By: Lucas Kochevar
The Philadelphia Eagles are heading to the Super Bowl! The Eagles punched their ticket to the big game after a blow out in the NFC championship against the 49ers. The Eagles dominated the game after 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy injured his UCL in the second quarter and couldn't throw the ball. Even though the 49ers have a valid excuse for their lackluster performance, the Eagles still came out and looked dominant. The defense pinned their ears back and crushed the 49ers offensive line and the offense controlled the pace of the game with the running attack. It felt less like a playoff game and more like an October regular season game for Philadelphia. With the game decided by the fourth quarter, the Eagles were also able to rest their guys. In this volume of LK League Notes, I take a long look at this Philadelphia Eagles with how they got here and how they can win the Super Bowl against the Chiefs.
The Road to Phoenix: Eagles Edition
The journey for the Eagles started back in 2020 during the second round of the NFL Draft. Coming off a disappointing 2019 season, the Eagles weren't sold on former second overall pick Carson Wentz and decided they needed insurance. In a surprising move to many, they selected former Heisman finalist quarterback Jalen Hurts from Oklahoma. After a number of games, Hurts supplanted Wentz as the starter and finished the season. Following that year, the Eagles moved on from Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson and traded Wentz to the Colts. Soon after, Nick Sirianni was hired and Hurts was the full-time starter heading into 2021. Despite some struggles passing the ball, Hurts showed he was a dynamic runner and the Eagles made a surprise playoff appearance, where they lost to the Buccaneers in the wild-card round. While figuring out if Hurts was their quarterback of the future, the Eagles continued building up the roster around him. They made key moves in trading for cornerback Darius Slay and trading up for Devonta Smith in the 2021 draft. Those two guys have been just a pieces in this cultural overhaul in Philadelphia. The biggest acquisition for the Eagles was wide receiver A.J. Brown in this past years draft. One of the best guys on the perimeter came over from Tennessee and made an immediate impact. He was instrumental in unlocking the passing game for Hurts.
Looking back on this season, it is very easy to point out the Eagles as the most dominant team all year long. Despite playing in a number of one-score games, they never seemed at risk of losing those games. They shot out of the gate strong going 8-0 and they were the last team to be undefeated in the league. Their first loss came at home on a Monday night against the Commanders. After that head-scratching loss, they rattled off another five wins, where they score over 35 points in four out of five games. Another speed bump in the road happened when Hurts injured his shoulder and missed the next two games, both games they lost. However, Hurts came back and they won against the Giants to secure the one-seed and the first round bye. Once they made it to playoffs, they dominated the competition with blowout wins over the Giants and 49ers. They made their path to the Super Bowl look easy and those speed bumps I mentioned earlier, look like pebbles in the road.
The Key Players in this Game
The Eagles have an unbelievable supporting cast and there are a couple superstars that could be listed as key players, but when I think outside of the box, I believe that running back Miles Sanders and edge rusher Haason Reddick are the x-factors for the Eagles. The Pro Bowl running back had a great season, rushing for over 1,200 yards along with double-digit TDs. The game plan for the Eagles always starts with the rushing attack and Sanders has done an admirable job being the leader for that unit. Rushing for nearly five yards per carry, Sanders has made his mark in the offensive attack. His ability to make the down and distance easier for the Eagles will be key. Another reason why it's important to get Sanders going is the formidable Chiefs run defense. They rank eighth in the league in run defense, so the Eagles will need their lead back to help jump start the run game alongside Jalen Hurts.
Haason Reddick was almost labeled a bust during his time in Arizona after the Cardinals declined his fifth-year option. From there, Reddick thrived as he's recorded double-digit sacks in each of his last three seasons. he signed in Philadelphia after a one year stint in Carolina. He's made his presence known off the edge for the Eagles as he's recorded a career-high in sacks with 16, along with 3.5 sacks in the playoffs. The Eagles led the league in sacks with 70, which is 15 more than the next team. They have dominated this area of the game and with Patrick Mahomes on the other side, they'll need all the help they can get. Reddick made his presence known last game as he was the one that forced Brock Purdy out of the game with an elbow injury. Keeping the heat up on a banged-up Mahomes will be monumental for the Eagles defense. A strong pass rush will be key in a high stakes game like this and Reddick will lead the charge.
How to Win the Game: Eagles Edition
The way that the Eagles can win this game is the similar formula to how they've won all year long. The run game wears down their opponent, sets up the passing attack and get pressure on the quarterback. A factor that I haven't brought up was the Eagles O-line versus the Chiefs D-line. The Eagles have debatably the best front in the league as they've been just as big as the running backs when it comes to impact. On the other side, the Chiefs have a defensive player of the year finalist in defensive tackle Chris Jones. He's a game-wrecker and could single-handedly takeover this game. Defensive end Frank Clark could also provide issues as he's been a consistent performer in post-season games. Slowing down these players will be the biggest task for the Eagles. On the other side of the ball, stopping Patrick Mahomes has to be priority number one. He managed to look like himself last game and the Eagles can't let him get comfortable. I think a similar attack as the Buccaneers had in the 2020 Super Bowl could leave the Chiefs in a world of trouble. The Eagles have all the talent in the world to win this game, they just have to execute and play their brand of football.
Source: Photo via John Angelillo, UPI. Stats were used via https://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/phi/2022.htm