Super Bowl LVII can be called The Andy Reid Bowl since the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs are the two teams Big Red has coached in the NFL. But Eagles coach Nick Sirianni is not part of the extensive Reid coaching tree, and he is trying to carve out his own path in just his second season on the job.
The Eagles are a 1.5-point favorite at many of the top Missouri and Pennsylvania betting sites. Today, we are looking at the key coaching matchups in this highly anticipated Super Bowl between the No. 1 pass offense and the No. 1 pass defense.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, February 12, 2023 – 06:30 PM EST at State Farm Stadium
Head Coach: Andy Reid vs. Nick Sirianni
Outside of Bill Belichick, Andy Reid is the most respected head coach in the NFL today. Reid’s 247 regular-season wins rank fifth all-time, and his .641 winning percentage ranks 11th all-time among coaches with at least 10 seasons. This is Reid’s 18th postseason, which only trails Don Shula and Belichick, who both had 19 trips to the playoffs.
This is Reid’s fourth Super Bowl, and he has a 1-2 record (0-1 with the Eagles, 1-1 with the Chiefs) in the big game and a 21-16 (.568) playoff record. Reid’s 21 playoff wins only trail Belichick (31) all-time.
Nick Sirianni is in his second season as head coach of the Eagles, and he led them to a franchise-record 14 wins this year, albeit with the help of a 17th game that Reid and others did not have when they coached the Eagles. But Sirianni is a finalist for Coach of the Year even if he is not expected to win the award.
Sirianni can join Barry Switzer and Mike Tomlin as the only coaches in NFL history to make the playoffs as a rookie and win the Super Bowl in their second season. Sirianni is 23-11 (.676) in the regular season and 2-1 in the playoffs.
Reid definitely has the experience edge, but Sirianni may have the better and healthier roster this time. We saw Reid and his staff get greatly outcoached in Kansas City’s last Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay two seasons ago (31-9). The offensive line situation did not help matters, but the Chiefs also come into this game with health questions about the skill players and top corner L’Jarius Sneed had a concussion on Sunday.
Sirianni Is More Aggressive Than Reid
Sirianni may have an edge in this matchup in that he is the more aggressive coach. The Eagles rarely trailed this season, but they still ranked fourth in the NFL with 32 attempts on fourth-down. They also had the second-most conversions with 22, giving them a conversion rate of 68.8%, which ranked as the fourth highest.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs had the second-highest fourth-down conversion rate at 75.0%, but they were only 9-of-12 on fourth down. Only the Saints (11) had fewer fourth-down attempts than the Chiefs (12) this season. It seems crazy that a team with Patrick Mahomes and a below-average defense would not go for it more often, but that was the case this year. It was also the case last year when the Chiefs ranked 31st in fourth-down attempts (15) in 2021.
What makes this year more surprising is that the Chiefs were the worst third-and-1 team in the regular season, converting 50% of the time. That means half the time they were likely facing fourth-and-1, which is every team’s favorite situation to go for it.
In the NFC Championship Game, Sirianni had his Eagles go for a fourth-and-3 on the opening drive, and while DeVonta Smith actually dropped the ball on the ground, the play was never challenged and stood, leading to the first touchdown of the game.
Sirianni had an even bigger call in the second quarter after the 49ers tied the game and the Eagles looked stagnant for a few possessions. He had the offense go for a fourth-and-1 at their own 34 against a top-run defense even though the 49ers had the momentum. The Eagles converted with their powerful quarterback sneak, and they turned that into a touchdown drive and never looked back.
That is another area where these teams couldn’t be much more different. The Eagles have gamed the quarterback sneak to the point where it is nearly unstoppable with players pushing Jalen Hurts forward. They’ll call that in just about any situation and even with opponents knowing it is coming, they still struggle to stop it.
The Chiefs will not call a quarterback sneak, at least not with Mahomes they won’t after he dislocated his kneecap on a sneak in Denver in 2019. They may keep Mahomes in and do a direct snap to a tight end like Noah Gray or Travis Kelce, but not a traditional quarterback sneak even though it is just about the most unstoppable short-yardage play in the game.
