By Arnie Leshin
Sunday’s Super Bowl 57 offers the first two starting Black quarterbacks when the one and one-half point favored Philadelphia Eagles face the Kansas City Chiefs.
For the National Conference champion Eagles, it’s Jalen Hurts who has done a masterful job after replacing Carson Wentz, and he has emerged as a Most Valuable Player candidate.
The American Conference champion Chiefs counter with a never quit, always on the move, Patrick Mahomes.
Sounds good, could be a high-scoring game played at Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., because two teams with identical 14-3 overall records, except it will also pit two physical defenses in a battle that could be won in the trenches. It could be takeaways and explosive plays.
The Eagles’ defensive line is a deep and star-studded crew that has accounted for 47.5 of the team’s league-high 70 sacks as well as seven batted passes in the regular season. Plus it is a group with four Super Bowl rings, 19 pro-bowl selections 11 all-pro honors.
But the Chiefs’ line can be just as menacing. Just as Mahomes goes, the play of their defense has been integral to their success. Since 1992, the franchise has recorded six or more sacks in 30 games, and their record over that span is 29-1.
This year, the line has accounted for 41.5 of the team’s 55 sacks that rank second in the National Football League, and it has a league-high 21 batted passes.
Philadelphia in turn has made a huge transformation from a 4-11-1 team two years ago that has centered around Hurts and adding pieces around him.
This includes the defense where the Eagles took a middling group in most major statistics categories last season and made it made it into the league’s best in years. They feature Brandon Graham and Josh Sweat on the ends and Javon Hargrave and Fletcher Cox at the tackle spots. In addition, it has a deep bench that becomes a luxury.
Kansas City’s defensive coordinator is Steve Spagnola and he employs a 4-3 base of four linemen and three linebackers, and run most of its snaps out of subpackages with five or six defensive backs.
Similar to Philly, the heart of Chiefs former Eagles head coach Andy Reid’s defense is up front and led by tackle Chris Jones, one of the most dominant interior linemen in the game. The pass rush is also rightfully built around Jones.
KC also uses wide alignments to force opposing offensive lines onto their heels in space with almost no help.
But Hurts is tough to contain. He’s always on the go, he’s deceptive and is a total threat via the option.
Same with Mahomes, he’s a threat when he drops back and finds someone open, he can throw or run while being pressured and he never loses his confidence.
Maybe this why the 1 1/2 odds have not changed since they were posted. Maybe it all boils down to whoever gets the breaks.
You can talk defense, you can talk offense, you can perhaps piece together a tight tussle, it’s all in the game that is scheduled to kick off at 4:30 p.m. on FOX.
And as Yogi said: It ain’t over til it’s over!
In previous tilts between the two, Kansas City is 3-for-3, winning 42-30 on Oct. 3, 2021; 27-20 on Sept. 17, 2017, and 26-26 on Sept. 19, 2013.
This season has had the Chiefs scoring 29.2 points per game, the Eagles 28.4, the Chiefs putting together 413.6 yards a game, the Eagles 392.4, the Chiefs opposition points at 21.7, the Eagles at 20.5.
LOOKING BACK ON THE NFL POST-SEASON PLAYOFFS:
Saturday, Jan. 14
San Francisco 41, Seattle 23
Jacksonville 31, LA Chargers 30
Sunday, Jan. 15
Buffalo 34, Miami 31
NY Giants 31, Minnesota 24
Cincinnati 24, Baltimore 17
Monday, Jan. 16
Dallas 31, Tampa Bay 14
Saturday, Jan. 21
Kansas City 27, Jacksonville 20
Philadelphia 38, NY Giants 7
Sunday, Jan. 22
Cincinnati 27, Buffalo 10
San Francisco 19, Dallas 12
AFC — Kansas City 23, Cincinnati 20
NFC — Philadelphia 31, San Francisco 7
At Glendale, Ariz.
Philadelphia versus Kansas City, 4:30 p.m. on FOX