Depth of roster gives Eagles edge in Super Bowl matchup
Feb 9, 2023, 8:19 PM | Updated: Feb 10, 2023, 10:27 am
(AP Photo/Matt York)
PHOENIX (AP) — If the Super Bowl is decided in the trenches: Advantage Philadelphia Eagles with their two All-Pro offensive linemen and four double-digit sack artists.
If it comes down to which team has better receiving and running options: Advantage Eagles with their pair of 1,000-yard receivers and record-setting running game.
If it comes down to the superior secondary: Advantage Eagles and their two proven cornerbacks.
Philadelphia has built a team without any holes, which should set the stage for a repeat from five years ago when Eagles used a more complete roster to outduel an MVP quarterback and win the Super Bowl.
The Eagles will do to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs what they did to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots and deliver Philadelphia its second Lombardi Trophy.
“We’ve been getting overlooked all year, but for what reason I don’t know,” edge rusher Haason Reddick said. “Because we have dogs across every position, people who can make plays. This team is talented from top to bottom. I don’t think I’ve been on a more talented team.”
This version of the Eagles might be even better than the 2017 team, which got to the title game with backup quarterback Nick Foles.
While Foles delivered a surprise MVP performance in that 41-33 victory with three TD passes, one TD catch and a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, it would be little shock to see Jalen Hurts lead the way on Sunday.
While Hurts isn’t at the level of two-time MVP Mahomes, he proved in his third season that he is a legitimate threat of his own and the Eagles lost just once when he started this season.
Hurts was a second-team All-Pro and finished second to Mahomes in MVP voting after tying a franchise record with 35 combined TD passes and runs despite missing two games with a shoulder injury.
Hurts hasn’t looked in peak form since returning from the injury that sidelined him in Weeks 16 and 17, but the two weeks since the NFC championship game should help him regain his deep passing prowess that should prove the difference on Sunday.
At the time of his injury, Hurts was tied for the NFL lead with 11 touchdown passes on throws at least 20 yards downfield and ranked fourth in yards gained on those plays with 786. Since returning in Week 18, Hurts is 3 for 10 on deep throws with no TDs.
A healthier Hurts should be able to connect with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith on a few long balls against a Kansas City defense that allowed the third-highest passer rating on deep passes in the regular season.
If the big-play pass doesn’t do it, Philadelphia has the running game that has set a record with 39 touchdowns on the ground in the regular season and playoffs.
The Chiefs allowed the fifth-most rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks this season, which could be a major problem against Hurts, who rushed for 760 yards in the regular season and has a quarterback-record 15 TDs runs, including the playoffs.
Hurts’ rushing ability opens up holes for a trio of backs in Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott running behind a line that ranks near the top in all run-blocking metrics thanks to All-Pro center Jason Kelce and All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson.
To beat Mahomes and the Chiefs, the Eagles defense will also need to step up and the league’s deepest group of pass rushers should do the trick.
Reddick led the way for Philadelphia with 16 sacks in the regular season and he has been even better in the playoffs with 3 1/2 sacks in wins over the Giants and 49ers.
Reddick will line up against the weak link on Kansas City’s line — right tackle Andrew Wylie, whose nine sacks allowed in the regular season were fourth most in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
If the Chiefs want to pay extra attention to Reddick, good luck against the rest of the defensive line. Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave and Jose Sweat each had 11 sacks as the Eagles had the highest sack rate in the NFL in more than 30 years.
With Fletcher Cox and Ndamukong Suh also in the mix, Mahomes could be on the run on his gimpy ankle as he was in Kansas City’s Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay two years ago.
The fierce front four allows the Eagles to get pressure without blitzing, which will make life easier for cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry against Kansas City’s less-than-stellar wideouts.
That will allow the rest of the back seven to focus on limiting All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce and making sure the Chiefs don’t get big gains in the screen game.
If that happens, get ready for another parade down Broad Street.
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