Time for Revenge
Sirianni could have a chip on his shoulder for this game as Reid did not retain him on his staff in 2013 when Reid took the Kansas City job where Sirianni had been serving as a wide receivers coach and assistant from 2009-12. Sirianni is cocky but confident. He knows the matchup is tough with Reid having an extra week to cook up crazy play designs, and that field goals do not beat Mahomes.
Sirianni also likely understands the credit his predecessor Doug Pederson received for being aggressive in the team’s Super Bowl win against the Patriots. The Philly Special was a highlight in that game, and some of these linemen like Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson were on that team that night. The Eagles will be ready to do what it takes to win this one, so this does not look like a big head coaching advantage for the Chiefs by any means.
Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy vs. Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon
This is the premiere matchup in the game as you have the Chiefs’ top-ranked offense led by Patrick Mahomes against the No. 1 pass defense of the Eagles that had 70 sacks and great coverage in the secondary.
Bieniemy’s Questionable History
Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has been a controversial figure in recent years because he is annually trotted out as a top head coach candidate, he goes on many interviews, but no team has signed him for the top job.
With Reid’s play designs and Mahomes’ improvising taking so much of the credit for the success of this offense, Bieniemy’s contributions are hard to judge without being a fly on the wall. In the last game of the season for the Chiefs the last three years, we have some evidence that might make sense of why no team has made Bieniemy their head coach yet:
- In Super Bowl LIV against the 49ers, it was Mahomes who suggested running “Wasp” in the fourth quarter, which became the crucial third-and-15 play that gained 44 yards to Tyreek Hill to get the Chiefs out of a funk and a 20-10 hole on their way to a 31-20 win.
- In Super Bowl LV against Tampa, the Chiefs did not have left tackle Eric Fisher and rotated multiple linemen around, but they still used a 5-man protection scheme on 92.3% of pass plays, one of the highest rates in any game by any team since 2016 according to Next Gen Stats. Mahomes was pressured a Super Bowl-record 29 times and the Chiefs failed to score a touchdown in the 31-9 loss.
- The Buccaneers also went against the grain with defensive coordinator Todd Bowles known for calling blitzes. But against the Chiefs, Bowles used blitzes on 9.6% of plays (his lowest game in five years) and used two-high safety looks to limit big plays on 87% of plays (his highest game in five years).
- In the 2021 AFC Championship Game vs. Bengals, the Chiefs blew a 21-3 lead and only scored a field goal in the second half after the Bengals switched to a three-man pass rush on 45% of their plays, leading to four sacks of Mahomes in the fourth quarter and an interception in overtime.
Two-high safety looks and three-man rushes. Not exactly reinventing the wheel, but defenses have shown they will throw something new at the Chiefs in the biggest game of the year, and the adjustments from this staff have been underwhelming.
Gannon’s Shot at Redemption
As for Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, this is his second year on the job. In 2021, his defense had the second-lowest blitz rate and played a ton of zone coverage, playing very soft against the good passing offenses that know how to exploit that.
The average pass against the 2021 Eagles traveled 6.4 yards, which was 0.6 yards shorter than the next closest team. Mostly every good quarterback was able to complete 75% of their passes or better against this defense. The Eagles ranked 31st with 29 sacks last year.
This led to the Eagles getting shredded by Tom Brady (twice), Justin Herbert, Dak Prescott, and Patrick Mahomes throwing five touchdown passes in a Week 4 game last year. The Eagles were 0-5 in those games.
This season, the Eagles have not played many good quarterbacks, but the results are still like night and day. Corner James Bradberry and edge rusher Haason Reddick have brought elite play to this unit, and the Eagles blitz a little more than last year, but they had four players with at least 11 sacks on their way to 70 sacks this season.
Their coverage metrics are also fantastic with Bradberry teaming up with Darius Slay at the corner. Someone like Brandon Graham doesn’t even have to play 50% of the snaps and still had a productive pass-rushing year.
Can Gannon Take Mahomes?
Gannon is going to have to prove he can slow down not just a good quarterback but the best in the game. The Eagles have played just four games this season against teams who had a top-10 offense in yards or points per drive and a healthy quarterback for most of the game. We are excluding the Cowboys with Cooper Rush and the San Francisco game where Brock Purdy’s elbow exploded on his third pass and Josh Johnson was concussed.
