Chiefs top Eagles in instant classic Super Bowl LVII

Jude Papillion, Editor-in-Chief

State Farm Stadium hosted Super Bowl LVII on Sunday, the stadium’s third Super Bowl after hosting Super Bowl XLII in 2008 and Super Bowl XLIX in 2015. (Jude Papillion)

State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona is no stranger to unforgettable Super Bowl moments. Some include David Tyree’s helmet catch that elevated the New York Giants to victory over the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and Seahawks’ head coach Pete Carroll’s infamous late-game decision to pass on the 1-yard line instead of choosing to run the ball through Marshawn Lynch in Super Bowl XLIX. Yet, Sunday’s contest between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII might not only be the best to have been played in the venue but also one of the greatest Super Bowl matchups of all-time.  

After trailing by 10 points at halftime, the Chiefs’ offense rallied valiantly and came back to defeat an arguably more talented Eagles roster 38-35 in the third-most watched television event of all-time, claiming their second Vince Lombardi Trophy in the last four seasons. 

 It was a game of many firsts — it was the first time two Black starting quarterbacks, Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes, battled against one another on football’s biggest stage. At 51 years and 337 days old, the two were also the youngest quarterbacks by combined age to face off in the Super Bowl. It was the first time a pair of brothers, Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and Philadelphia’s Jason Kelce, squared off in a Super Bowl. It was the first contest between two No. 1 seeded teams since the Eagles defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl LII and the first Super Bowl in 25 years that featured a touchdown by both teams on their opening drives. 

After being benched during the 2018 National Championship game in the midst of his stint with the Alabama Crimson Tide, then leading the Oklahoma Sooners to a College Football Playoff berth in 2020 before coming to the NFL, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts cemented himself as an elite quarterback in the biggest game of his career despite his team not reaching its ultimate goal.

In Super Bowl LVII, the runner-up for regular season NFL MVP posted 304 yards in the air, 70 on the ground, scored four total touchdowns and did not throw an interception. Hurts used his legs to run for more yards than any quarterback in Super Bowl history, scored the most rushing touchdowns in Super Bowl history and tied the Super Bowl’s individual scoring record with 20 total points. His impressive performance earned the second-highest number of fantasy football points in Super Bowl history at 41.16, just behind Steve Young’s 41.9-point performance in Super Bowl XXIX.

Hurts put the Eagles on the board first, carrying the ball himself after a rush by Kenneth Gainwell was ruled short. The Chiefs responded by driving the field, capitalizing when Mahomes found Travis Kelce in the endzone for an 18-yard touchdown reception. The four-time first-team All-Pro tight end finished with six receptions on six targets for 81 yards. 

Following a Philadelphia punt, Chiefs’ kicker Harrison Butker bounced a 42-yard field goal off the left upright. Hurts took advantage and galvanized the crowd on the first play of the second quarter when he launched deep to A.J. Brown, who hauled in a 45-yard touchdown. Brown, a Philadelphia newcomer after being traded from by Titans on draft day, finished the game with six receptions for 96 yards. 

Despite his spectacular performance, a single Hurts flaw likely ended up costing the Eagles a chance at winning their second Super Bowl championship in six seasons. On third and five with 9:48 left in the 2nd quarter, Hurts dropped the ball on a quarterback draw, Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton scooped the fumble, and escaped 36 yards untouched for a touchdown to tie the game at 14 apiece.

Yet, Hurts bounced back when Philadelphia’s offense re-took the field — after driving 75 yards in twelve plays and successfully converting on fourth down twice, he ran for his second score with 2:24 left in the half. 

Philadelphia managed to keep Kansas City’s offense off the field for 11 minutes and 15 seconds when they began their last drive of the first half. Although the Chiefs were forced to punt, the bigger issue for Kansas City was that Mahomes re-aggravated a lingering high ankle sprain after being tackled by Philadelphia’s T.J. Edwards on a third down tuck and run.

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“I knew it was pretty bad when he got up limping. But I knew it wasn’t going to be bad enough where he pulled himself off the field,” Chiefs’ OC Eric Bieniemy said.

As Mahomes limped to the sideline, his face showing intense pain, the Eagles used their solid field position to extend their lead to 24-14 with a field goal before halftime. 

Nine-time Grammy Award winner Rihanna ended her Super Bowl halftime show high above the crowd of 67,827 singing her hit song “Diamonds,” seemingly foreshadowing the Chiefs’ spectacular 10-point comeback still to come. 

