Thursday, March 30 2023

This is the moment Howie Roseman had in mind from the end of last season, when the Philadelphia Eagles were knocked out of the playoffs. The general manager decided then that his team needed big improvements to compete for the NFL’s biggest prize, and that meant he’d have to take some big swings and big risks in the offseason.

So he did, with the intention of winning a Super Bowl this season — no matter what.

“The league is designed like a bell curve,” Roseman said at Super Bowl LVII Opening Night in Phoenix earlier this week. “They want most teams to be in the middle of the bell curve. So for you to take a chance and try to get to the top, you probably have to risk being at the opposite end. I think for us it would be worse to fall in the middle than it would be taking a chance to be great and falling back.”

It’s why he traded for receiver A.J. Brown, signed edge rusher Haason Reddick, signed cornerback James Bradberry and traded for safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson. It’s why he continued making big moves during the season, signing defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh. And nearly every move Roseman made worked. He built a powerful team that went 14-3, won the NFC championship, and will now play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII on Sunday night (6:30 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App).


Related: How Chiefs can beat Eagles in Super Bowl despite a limited Patrick Mahomes

But can they finish the job and fulfill his sole vision? Can the Eagles reach the destiny they’ve all believed was their destination from the start?

Here are the three keys for the Eagles to beat the Chiefs and get that ultimate job done:

Dominate the line of scrimmage

The Eagles’ philosophy of building through the trenches paid off this season with the most powerful offensive line in football. And that’s good, because everything they do on offense is based off their running game — regardless of whether it’s Miles Sanders (1,269 yards) or quarterback Jalen Hurts (760) running the ball. If they can establish the run against the Chiefs early that will keep the defense back on its heels and open things up for Hurts in the passing game. It’ll also really make things difficult for Kansas City when Hurts gets outside of the pocket, regardless of whether he passes or runs.

The Chiefs’ running defense is good, but not great. They gave up an average of 107.2 yards per game on the ground, which is a lot considering how many of their opponents had to play from behind. The Chiefs defensive line is strong and defensive tackle Chris Jones (15.5 sacks) is a phenomenal player, and he could be a real danger to the Eagles’ plans. Then again, that’s what everyone said about Giants defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence in the divisional playoffs and 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa in the NFC championship. The Eagles offensive line has a way of taking great players out of the game.

If they can do that to Jones and protect Hurts and open up the running lanes like they usually do, it’ll help them in two very important ways. It’ll keep their dangerous offense moving, and it’ll keep Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes off the field.

Eagles’ top Opening Night moments

The Eagles shared their favorites movies and teammate stories during Super Bowl Opening Night.

Put pressure on Patrick Mahomes

Under normal circumstances, this isn’t necessarily the best idea or the key to beating the Chiefs. Mahomes is a wizard who can make unbelievable throws and plays from anywhere outside of the pocket. He can be just as dangerous throwing from out there as he is on the run. So sometimes easing back and just containing him in the pocket makes more sense.

But these aren’t normal circumstances, not with Mahomes possibly (probably?) still nursing the high ankle sprain he suffered in the Chiefs’ playoff opener. He played well in that game, but clearly he was affected by his ankle, which wasn’t near 100 percent.

Enter the Eagles’ pass rush, which is both dangerous and diverse. They had a ridiculous 70 sacks this season and eight more in their first two playoff games. It probably would’ve been even more, but they knocked out both the 49ers quarterbacks last week leaving them without anyone to sack in the second half of the NFC Championship Game.

They can get after Mahomes off the edge with Reddick (16 sacks), Josh Sweat (11) or Brandon Graham (11) or inside with Javon Hargrave (11) and Fletcher Cox (7). They can blitz too, and they will  —even if they don’t necessarily need to do it.

But they need to chase Mahomes and make him push that ankle. They have to test him to see if he can work his magic outside of the pocket. They can’t let him sit there and pick the defense apart. Mahomes is the difference-maker in this game. If they can knock him out of rhythm and make it clear he’s playing hurt, they’ll have a great chance to win.

Is Mahomes the best QB in the NFL?

Shannon Sharpe explains to Skip Bayless why Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback in the NFL entering Super Bowl LVII.

Don’t let Travis Kelce beat them

The Eagles’ biggest weakness all season has been their rushing defense, which can be really porous at times. But the Chiefs aren’t a big running team. They throw the ball nearly 62 percent of the time and their leading rusher — rookie Isaiah Pacheco — had only 830 rushing yards.

The weakness still comes into play, though, because their problem has really been about tackling beyond the line of scrimmage, which has often been spotty at times. It’s why short runs up the middle against them have too often been turned into big plays. Even if the Chiefs don’t try to test that on the ground, they can really test it with short throws or quick routes over the middle. And that’s where Kelce is most dangerous. He has a real opportunity to take those short throws, exploit the Eagles tackling and turn them into game-wrecking plays.

So Kelce — who had 110 catches, 1,338 yards and 12 touchdowns this season — has to be the focus of defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s game plan. Let the front four handle the run game. Assume cornerback Darius Slay can lock down Chiefs receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and cornerback James Bradberry can handle Marquez Valdes-Scantling by themselves.

But don’t ever let Kelce get into single coverage. And don’t ever let him get into position where there isn’t a safety behind him. If he makes a catch, make sure a defender is there to greet him and another is right behind him in case he makes the first guy miss. They have to make a concerted effort to make sure they are not beaten by the Chiefs’ best player, almost as if they are daring someone else to step up and beat them instead.

Maybe someone else will. But if the Eagles can successfully neutralize Kelce, or even just keep him in check, it’s going to make the job of the rest of the Chiefs’ offense incredibly hard.

Best of Kelce bros. at Super Bowl Opening Night

Check out the best moments from the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce and Eagles’ Jason Kelce’s press conference in Phoenix.

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.

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