The Kansas City Chiefs are your 2023 Super Bowl Champions after one of the best Super Bowl matchups I've ever watched (up until the final two minutes).
The game was back and forth from the very start, with both teams scoring touchdowns on their opening drives. Each team stalled on their next drives, but the scoring picked back up immediately at the start of the second quarter when Jalen Hurts launched a 45-yard bomb to A.J. Brown to regain the lead for the Eagles. Philadelphia dominated the second quarter with the exception of a Jalen Hurts fumble that led to a scoop and score for the Chiefs to keep them in the game.
It appeared as though Kansas City was on the precipice of a collapse as the first half came to a close when Patrick Mahomes came up limping after he was tackled around his previously injured ankle on a scramble attempt to set up a fourth down with lots of time for the Eagles to score again. But after holding Philadelphia to a field goal on the first half's last play, the tide began to turn in the third quarter.
The Chiefs scored a touchdown on their first three drives of the second half. Two of those drives came on multi-play 75-yard drives, while the third was set up by a 65-yard punt return by Kadarius Toney to give Kansas City the ball inside Philly's 10 yard-line. The third touchdown of the half put K.C. up 35-27 with just over nine minutes to play.
But the Eagles weren't done yet. Philly marched down the field in just eight plays, utilizing another 45-yard completion (this time to Devonta Smith) to set up Hurts' third rushing touchdown of the night. Hurts also dove into the end zone on a designed QB run for the ensuing two-point conversion to tie it up at 35 with five minutes left in regulation.
Once again, the Chiefs moved the ball with no problem, making their way into the red zone by the two-minute warning. Then, the most significant and controversial penalty of the game was called, a defensive holding on an incomplete 3rd and 8 pass, to give the Chiefs an automatic first down and the ability to run the clock almost all the way out. Harrison Butker split the uprights on a 27-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining, and after a kickoff and a failed Hail Mary, the Chiefs were Super Bowl 57 Champions.
There's a lot to discuss after last night's game, but I'm just going to touch on a few of the key aspects that I took away from each team's performance.
1. Kansas City's Offensive Line Deserves a Collective MVP
In my opinion, the biggest concern for the Chiefs going into the Super Bowl was not only protecting Patrick Mahomes, but also giving him enough time to make throws down the field. Everyone was raving about Philadelphia's pass rush coming in, and for good reason. The Eagles' defensive line was filled with studs who had been causing havoc for opposing quarterbacks all season, and there was no reason to think that would change in the Super Bowl.
But the Chiefs were out for revenge. If you'll remember back to the 2021 Super Bowl between the Chiefs and Buccaneers, Kansas City's O-line played terribly. They were dealing with injuries to be fair, but Mahomes was running for his life all game and hardly had any time to deliver medium or deep passes. I was partly worried that the same story would unfold again due to how strong Philly's defensive line was, but the five guys up front for the Chiefs proved everyone wrong. Patrick Mahomes wasn't sacked a single time, which was massive for both his team's offensive efficiency and his own health concerns.
Offensive linemen rarely receive any credit from the public, but Orlando Brown Jr., Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, Trey Smith, and Andrew Wylie deserve all the recognition in the world. Because without all of them executing to perfection, the Chiefs don't win this game.
2. Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy Called the Perfect Second Half
I saw something that I had never seen before in my 20-plus years of watching football. On Kansas City's second drive of the second half, Kadarius Toney, who was split out wide, came in motion against Philly's man defense. The corner matched up against him, Darius Slay Jr., ran over to follow him and pass his man off to what he assumed would be a defender on the other side of the field. But as soon as Toney made it behind Travis Kelce, who was lined up in the slot on his side, the ball was snapped and Toney floated right back to where he was. In the confusion, Philadelphia had no one within 10 yards of the wideout, and he walked in for an easy touchdown to take the lead.
Then, after the massive punt return to put the Chiefs in striking distance again, they ran nearly the exact same play to the other side of the field, where an equally wide open Skyy Moore trotted in for a touchdown to extend the lead.
