Eagles aim to outpoint their old coach in Super Bowl LVII

PHOENIX — Super Bowl LVII has been hyped as everything from The Kelce Bowl to the Duel in the Desert to the Super Bowl’s first meeting of black starting quarterbacks. Oh, and it’s also apparently become a “Philly Thing.”

It’s the Eagles and in-your-face head coach Nick Sirianni and his ruthless run game against the Birds’ long ago coach, Hall of Fame-bound Andy “Big Red” Reid and the pass-heavy Kansas City Chiefs Sunday at State Farm Stadium (6:30 p.m., Fox-TV, WIP 94.1-FM). It’s time for Eagles’ past to collide with the franchise’s future. No one could have predicted it would be so entertaining.

The showdowns begin with Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, the MVP runner-up and his counterpart, Patrick Mahomes, the MVP winner who can become the first quarterback to win two Lombardi Trophies by age 27. There is the sibling rivalry between Eagles center Jason Kelce and his younger brother Travis, the always open tight end of the Chiefs.

It’s Eagles game wrecker Haason Reddick, the 6-1, 235-pound edge and Chiefs counterpart Chris Jones, the 6-6, 298-pound defensive tackle. If that doesn’t light your fire, the pilot light is out.

“I don’t feel like I put in all that work for no reason,” Hurts said. “I don’t feel like this team has put in all the work for no reason. So, we’re coming in to finish the job. Finish the job we set out to do.”

Hurts hasn’t been to a Super Bowl, but he’s played in several national championship or playoff games at Alabama and Oklahoma. This season he has emerged as a deep ball passing threat, throwing 22 touchdown passes to go with 13 rushing scores. Hurts rushed for 760 yards this season despite missing two games. He is lethal on third- or fourth-and-short quarterback sneaks, the Eagles converting a league-leading 31 first downs largely with Hurts and the double-push; i.e. Dallas Goedert and Miles Sanders shoving their quarterback forward.

Hurts has checked all the boxes yet still has his critics, which is fine.

“You can look back and say there are so many things that can motivate me and drive me to want more and to be the best and why do I keep getting up and going and going,” Hurts said. “But I had a purpose before everybody had an opinion. It’s not about anybody else. I know y’all liked that one.

It’s not about anybody else. It’s about going and doing it because that’s what you want, that’s what you set out to go and do. I’ve always been my biggest critic.”

Mahomes has turned the quarterback position into a modern art form with the ability to throw deep, intermediately and short from every conceivable arm angle. His shovel passes in the red zone are deadly. Mahomes threw 42 touchdown passes this season despite losing game-breaking receiver Tyreek Hill, who was traded to Miami last March but still made the top 10 in the MVP voting for the season.

Mahomes is 1-1 in Super Bowls. And he’s lucky he got the win in 2020 as Jimmy Garoppolo of the 49ers outplayed him for three quarters. Mahomes was awful in the 31-9 Super Bowl loss in 2021 to Tom Brady and Tampa Bay.

Overall in Super Bowls, Mahomes has completed just 57.1 percent of his throws for 556 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s also rushed for 62 yards and a score and has been sacked seven times. And that was on a healthy ankle, although the high ankle sprain he’s been dealing with in recent weeks is healthier than it’s been in a while.

In all fairness, that SB LV loss to the Bucs came with an injury plagued offensive line. It also occurred three days after Reid’s son Britt was arrested for driving drunk, speeding and hitting two parked cars and resulting in a brain injury to a 5-year-old girl. Britt Reid is serving a sentence.

“I know what it feels like to win the Super Bowl and to lose the Super Bowl,” Mahomes said emphatically. “Winning it, even though I didn’t play my best game, I came through when it counted. And the loss, I left everything out there but you lose and that feeling you have in the locker room after is a terrible feeling, because you’re so close to your ultimate prize. That winning feeling, that’s what you can have forever as well.

“You never know how many more times you’re going to get a chance.”

Sirianni is staying in character and playing his hand close to the vest.  But he cannot escape the obvious, which has been the Eagles’ ability to control the football with Hurts making the run-pass options. The Eagles are 12-0 when they rush for 100 or more yards this season.

“Our job is to score points on offense, and sometimes that’s the way you play, is the keep away battle,” Sirianni said. “Sometimes it’s to try to score as many points as you possibly can. I’ve always been in the school of scoring as many points as you can and trying to score more than the other guys.”

Make no mistake, the Chiefs’ defense leaves much to be desired. But they pressure the quarterback every bit as well as the Eagles. And their blitz rate is among the highest in the NFL. Mahomes must contend with an Eagles pass rush that led the league in sacks and revolves around Reddick, who including the playoffs has 19.5 sacks in 19 games. But then there’s Kelce, who in 17 career playoff games has an insane 127 catches for 1,467 receiving yards and 15 TDs.

“He’s a mismatch for anybody,” eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson said of the younger Kelce. “If you put your safety on him, now your cornerback is on an island. At the end of the day, you just have to hope and pray.”

Last but not least, is Reid. The season after his son’s issue and the awful Super Bowl loss, Big Red had a mild cardiac event that resulted in his being ambulanced to the hospital immediately after a 30-24 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. A few days later he was back in the office and that weekend, defeated the Eagles and Sirianni at the Linc for his 100th win with the Chiefs. There is no team the 64-year-old Reid would rather beat, having guided the Eagles to a 130-93-1 (.583) record and a SB appearance in 14 years ending in 2012.

“Once the game gets going, it’s football, who’s got the better team, better players, better coaches and who gets a break here or there,” Reid said. “You don’t let all that other stuff get in the way of your preparation. But initially it’s quite a deal.”

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