton of yards due to a lack of possessions, but he was extremely efficient. The star QB went 21/27 for 182 yards, 3 TDs, and no turnovers. He added 6 carries for 44 yards on the ground despite his hurt ankle. This game was a story of two halves, but that’s been true of Philly all year. Their strategy is based on building a big lead and then running the clock out. They always play worse in the second half, so it’s no surprise that only 11 of their 35 points came in the 3rd and 4th frames. Against an offense that could slice and dice their previously untested defense, they crumbled.
The Eagles fought well, but it’s worth remembering that they had the easiest road I can remember to get here. First, they took advantage of the easiest regular-season schedule in the league, which was made even easier with injuries to the QBs of two division rivals (Dak Prescott of Dallas and Carson Wentz of Washington). That got them a first-round bye. Then, they got to play the Giants in the divisional round. We’re talking about a wild card team with a -6 point differential that the Eagles had already trounced twice. Finally, in another home game for the conference title, they went against the 49ers’ 3rd-string QB for 1 series. Purdy tore his UCL, forcing journeyman Josh Johnson into the game until he too was knocked out with a concussion.
I admit that this team is better than I gave them credit for, but they’re still overrated. The roster is fantastic, and GM Howie Roseman should be commended for it. Kansas City, however, showed them what a QB disparity can do. Despite the talent advantages on defense and at receiver, KC was able to come out on top. The Chiefs have taught a master class in building a dynasty, and with Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes, and Travis Kelce around for the long haul, they will be a perennial force in the AFC and the NFL at large.