The seven floating stages used for her halftime show were designed to take stress off of the stadium’s 100,000 square feet of Tifway 419 hybrid Bermuda grass; however, the grass, which cost $800,000 and took 18 months to grow, caused players to slip and slide throughout the game. 

“We both had to play on that turf. It’s not like we were playing on ice, and they were playing on grass. We all had to play on it,” Eagles’ head coach Nick Sirianni said. “It was just adjusting to a little bit of slippage that was going on in the field.”

The extended halftime, which did not feature any surprise guests except for Rihanna’s unborn child, gave Mahomes and Kansas City all the time they needed to regroup and shine in the season’s final two quarters.

“I thought the offensive line did a nice job of stepping up [as well as] [Isiah] Pacheco and [Jerick] McKinnon,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said after the game. “They ran hard all following ‘Pat’ Mahomes’ lead just with that intestinal fortitude that he showed throughout the game.” Reid served as the Eagles head coach from 1999-2012 before taking over Kansas City in 2013.

Mahomes, along with superb play calling by Reid and Bieniemy, led the Chiefs offense to four-consecutive scoring drives in the second half — three touchdowns and Butker’s game winning field goal — tying the second-largest comeback in Super Bowl history.

“You’re in the Super Bowl, you can worry about getting it healthy in the offseason,” Mahomes said about his ankle after the game. “I just kind of just fought through and we were able to win the game.”

Kansas City opened the second half with the ball and Mahomes was able to move the ball on the ground and through the air as the Chiefs capped off an impressive opening drive with a Pacheco rushing score. 

Kansas City took over again after a Philadelphia field goal extended their lead to six and quickly drove the length of the field to take their first lead of the game. This time, Mahomes found Kadarius Toney on a short fade for a score early in the fourth quarter, and after the Chiefs defense stopped Philadelphia on their subsequent possession, Toney returned Arryn Siposs’ punt 65 yards to the Philadelphia 5-yard line — the longest punt return in Super Bowl history.

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Three plays later, Reid and Bieniemy dialed up and flipped the same play as their last touchdown, and Mahomes found Skyy Moore for a 4-yard dink and dunk score.

The Eagles tied the game 35-35 after Hurts found his former Alabama teammate Devonta Smith for a 45-yard reception that set up his third rushing touchdown and a subsequent successful two-point conversion with just over five minutes remaining. Smith led the Eagles with 100 yards on seven receptions.

The Kansas City offense kept its foot on the gas as they began their final possession of the season, marching into the red zone after an electrifying 26-yard Mahomes run — his longest of the game. Then, on a critical third and eight, Eagles defensive back James Bradberry held Chiefs receiver Juju Smith-Schuster, giving Kansas City a first down that allowed them to burn the clock and gave Harrison Butker a chance to win the game with a field goal. 

“The defender grabbed the jersey with his right hand and restricted him from releasing to the outside. So, therefore, we called defensive holding,” referee Carl Cheffers said after the game. “That’s what he saw, and he called it,” Sirianni said. “I know it always appears to be that it’s one call that makes that game … There are so many plays that contribute to the ending result of the game and today, they were better than we were.”

Butker’s 27-yard field goal with 11 seconds left and Hurts’ failed Hail Mary attempt sealed the outcome — a 38-35 Kansas City victory.

“We worked really hard to have this opportunity and to come up short is tough. There’s always a lot to learn from,” Hurts said. “Win, lose, I always reflect on the things I could have done better, anything you could have done better to try and take that next step. That’ll be the same process I always have going on.”

Although the Eagles’ defense entered with a league high 78 sacks this season, in their biggest test of their season, they did not manage to bring down Mahomes once. Mahomes’ performance was the best of his three Super Bowl appearances after his offensive line helped him evade pressure from the Philadelphia defense. 

Mahomes was awarded the Pete Rozelle Super Bowl MVP Trophy after finishing 21-of-27 for 182 yards and throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions to become the first NFL MVP to win the Super Bowl since 1999. At 27 years old and entering his prime, he has as many rings as Peyton Manning. After reaching at least the AFC Championship in all five of his seasons in Kansas City, Missouri and amassing 75 wins in the process, he helped the Chiefs reach the second-most wins over a five-year span in NFL history.

Super Bowl LVIII will be held at Allegiant Stadium, in Las Vegas on Feb. 11, 2024. Kansas City, at +550 odds, currently has the highest odds to win next years’ Lombardi Trophy according to Caesars Sportsbook, followed by the 49ers, Bills and Eagles with +600, +650 and +800 odds respectively. 

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