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February 07, 2023

Eagles vs. Chiefs: Five matchups to watch, when the Chiefs have the ball

Here's what to keep an eye on when the Eagles are on defense Sunday.

Eagles NFL
020723PatrickMahomes Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes

Super Bowl LVII is now only five days away, so let's start looking at the most noteworthy matchups. This morning we started with when the Eagles have the ball. Here we'll look at when the Chiefs have the ball.

1) The Eagles' secondary vs. Patrick Mahomes and "every blade of grass"

On Monday night, Jonathan Gannon stressed the need to defend the entire field, just like he did prior to the Eagles' Week 4 loss to the Chiefs in 2021.

"You have to play the coverages the correct way, you have to play your leverages the correct way, and you have to know where your help is because [Mahomes] is one of the few in the world that can make you pay on throws that people think [aren't possible]," Gannon said. 

That mirrored what he said in 2021.

"He's extremely accurate," Gannon said prior to that Week 4 matchup last season. "I mean, he's really — to me, I don't know what a generational quarterback is, but whatever that is, he probably is that.

"What I think they do a really good job of is they make you defend — everyone has heard, ‘every blade of grass.’ They really do. We have to understand that, and we have to do a good job of minimizing some of those explosive plays when he gets off schedule.

"When he starts moving around, their guys do a good job of knowing how to get open, what spots to find, and he can be running this way on the numbers and throw it back over here where typically you'd be like, ‘He's never going to throw it over there.’ So, it's going to be a big challenge for us."

The following is a highlight reel of Mahomes' day against the Eagles in 2021. The Eagles have a far better defense now than they did then, and in my opinion, the Chiefs' skill position players aren't nearly as explosive, but it still serves as a good example on Mahomes using the entire field to absolute shred an opponent. (You'll have to click "Watch on YouTube" to relive the pain.)

2) The Eagles' back seven vs. TE Travis Kelce

The Chiefs' best offensive weapon is Kelce, and it's not really even close. In my opinion, he is on his way to being the best tight end of all time. The 2022 season was his seventh consecutive one gaining over 1,000 yards through the air, as he caught 110 passes for 1,338 yards and 12 TDs. His skills as a receiver are obvious, but it's his intelligence that helps make him the elite player he is, according to Gannon.

"The main thing that stands out to me is that you can tell he played quarterback way back when because he has a really unique understanding of coverages," Gannon said. "The route might say to run a 10-yard turn-in, but he knows there's a defender in a 10-yard turn-in, so he might run a 10-yard sit down. 

"And then playing with Mahomes for so long they're on the same page and it just makes them hard to defend because that's what I would say is his intellect, just with what looks you're giving him on defense, how you know certain routes, he can do different things to combat that. He's a really smart player aside from all the run after catch skills, and ball skills, and route running, and breaking tackles and all that. It's really his brain."

The Eagles faced another excellent tight end last week in George Kittle, who did make some plays against the Eagles defense before the 49ers no longer had a quarterback who could throw the football.

3) The Chiefs' running backs vs. the Eagles' linebackers

The Chiefs found a really nice duo in Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon at running back this season. Pacheco is a hard charging runner who carried 170 times for 830 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and 5 TDs in 2022. McKinnon was a passing down back who racked up 56 catches for 512 yards and 9 (!) TDs through the air. If you were to combine both players in to one super back (Ijerick McCheco?), he would actually remind me a bit of Christian McCaffrey, who possesses similar traits to the ones that Pacheco and McKinnon have as a duo. Does that make sense? Well, whatever. It makes sense to me.

They'll be a good test for T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White.

4) Where might the Eagles go feastin'?

The Chiefs' offensive line looks like this:

 Orlando BrownJoe Thuney Creed Humphrey Trey Smith Andrew Wylie 

Brown, Thuney, and Humphrey were all named to the Pro Bowl, and Smith is a very good second-year player at RG. The very clear weakness along the Chiefs' O-line is Wylie. PFF has him down for nine sacks allowed on the season. I was going to cut up video of all of those for y'all, but if you're a user of NFL+ then you're probably aware that it only works on occasion, and it is choosing not to work for me on the week of the Super Bowl. 🤷‍♂️

The Chiefs' biggest fear offensively heading into this game has to be the matchup of Haason Reddick vs. Wylie. Reddick has 9.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in his last six games, and he was a wrecker of souls in the NFC Championship Game. My guess is that Andy Reid will have a better plan for Reddick than Kyle Shanahan did.

#FeastinMeter: 5 turkey legs 🍗🍗🍗🍗🍗

5) The Chiefs' screen game vs. the Eagles' front seven

One way to slow down a pass rush is to run a bunch of screens, and if you remember Andy Reid's time in Philly, there's nothing he loves more than cheeseburgers, shovel passes, and screens.

This is great nugget from Sheil Kapadia of The Ringer

[The Chiefs] piled up 2,850 yards after the catch in the regular season. That’s the most by any team in the last 15 years.

That's not all because the Chiefs have players who can get yards after the catch. A lot of it is because their screen game is so effective. The Eagles' pass rush has the difficult task of (a) being the Eagles' best hope of slowing down Mahomes, but also (b) knowing that they have to be mindful of the screen game. That's a tough ask.

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