Recapping NFL Big Game 2023: Eagles Defense Face Plants vs. Chiefs Offense

Much of what transpired on Sunday in the Chiefs 38-35 win over the Eagles went as I expected. Chiefly, Philadelphia’s passing game was dominant, and Jalen Hurts was sensational with 304 passing yards and a touchdown while completing 27-of-38 attempts.

Hurts also ran for a team-high 70 rushing yards and three touchdowns in what was a Herculean performance. Had I not watched the game, and you told me Hurts’ numbers, I would have bet the Eagles won by double digits.

But that’s obviously not what transpired. Beyond anticipating Philly’s dominance through the air, I expected the Eagles defense to whip Kansas City in the trenches. I was egregiously off the mark on that prediction. Philadelphia failed to sack Patrick Mahomes a single time and hit him on just five occasions.

The Chiefs trailed by 10 points at halftime and responded by scoring touchdowns on each of their first three drives of the second half. Kansas City’s final possession was a 12-play, 66-yard effortless march down the field that culminated in Harrison Butker’s game winning 27-yard chip shot field goal.

Mahomes played flawless football, completing 21-of-27 passes for a 182 yards and three touchdowns. He added 44 yards on the ground, including a clutch 26-yard scramble up the middle on the final drive of the game. The Eagles couldn’t stop Isiah Pacheco either as he racked up 76 yards on just 15 carries for a healthy 5.1-yard average.

It’s prudent to note that it wasn’t entirely the fault of Philadelphia’s defense. Hurts’ self-inflicted fumble was returned for a touchdown by the Chiefs. Kadarius Toney’s 65-yard punt return put Kansas City on Philadelphia’s 5-yard line prior to start the drive. Skyy Moore scored on a short 4-yard pass three plays later.

And it was the relative ease in which Kansas City found the end zone that was so alarming. Travis Kelce, Toney and Moore were all wide open on their respective touchdown catches. Andy Reid’s utilization of pre-snap motion in the red zone was masterful, and the Eagles had no answer for it. The Ringer’s Ben Solak illustrated that perfectly while explaining how the Jaguars put out the blueprint for beating the Eagles vaunted defense earlier this season.

I saw some chatter throughout last week from folks who were on the Chiefs explaining that Philadelphia’s defense, while great on paper, hadn’t played many good quarterbacks all season. I knew they were correct, but I chose to ignore it and instead believe that the Eagles would prove those doubters wrong.

It ended up being me who misfired.

From December through the NFL conference championship round, Dak Prescott was the only franchise quarterback the Eagles defense faced, and the Cowboys put up 40 points in that game. Philadelphia reached super Sunday by beating Daniel Jones and a 49ers team void of a healthy quarterback.

So even when giving the deserved credit to Reid, Eric Bieniemy, Mahomes and the rest of the Chiefs offense, it’s still impossible to escape the reality that Philadelphia’s defense is far more of a paper tiger than I ever anticipated.

Hurts put the Eagles on his back and needed just a single play from his defense in order to cross the finish line as champions. That moment never came.

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