It is Super Bowl Sunday. We can run through all the clichés, but we don’t need them. This is it. This is it.
Patrick Mahomes is the best player in the league. Completely deserving of being MVP, this season is his finest work yet. But there are 91 other players who will dress on Sunday, and the Eagles have a whole bunch of the best of them. Football games do not come down to one play or one man, this is a team sport.
At no point during the season did the Eagles not have at least a share of the best record in the league. They beat the teams with the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th best records in the NFC. They have beaten every AFC team they played. They’ve played five playoff teams and beat all of them. They had a league high 8 Pro Bowlers and a whopping 9 alternates. The Eagles have been the best team in the NFL all season. Tonight they can prove it.
The Chiefs, as powerful as their offense is, do not quite dominate. They outscore teams 29-22, 12 of their games have been decided by a TD or less, 5 by two TDs or more. They’ve earned their Super Bowl appearance as much as the Eagles have, but they haven’t made it easy for themselves, winning by 7 against the Jaguars and 3 against the Bengals, with some aid from a bonehead penalty by Cincinnati at the end of the game. They’re good enough to win the Super Bowl. But they haven’t dominated. Not like the Eagles have.
The Eagles are 16-1 when Jalen Hurts plays. In those games they have outscored teams 502-298, an average of 30 to 18. 7 of those games were decided by one TD or less, but equally 7 of those games were decided by at least two TDs. They have plowed through the playoffs by a 69-14 margin. They don’t just win, they make statements. It is time to make one more.
It starts in the trenches. The Eagles defense is the first in NFL history to have four players with 10+ sacks, and Haason Reddick, Javon Hargrave, Josh Sweat, and Brandon Graham didn’t just squeak by, they all had at least 11. The defense as a whole had 70 sacks, two shy of the single season record. This defense has a strong claim to the best pass rush the league has ever seen. They can grasp that title by putting Patrick Mahomes, one of the hardest QBs in the league to sack, on the ground. He can be had. 15 players who weren’t Eagles had double digit sacks. The Chiefs faced just two of them over three games, Nick Bosa and Maxx Crosby. That duo combined for 4 sacks, 6 tackles for losses, and 4 QB hits. Mahomes had the 3rd best sack rate this season, the Eagles have faced three other QBs in the top 5. Jared Goff had the 2nd best sack rate and Trevor Lawrence the 4th, the Eagles gave them each the second most sacks they’ve had this season. Dak Prescott had the 5th best rate, the Eagles took him down a season high 6 times. 49ers QBs combined for the 10th best sack rate, and we all saw what happened there. Mahomes has been sacked at least twice 9 times. The Eagles can get him.
On the flipside, the Eagles offensive line is the best in the league. It has overwhelmed defenses. There’s one more defense to pound into oblivion. The Chiefs were second in the league in sacks, led by Defensive Player of the Year finalist Chris Jones’s 15.5. Kansas City hasn’t faced an offensive line like this though. In Jalen Hurts starts, the Eagles have kept “Defensive Player of the Year” Nick Bosa and fellow finalist Micah Parsons to 0 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and 0 QB hits. Pro Bowl DTs Dexter Lawrence, Jonathan Allen, Deron Payne, Jeffery Simmons, and Cameron Hayward combined for 1 sack, 3 TFL, and 6 QB hits against the Eagles in eight games. The Chiefs can send anyone at any time, 17 different players have recorded a sack, and five of them are defensive backs. But dialing up the blitz isn’t going to give the Eagles anything they haven’t seen before, they were blitzed 187 times in the regular season, the most in the league, and faced the 2nd highest blitz rate.
Of course a good pass rush isn’t enough against the Eagles. Kansas City’s defense has struggled or been outright bad against the run. The advanced stats say they’ve been lousy: 16th in power, 22nd in stuffed, and 24th in 2nd level runs. One simple stat tells the story: Kansas City has given up a rushing 1st down or TD on 3rd or 4th and short 68% of the time. The Eagles have converted on 76% of attempts with Jalen Hurts at QB. On 4th down it gets even worse for the Chiefs, they’ve failed on 6 of their 8 4th and short attempts against, while the Eagles have missed just once in 15 tries. The offensive line has imposed their will on defenses all season long. One more to go.
While the Eagles signature play this year has been their probably soon to be outlawed rugby scrum, they have also been outstanding in the air. Jalen Hurts was 4th in passer rating. AJ Brown was 4th in receiving yards, Devonta Smith 9th. Dallas Goedert was 7th among tight ends despite missing five games. The Chiefs defense has been vulnerable in the air. 20th in DVOA, 21st in INT rate, 31st in TD rate, and they were 30th in DVOA pass short and the middle of the field, and 28th against RBs. And in the red zone the Eagles had the 3rd best offense, and the Chiefs the 2nd worst. Kansas City is far from the best the Eagles have faced this year, and can be beat on defense multiple ways. The Eagles offense is capable of beating anyone anyway.
The leadership hierarchy on this team has been a driving force. The veteran core, Eagles lifers on both sides of the ball, have walked the walk. Brandon Graham and Jason Kelce, along with Fletcher Cox and Lane Johnson, know what it takes to reach the summit. As does Ndamukong Suh, who beat Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl two years ago and joined the Eagles not for the paycheck but for another ring.
It was no coincidence that in what might have been the last home game of his career Jason Kelce had one of the best games of his career. Kelce claims that the outcome of the Super Bowl won’t affect his decision to retire, and we should believe him. If he’s already decided this is his last ride, well, watch out.
Jalen Hurts possesses the near-emotionless focus that sets extraordinary athletes apart. Only time will tell if Hurts reaches this stage again, plenty of great QBs have made it this far early in their careers and never returned, but one can be sure that he isn’t taking anything for granted.
Many are predicting a close game, and if so, that Patrick Mahomes gives the Chiefs the edge. They may be right. But sometimes the difference in close games isn’t the players on the field but the coaches on the sideline. In this the Eagles have another advantage. Andy Reid’s in-game management limitations have been largely covered up in Kansas City by Patrick Mahomes’ brilliance. Nick Sirianni and his staff have been masters at in-game decisions and adjustments, force multipliers for the league’s most talented team. In a close game, that very well may be the difference.
This is the better team. They are better in the trenches on both sides of the ball. They have the WR/DB advantage on both sides of the ball. They have the in-game coaching advantage. From September to January, this has been the best team in the NFL. Today, in February, it is time to prove it. The time is now. This is it.