The Chiefs outlasted the Eagles 38-35 in Super Bowl LVII, kicking a game-winning field goal to seal the deal on what was indeed a back-and-forth contest. This year’s battle has all the reasons to be just as exciting, but after an entire offseason and nine regular-season games, there are different components to each side of the ball.
I looked at five of the biggest changes between the Chiefs and Eagles since their last meeting and how they impacts Monday night’s clash:
A crucial injury to Eagles’ Dallas Goedert
Unfortunately, perhaps the biggest change was not planned: Eagles’ starting tight end Dallas Goedert — the team’s third-leading receiver — fractured his forearm in the team’s Week 9 win over the Dallas Cowboys. He is likely to miss an extended period of time.
One thing different about #Chiefs - Eagles from SB LVIII is Philly missing Dallas Goedert this time around. He fractured his forearm v. Dallas— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) November 16, 2023
He made some incredible catches w/ KC in tight coverage. Both of these at important moments in 2nd half pic.twitter.com/GshwUakUy7
Goedert played an important role against the Chiefs last season, gaining 60 yards on six catches and converting these third downs in the second half. Even with safety Justin Reid blanketing him, or cornerback L’Jarius Sneed squeezing the throwing window, Goedert reeled in these two incredible passes to sustain a Philadelphia scoring drive.
Those reliable hands would have been a worthwhile challenge for a much-improved Chiefs’ pass defense, especially at safety and linebacker. Backup tight end Jack Stoll won’t provide the same threat, likely leading to an adjusted offensive plan for the Eagles.
Jalen Carter replacing Javon Hargrave
Most of the Eagles’ loaded defensive front remains from last season, with the exception of the team’s second-leading sacker: defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. He signed with the San Francisco 49ers after posting 11 sacks and 10 tackles for loss from the interior last season. In the Super Bowl, he led the defensive line in tackles (5), also posting the team’s only tackle for loss.
Eagles DL is still loaded, swapping in Jalen Carter for Javon Hargrave (and arguably upgrading?)— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) November 16, 2023
Hargrave in '22: 12.9% pressure rate, 16 QB Hits, 10 TFLs, 1 forced fumble in 17 gms
Carter in '23: 14.2% pressure rate, 7 QB Hits, 5 TFLs, 2 forced fumbles in 8 gms
In an “effort” to replace him, the Eagles sat back at the ninth-overall pick and selected Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter. Philadelphia acknowledged the reason he fell, while believing there would be natural, healthy camaraderie joining his former college teammates. That has fueled Carter to quickly become a constantly disruptive player, specifically as a pass rusher.
On run downs, the steps forward by former first-round pick Jordan Davis and third-year player Milton Williams have solidified this group as one of the league’s most stout run defenses.
Rashee Rice replacing JuJu Smith-Schuster
The Chiefs are set to have the same group of wide receivers playing as last game, with the exception of the team’s strong, reliable slot receiver. In the Super Bowl, it was Juju Smith-Schuster, moving the chains four times in the second half before being held on the deciding third down of the game.
This year, rookie receiver Rashee Rice has slowly stepped into the same type of role Smith-Schuster occupied. He has set a career-high in offensive snap percentage each of the last three weeks, primarily aligning in the slot and becoming one of Mahomes’ favorite targets over the middle (out of necessity).
Another difference in #Chiefs - Eagles from SBLVIII: No Juju Smith-Schuster for KC, who moved the chains 4 times in the 2nd half (plus the defensive holding)— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) November 16, 2023
Rashee Rice is now playing that role. If he can be as reliable catching the ball, he has a higher play-making ceiling pic.twitter.com/R7hp2lL8lz
In the Super Bowl, Smith-Schuster found success on a slant, a deep in, routes to the sideline, all throws that require Mahomes to place it between closing defenders with good timing, accuracy, and trust. With attention on Kelce situationally, Rice will need to be reliable on similar tight-window throws, which will be a good test to get past his early-season drops.
The addition of D’Andre Swift
In last season’s matchup, the Eagles’ running backs were Kenneth Gainwell, Miles Sanders, and Boston Scott — combining for 17 rush attempts, 45 yards, and no runs that gained 10 or more yards. The trio mustered an additional 29 yards as pass catchers.
It’s much less of a committee this season, with offseason acquisition D’Andre Swift leading the Eagles’ running backs. He has played the fifth-most snaps of any NFL running back this season, totaling 614 yards and three touchdowns with an average of 4.5 yards per attempt. He has also added 166 yards and a touchdown through the air.
Swift presents a tougher challenge to the Chiefs’ run defense and open-field tackling than the Eagles’ running backs from last season.
A better playing surface
There were two total sacks in Super Bowl LVII: both by the Chiefs, and neither was earned by a straight-up pass rush. The field conditions were a legitimate factor for each team’s defenders, lacking footing to bend around an edge or to stay with a ball carrier in space.
We can be confident that the Arrowhead Stadium field will provide a much sturdier, comfortable playing surface — which may turn the dial up on both team’s pass rush effectiveness.
Fortunately, right tackle Jawaan Taylor and left tackle Donovan Smith have been reliable against speed rushers around the edge this season. Still, stunts or twists have given the Chiefs’ pass protection fits lately. The better footing may allow Philadelphia to attack that phase of the game more than they were able to last season.
The dependable turf could also help the Chiefs’ off-bal defenders better contain Eagles’ quarterback Jalen Hurts, who made a handful of significant scrambles that added up to 70 rushing yards in the Super Bowl.