I had never seen this concept before, but I wonder how no one has ever thought of it before now. It worked flawlessly both times the Chiefs ran it, and it's the perfect way to take advantage of a defense that's a bit scrambled when they have to pass off their man before the snap. That's why I'm confident that we're going to start seeing teams at all levels of football start implementing this scheme in their own playbooks, much like how we've seen tons of teams attempt their versions of the Philly Special since the Eagles first ran it in 2018.
These two plays were just a microcosm of the gameplan head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy put together for the second half of the Super Bowl. After an unimpressive first half, the Chiefs scored three straight touchdowns and would have had a fourth, but wisely chose to go down so they could drain the clock and kick a game-winning field goal instead.
3. Jalen Hurts Had the Best Performance of a Super Bowl Loser Ever
Jalen Hurts may be the best possible quarterback for Nick Sirianni's offense, and he proved that with his incredible performance last night. Hurts finished the night with 304 passing yards on 27/38 and a touchdown, and added 70 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. He delivered some beautiful passes in traffic and was impossible to stop in short yardage situations. He did have a huge fumble in the first half that turned out to be very costly, but that doesn't affect how I view his overall performance in the slightest.
I've been thinking it pretty much all season, but I just kept wondering how in the world anyone can stop Philly's offense consistently. Especially when it gets to 3rd or 4th down with just one or two yards to go. By my count, the Eagles were a perfect six-for-six on QB sneaks when they needed either a first down or a touchdown. And every time, I thought to myself, how does that play ever not work?
I feel bad for Jalen Hurts after such a good, all around performance on football's biggest stage. But while this loss will definitely sting for Eagles fans, there's still reason to be optimistic going forward. Hurts still has one year left on his rookie deal, and there isn't a ton of strong competition around Philly in the NFC. It's very hard to get to back-to-back Super Bowls (as we saw to a shocking extend with the Rams this season), but the Eagles are a team that could do it if they can keep most of their pieces together heading into the 2023 season.
4. The NFL Refs Ruined an Otherwise Perfect Super Bowl
Alright, I have to address it, but I saved it for last because I didn't want the one major controversial call to overshadow the rest of the game.
The defensive holding penalty called on James Bradberry in the closing minutes really put a damper on how good of a game it was up until that point. It was building up to be an absolutely classic finish. The Eagles were going to get the ball back with plenty of time to get down and kick a field goal themselves to give us our first Super Bowl with the new playoff overtime rules. I would have loved to see this game be extended as long as possible until a winner was decided with no controversy at all.
There were a few missed calls that I noticed throughout the game, but it appeared as though the refs were letting the guys play a little more than usual this NFL season. The majority of the penalties called were pre-snap delay of games or offsides, which are easy to get right. That makes the defensive holding penalty called that much worse in my opinion. I know for a fact that there were more egregious penalties that occurred earlier that were not called, so in that situation, on third down, with very minimal contact that didn't really impede the receiver at all, on a pass that wasn't going to be caught anyway, you can't throw a flag there if you're the referee.
Still, it wasn't the Chiefs fault that the flag was thrown. And I think they would have ended up winning even if that penalty wasn't called. But it's a bad look for NFL officials after a season of constant poor officiating. I think the best answer going forward is to make NFL refs full time, paying them more money and giving them opportunities to improve at their jobs, just like the players and coaches do each season and off-season.
Kansas City still deserved their win last night and they're the rightful Super Bowl 57 champions in my eyes. Patrick Mahomes is on a path to end up the greatest quarterback of all time as I think we're witnessing the start of a dynasty similar to the Patriots in the 2000s and 2010s.
This was a fun season all the way through with lots of good drama and storylines to follow throughout the year. And for the most part, the Super Bowl stayed in line with that. I had a great time watching and writing about the NFL this year and plan on being back next season to provide my insight.
Let me know what you thought about the game last night and check out our college basketball content this March when the NCAA Tournament gets under way.
Written by Nick Swatson
Expert Nick Swatson discusses all the news, predictions, and outcomes surrounding the NFL.