The results are not great:
- With Jared Goff in Week 1, the Lions still scored 35 points and forced the Eagles to pull off a four-minute offense drive to ice the game.
- Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars led 14-0 early but turned it over five times – Lawrence lost four fumbles himself – as the rain contributed to the 29-21 outcome. No rain indoors for the Super Bowl in Arizona.
- Even with Aaron Rodgers having a down year and leaving injured for Jordan Love, the Packers scored 33 points in Philadelphia in a wild game.
- With Dak Prescott in Week 16, the Cowboys scored 40 points on the Eagles, including a third-and-30 conversion with a 52-yard pass in the fourth quarter.
Three of those four teams scored at least 33 points, and we can question just how good Goff was doing in Week 1, or Lawrence in the early part of the season, or how bad of a season the Packers were having with Rodgers at the time.
This is Mahomes and the Chiefs with an extra week of prep. They are not 100% healthy, but they are battle-tested, uniquely talented, and still dangerous. Mahomes does not need to make his living throwing outside the numbers in this matchup, and the Chiefs should find ways to get the ball out of his hands quickly to not let these great pass rushers destroy the game for him again.
Oh, and if stopping Mahomes is not enough, the Eagles gave up 200 rushing yards to the Chiefs last year, only the second 200-yard rushing game in the Mahomes era. Run defense has not been a strength for this Philadelphia defense, so we’ll see if the Chiefs remember to run the ball too in this game after giving Mahomes 17 carries for 34 yards to barely get past the Bengals on one leg.
Eagles Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen vs. Chiefs Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
This is the wild card of the game and for our NFL picks. You never know if the Chiefs are going to be good, mediocre, or terrible on defense. You never know if the Eagles are going to try running for 250 yards, throwing for 350 yards, or a balanced effort, because they are capable of all of those things.
Lately, it has not been the passing game powering the Eagles through. Jalen Hurts has been off as a passer, and that likely is the shoulder injury from Week 15. How much better does that get in two weeks from the title game where he averaged an abysmal 4.84 yards per pass? Hard to say.
Hurts has to play better, and the best way for that to happen is for one of these wideouts (A.J. Brown or DeVonta Smith) to go off in this game as many receivers have against the Chiefs this year. They also have an injured corner in L’Jarius Sneed, but he could return by Super Sunday after suffering a concussion. The Chiefs survived without him for most of the game despite playing a better passer (Joe Burrow) and receiving duo (Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins).
Their Last Meeting
When these teams met last year, offensive coordinator Shane Steichen was not afraid to put the ball in Hurts’ hands just as he was not afraid to do it with Justin Herbert in 2020 in the rookie’s first start when Steichen was the offensive coordinator of the Chargers. They took the Chiefs to overtime that day and piled up 479 yards of offense.
Last year, Hurts had the most passes (48), completions (32), and passing yards (387) in any of his 37 starts in the NFL against the Chiefs. Just a little of it was garbage time on the final drive, but it was a pass-happy approach that was outdone by the Chiefs throwing for five touchdowns and running for 200 yards.
The Eagles only had 10 carries for 44 yards by the backs, and it is hard to imagine that will happen again this time. The Chiefs are not a defense you can run all over, but the Eagles will be better than the 29th-ranked Bengals were last week.
Who's Got Something Up Their Sleeve?
The Chiefs are also going to have to spy Hurts better as Burrow led that AFC Championship Game with 30 rushing yards. Hurts has not broken 40 yards rushing in his last three games, but he has the ability to run for over 100 if necessary. He usually runs when the games are tighter, and according to the NFL odds, this one is expected to be close.
But it is possible the Chiefs are peaking at the right time defensively after holding the Bengals to 20 points and forcing multiple turnovers for the fourth game in a row. They also had five sacks of Burrow with Chris Jones finally coming through for the first playoff sacks of his career in his 14th playoff game.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has seen everything, and he once game-planned to beat the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl 42 when he was the coordinator of the Giants. He should have something for this matchup, but the Eagles are a tough draw because you just do not know how they will decide to attack since the Chiefs are not noticeably bad against either the run or the pass.