If you ask any NFL defense, preparing to shut down Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes is one of the toughest jobs in the game today. However, for the Philadelphia Eagles, they know what to expect from the future Hall of Famer, but aren’t afraid to play their game in order to bring home the Lombardi Trophy.
The Eagles will try and neutralize the NFL’s No. 1 offensive unit in Sunday’s Super Bowl, as both teams try to cap off dominant seasons with a championship. Jonathan Gannon has watched his defense post league-highs in fewest passing yards allowed (3,057) and sacks (70), while also sitting in the Top Ten for interceptions (17), forced fumbles (15), and fumble recoveries (10).
Mahomes has starred once again for the Chiefs, racking up 5,250 yards, 41 passing touchdowns, and a 105.2 QB rating, while overcoming a few injuries to get himself ready for Sunday’s All-No. 1 seed showdown. The Eagles haven’t faced off with Mahomes since Week 4 of the 2021 NFL regular season, but are confident in squaring off with one of the league’s best overall players for a chance to win a second Super Bowl title.
“That’s what you sign up for, to go against the best,” Eagles cornerback Darius Slay said. “He will continue to play at a high level, but you know, this is what we look forward to. Our secondary is one of the best in the league as well. We are the best in the league, so looking forward to the challenge. They got a lot of special guys on that offense. We got a lot of special guys on defense.
“He’s a guy that is not scared to make the big play,” Slay added. “Some quarterbacks like to be safe. He’s not. He knows how to do it all. He knows how to be a one-play guy or he can drive the ball 15 plays and do whatever. That’s what makes him so special.”
Although the Chiefs lost star wide receiver Tyreek Hill last offseason, they haven’t missed a beat with All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce leading the way, and rookie tailback Isiah Pacheco also shining down the stretch. Kelce remains Mahomes’ top target heading into the Super Bowl after finishing with 110 receptions (third-most in NFL), 1,338 yards (seventh-most), and 12 touchdowns (third-most).
Kelce’s presence will certainly garner plenty of attention from the Eagles linebackers and secondary on Sunday, but even with added help on the back end, Gannon is expecting the 10-year veteran to adjust quickly to what gets thrown at him.
“We have to have a plan for what they like to do,” Gannon said. “Everything is coming with him [Kelce]. He’s a first-, second-, third-level guy. He’s got run-after-catch abilities. He’s explosive. He’s got ball skills. He’s got a huge catch radius and he’s very intelligent.
What I mean by that is, just because Andy [Reid] draws up a route and says, ‘Hey, this is what you should run,’ if he sees the coverage tilted a certain way, he’ll adjust his route,” Gannon added. “He’ll adjust his coverage real time by what the coverage is saying and find spots or break away from different leverages. He and the quarterback are on the same page. We’ve got to do a good job on him.”
The Eagles defense has risen to the occasion against both the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers, but will have their toughest test of the season against Kansas City. Kelce’s presence remains huge in the offense, Pacheco’s hard-rose running will keep the Eagles balanced, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster have the ability to make big catches down the field.
Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, T.J. Edwards, and C.J. Gardner-Johnson have been the standout stars on the Eagles defense, but it will take a full team effort to get the job done in Arizona.
“You don’t shut down this offense, per se,” Gannon said. “They’re No. 1 for a reason. But you play your best football with everybody on the same page and you go out and win. That’s the goal. That’s what we’re practicing for all week, to go out and play our best football, because we’re sure going to need it against this offense that really has it all.”
“We have to win our battles,” Reddick said. “I don’t think you go into this game thinking you are going to get clear paths to the quarterback. They’re going to have something built in to account for what we do, so it comes down to winning one-on-one battles, or whatever it’s going to be, in this game. You also know that Mahomes isn’t a guy who is going to go down easily. He can buy time with his legs.”