Chiefs-Eagles Super Bowl clash is best vs. best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Super Bowl LVII is a game of one-on-one.

As in, the Eagles, the No. 1 seed in the NFC, facing the Chiefs, the No. 1 seed in the AFC. For just the sixth time since the 1970 merger, the Super Bowl will be played by the two teams with sole possession of the top two records in the regular season.

These two teams are evenly matched on paper. They both have the same record (16-3). They have both scored the same number of points (546). Both have the same number of All-Pros (six). Neither team has trailed in the postseason.

The Chiefs are in their third Super Bowl in four years, trying to win the third championship in team history. The Eagles are back in the Super Bowl for the first time since winning their first Lombardi Trophy in 2017.

It has the makings of a classic. It’s also a game with some classic subplots.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid faces the Eagles, the team he coached from 1999-2012. He won more games than any coach in Eagles history and brought them to the Super Bowl in 2004. Now, he can add to his legacy and win his second Super Bowl by beating them.

Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes
Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes
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Chiefs coach Andy Reid faces the Eagles, the team he coached from 1999-2012.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid faces the Eagles, the team he coached from 1999-2012.
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“Listen, I had 14 great years there,” Reid said of Philadelphia. “I loved every minute of it. It’s a great organization. I still am close with the people there. It was great to see the kids that we had drafted that are now these veteran players — All-Pro players — on that team. I had the chance to give them a hug, and now we go our separate ways and get ready to play.”

Reid drafted both Eagles center Jason Kelce and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who will become the first brothers to play against each other in the Super Bowl. The Kelces and their mother, Donna, have been the stars of Super Bowl week.

The game also features the first meeting between two black starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes won his second MVP award this week and Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts finished second in the voting.

“I think it’s history. I think it’s something that’s worthy of being noted and it is history,” Hurts said. “I think it’s come a long way. I think there’s only been seven African-American quarterbacks to play in the Super Bowl. To be the first for something is pretty cool. It’ll be a good one.”

Both Hurts (shoulder) and Mahomes (ankle) have been dealing with injuries in the playoffs, but both have said they are healthy and ready to go Sunday in what should be a classic matchup.

Marquee matchup

Eagles offensive line vs. Chiefs defensive line

Sure, there are a ton of stars in this game. But it will probably be decided by the play at the line of scrimmage. The Eagles’ offense has excelled this season largely because of a dominant offensive line. Quarterback Jalen Hurts needs time to operate and the Eagles’ running game can control things. It all starts up front with a line that includes All-Pro center Jason Kelce and All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson.

Philadelphia has racked up 416 yards rushing in two lopsided playoff wins over the Giants and 49ers.

Lane Johnson (left) celebrates with Jalen Hurts after an Eagles touchdown during their playoff win over the Giants.
Lane Johnson (left) celebrates with Jalen Hurts after an Eagles touchdown during their playoff win over the Giants.
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The Chiefs’ defensive line is led by tackle Chris Jones, who had 15.5 sacks this season and has been a terror for opposing offenses. Frank Clark, George Karlaftis and Derrick Nnadi join Jones on a deep line that Jones feels is hitting its stride.

“We’ve got to attack them,” Jones said. “They’re probably one of the best offensive lines in the game today. They’ve done a hell of a job all year long and their quarterback is one of the best also. I think it’s going to be exciting for us as a defensive line to get after it.”

Four downs

What a rush: The Eagles led the NFL with 70 sacks this season, the third most in NFL history, and they can take over the game with four pass rushers who finished the year with double-digit sacks. Haason Reddick led the way with 19.5 sacks, including the playoffs. He dominated the NFC Championship game with two sacks, three pressures, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the first half. He also knocked 49ers QB Brock Purdy out of the game on a strip sack.

The Chiefs know all too well that poor pass protection can cost you. They lost the Super Bowl two years ago to the Buccaneers when Patrick Mahomes was running for his life all game. The Chiefs have retooled their line since then and have a pair of second-team All-Pros in left guard Joe Thuney and center Creed Humphrey.

Haason Reddick
Haason Reddick

Mahomes may not be as mobile as usual because of the high ankle sprain he suffered in the playoffs. The Chiefs will have to protect him to win this game.

Tyreek who? The Chiefs traded one of the most explosive players in the NFL during the offseason when they shipped speedster Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins. Somehow, it has not slowed them down. The Chiefs finished with the No. 1 overall and passing offenses in the league. Give credit to Kansas City general manager Brett Veach, who signed JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling in free agency to replace Hill’s production. It also helps when you have Mahomes at quarterback.

“You never want to lose a generational player,” Mahomes said. “But we did a great job of recouping and getting a lot of great receivers in here and great guys throughout our whole offense. We had a plan. That’s the biggest thing. When you lose a great like that, you have to make sure you have a plan to replace his production.”

Touchdown Travis: While the storyline about the Kelce brothers has been a fun one, it won’t matter once the game starts. But Travis Kelce could be one of the stars of this game. Kelce is Mahomes’ favorite target. He had a career-high 110 catches this season for 1,338 yards and 12 touchdowns. The only player with more playoff touchdown catches than Kelce’s 15 is Jerry Rice.

Travis Kelce celebrates after catching a touchdown pass during the Chiefs' AFC title game win over the Bengals.
Travis Kelce celebrates after catching a touchdown pass during the Chiefs’ AFC title game win over the Bengals.
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The Chiefs love to put Kelce in the slot, and that could create a mismatch with Eagles nickel Avonte Maddox, who has been dealing with a toe injury.

Nick knack: Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni overcame an awkward introductory press conference to win over fans. Sirianni has the Eagles in the Super Bowl in his second season and his feisty attitude has won him a lot of fans. Sirianni began his career in Kansas City coaching wide receivers and was fired by Andy Reid when Reid became the head coach. Sirianni said this week that Reid was kind to him and gave him encouragement that he would land on his feet, something he appreciated.

“Even though I never worked with him, I felt like I gained a valuable lesson from him to be able to reach out and talk to the guys,” Sirianni said. “I just always remember thinking of coach Reid in that moment because he gave me a good blueprint of what to do when you have to do the tough parts of this job.”

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