How Chiefs should game plan for Super Bowl LVII vs. Eagles
The Kansas City Chiefs will look to capture their third Super Bowl title in franchise history when they face the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Chiefs survived a grueling AFC Championship Game against the Cincinnati Bengals, winning their third Lamar Hunt trophy in the last four years. Kansas City is battle tested and clicking on all cylinders, winners of seven in a row and having overcome multiple key injuries.
The Eagles have also overcome their share of injuries, but they also lost two of their last three games of the regular season. Despite that, they bounced back in a big way during the playoffs, outscoring their opponents 69-14. Philadelphia held the No. 1 seed in the NFC during the entirety of the regular season.
Let’s dive into this matchup and see what it will take for the Chiefs to become Super Bowl champions once again.
Chiefs' defense vs. Eagles' offense
AP Photo-Matt Slocum
Nick Sirianni is in his second season as the Eagles’ head coach. His second-year offensive coordinator Shane Steichen calls the plays, but make no mistake that the Eagles’ offense is Sirianni’s system, and he is heavily involved in game planning and installing plays. The foundation of the Eagles’ offense is an incredibly diverse running game.
The Eagles are a heavy zone power running team with plenty of RPOs and designed quarterback runs. It all begins with their dominant offensive line, which was ranked the best in the league for the 2022 season per Pro Football Focus. It paves the way for Miles Sanders, who finished fifth in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,269.
The heart of the Eagles’ game plan will no doubt be to establish the run, especially with quarterback Jalen Hurts still feeling the effects of a shoulder injury that he suffered back in Week 15. The Chiefs finished the regular season ranked eighth against the run and was consistently in the top 10 throughout the season.
The key for the Chiefs against Philadelphia’s run game will be for their defensive line to set the tone early. Getting a strong push and winning one-on-one matchups will be crucial. As good as the Eagles offensive line is, its glaring weakness is that it was the most penalized unit in the league during the regular season. If the Chiefs can bring the heat, they could draw a lot of flags.
Not to be forgotten in the Eagles’ rushing attack is Hurts. The K.C. defense will need to tackle the big 225-pounder soundly and fundamentally. Hurts’ rushing production has taken a dip since injuring his shoulder as his yards per carry, yards before contact, and after contact has all gone down per Sharp Football.
His production as a passer has also taken a hit, with his completion percentage and yards per completion taking a downward spiral. To combat that Hurts has been getting the ball out of his hands quicker on short throws. This makes it crucial to the K.C. secondary to try to take away Hurts’ first read and force him to go through his progressions.
The Chiefs’ defensive backs will have their work cut out for them against a talented Eagles’ receiving corps. A.J. Brown was top five in the league in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns this season. He is a physical and fast receiver who can outmuscle a DB at the high point of the catch and can also burn defenders deep.
DeVonta Smith is a burner who is also one of the better route runners in the league. We could see Trent McDuffie, the Chiefs’ quickest cornerback, matched up against Smith often. The Chiefs’ DBs were great against the Bengals’ talented WRs last week, even without No. 1 CB L’Jarius Sneed.
With how frequently the Eagles use RPOs, it makes sense for the Chiefs’ DBs to play a lot of man-to-man so that every player on the Eagles’ offense is accounted for no matter who has the ball. If that is the route the Chiefs go, it will be critical to keep the Philadelphia receivers in front of them and compete for the ball when given the opportunity.
Chiefs' offense vs. Eagles' defense
Photo by Peter Aiken-Getty Images
Johnathan Gannon is in his second season as the Eagles defensive coordinator. Like most nowadays, Gannon’s defense is multiple, featuring a lot of different fronts from 3-4, to 4-3 and even 5-2. His elite depth of talented players allows Gannon this flexibility as he gives offenses a lot to have to prepare for.
The Eagles have five players (Haassan Reddick, Javon Hargrave, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham and Milton Williams) ranked in PFF’s top 35 rankings of interior and edge defenders. This allows them to play in lighter boxes because they win so often.
Their ability to drop multiple defenders in coverage and have no drop-off in pass rush makes Philly’s defense one of the best units in the league. The Eagles ranked first in sacks during the regular season by a wide margin with 70. They also ranked first in pressure rate at 33.4 percent.
The Chiefs’ offensive line ranked second in the league in pass protection, making this a matchup of heavyweights. One problem K.C. could face is that the strength of its offensive line is the interior, but the strength of the Eagles’ pass rush is on the outside. This could force the Chiefs to often play two or three tight end sets in this game.
Thankfully for the Chiefs, they’ve had success with multiple TE sets. They ran three tight end sets at the third-highest rate in the NFL during the regular season, with quarterback Patrick Mahomes completing 77.4 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns (per Sharp Football).
It doesn’t get any easier back in the Eagles’ secondary, which boasted the No. 1 pass defense during the regular season. Philly allowed the second-lowest yards per completion to QBs and snagged the third-most interceptions with 17. One of the biggest criticisms of the Eagles’ secondary, however, is the lack of quality QBs and offenses it has faced this season.
Perhaps the best QB the Eagles faced was Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys, who threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns while putting 40 points on the scoreboard in Week 16. Mahomes and the Chiefs offense will by far be the biggest test for the Philly secondary.
The Eagles play heavy zone coverages. Cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry have played at an elite level on the boundaries this season, but Philly has been weak across the middle and underneath. The Chiefs have done a great job this season of taking what the defense gives them and not forcing the ball downfield.
The Eagles also ranked just 24th in DVOA in the league against running backs in the passing game this season. Chiefs’ running back Jerick McKinnon had 826 receiving yards in the regular season and his nine TDs were the sixth-most among all pass catchers, not just RBs. Fellow RB Isiah Pacheco has also emerged as a legitimate receiving threat as of late.
Finally, there’s tight end Travis Kelce, who leads all pass catchers in receptions and touchdowns during the postseason. The Eagles have been good against tight ends, ranking fourth against them in DVOA.
Kelce isn’t your typical tight end, however, as he often goes into motion pre-snap and lines up in the slot as well as out wide. He is also great at improvising and finding the soft spots in zone coverage. Expect Kelce to line up all over the field and run a fair share of option routes.