The Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs have Andy Reid in common heading into Super Bowl LVII. Reid coached the Eagles for 14 seasons and the Chiefs for the last 10. They each have a Kelce brother, the Eagles with Jason at center and the Chiefs with Travis at tight end.
They also have a shared experience in that the conference champions are the only two teams in the NFL to lay a decisive beating on the 49ers.
Gauging the mood in the 49ers’ locker room on clear-out day, as well as recent comments from Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, a team-wide dose of truth serum would likely make Kansas City the favorite.
There’s some recency bias at work, given that the 49ers’ 31-7 road loss to the Eagles was essentially decided the moment quarterback Brock Purdy tore the UCL in his throwing elbow in the first quarter.
“In the nicest way, we didn’t really get to see how good the Eagles’ defense was,” Samuel said Wednesday on ESPN’s First Take. “We had them schemed up, we had them dialed up. What a coincidence we don’t have a quarterback.”
Said Aiyuk on The SFNiners podcast earlier in the week: “(The Eagles) got their hands full . . . talk about them being a good defense, I’m not too sure,” Aiyuk said. “This Kansas City pass game will expose what we thought we were going to be able to expose before some unfortunate circumstances happened.”
Christian McCaffrey in an NFL Network interview, wasn’t too keen on either team and wasn’t sure if he’d even watch.
“I hope both teams lose,” McCaffrey said.
On Oct. 23, the Chiefs came to Levi’s Stadium and broke open a tight game in the second half for a 44-23 win as the 49ers fell to 3-4. McCaffrey had been a member of the 49ers for all of two days but played 23 snaps with eight carries for 38 yards and two receptions for 24 yards, the first glimpse at the player who would carry their offense.
The 49ers wouldn’t lose again until the NFC Championship Game, winning 12 straight including playoff victories over Seattle and Dallas before losing to the top-seeded Eagles.
The disparity between how the 49ers played against the Super Bowl participants as opposed to everyone else was striking. They were outscored 70-30 by Philadelphia and Kansas City and outscored everyone else 480-237 – a margin of just over 14 points per game.
Here’s a look at why Philadelphia and Kansas City were superior and what it means for the 49ers going forward. They’ve been in the NFC Championship Game three times in the last four years, have a core nucleus of players at or near their prime and presumably their window to win their sixth Super Bowl and first since the 1994 season is wide open.
The Chiefs Patrick Mahomes won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award by a good margin over Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts, getting 48 of 50 first-place votes.
Mahomes looked the part against the 49ers, going 25-of-34 for 423 yards, three touchdowns and one interception as he dominated the second half. Jimmy Garoppolo, meanwhile was 25 of 37 for 303 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, a lost fumble and was sacked for a safety.
It was the first extended look Purdy, who was 4-for-9 for 66 yards and an interception in mop-up time after the Chiefs broke it open in the fourth quarter.
Hurts needed only to manage the NFC title game win, and was 15-of-25 for 121 yards and had 11 rushes for 39 yards and a touchdown.
Purdy threw only four passes, two before he got hurt and two afterward. In the interim, Josh Johnson took his eyes off a shotgun snap for a key lost fumble before he was lost to a concussion on a sack.
Super Bowl advantage: Big edge to Mahomes
RUNNING TO DAYLIGHT
Only six times in 20 games (17 regular season, three postseason) did opponents break 100 yards rushing on the 49ers, who led the NFL in rushing defense by giving up 77.8 yards per game and 3.4 yards per attempt in the regular season.
Two of those opponents were the Chiefs (112) and Eagles (148).
The 49ers gave up 16 rushing touchdowns in those 20 games, and only two teams had more than one in a game – Kansas City and Philadelphia. The Chiefs had three rushing touchdowns and the Eagles four – meaning in the 49ers’ other 18 games they allowed just nine touchdowns on the ground.
Reid and the Eagles’ Nick Sirianni go about running the ball in different ways. The Kansas City offense is driven by Mahomes and his passing, with running plays having more of a surprise element. Philadelphia is a run-first team that likes to set up the deep shot.
While the Chiefs averaged 5.2 yards per carry against the 49ers and Philadelphia just 3.4, the Eagles’ line, particularly near the goal line, had the 49ers’ line on the retreat.
Super Bowl advantage: Edge to Eagles
Only two teams had more time of possession than the 49ers – Washington and Green Bay. Converting third downs and moving the chains is a big part of their identity under coach Kyle Shanahan.
But there were two games where the 49ers were the ones whose offense spent much of the day on the sideline and they came in the losses to the Chiefs and Eagles.
Kansas City was 6-of-9 on third down and had a 33:45 to 26:15 advantage against the 49ers. The Eagles were just 5-of-15 but 3-for-3 on fourth down and had a 37:26 to 22:54 margin against the 49ers.
Given the Eagles’ identity as a run-first team and the Chiefs’ propensity to strike quickly, it’s a more important stat for Philadelphia than Kansas City.
Super Bowl advantage: Slight edge to Eagles
The Eagles sacked 49ers quarterbacks three times – two by Haason Reddick and one by Javon Hargrave. Reddick’s sack-fumble of Purdy after getting past tight end Tyler Kroft essentially ended the 49ers’ season.
Philadelphia had 70 regular-season sacks, the most in franchise history, with four players in double figures.
The Chiefs sacked Garoppolo five times, including two by Chris Jones and 1 ½ by Frank Clark. The Chiefs were second to the Eagles with 55 sacks on the season.
As well as the 49ers’ offensive line played this season, they weren’t equipped to deal with the pass rush of either of the conference champions.
The 49ers, meanwhile, were 10th in sacks with 44 and got 18 ½ of those from NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa. Samson Ebukam was second with five and Charles Omenihu was third with 4 ½. Both are scheduled for free agency.
Bosa had one sack in his last five games, no postseason sacks, and it’s clear the 49ers need to get him some help for an additional outside push.
Super Bowl advantage: Slight advantage Eagles
AND THE WINNER IS . . .
The Eagles are better than the 49ers think they are. Philadelphia earned everything it got and the 49ers had a bad break, but the Eagles decisively won the game on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
While Mahomes isn’t perfect – his last two seasons ended with a Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay and an AFC Championship Game loss to Cincinnati — he is still the most transcendent player in the game and gives Kansas City the edge.
Final score: Chiefs 27, Eagles 20