On Sunday night, the Kansas City Chiefs collected a 38-35 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII, earning their second NFL championship in four seasons.
Here are some of the Chiefs players who made a difference in a very memorable game.
Quarterback and MVP Patrick Mahomes: There was a point when Chiefs Kingdom had to be worried. As the first half wound down, Mahomes was again hobbling off the field after his ankle was rolled up — and the Chiefs were down 10 points. But then the second half was nearly flawless for the Kansas City offense. There were no penalties, no turnovers, no punts, no sacks allowed and only one incompletion — a throwaway. Against the Philadelphia defense... in that situation... with that ankle... Mahomes orchestrated three straight touchdown drives — and a fourth that would have scored a touchdown if that’s what the Chiefs had chosen to do. While Mahomes was incredibly efficient and poised for the whole second half, the four-minute drive to seal the game was something that I’ll remember for a long time. How many times have we seen the Chiefs score too quickly — allowing another team to come back? How many times have we watched another team run out the clock with a drive to end a game? This time — on the biggest stage — Mahomes and the offense made sure they were on the right side of history. And just like in the AFC title game, Mahomes showed grit and determination in helping close it out with a big run — this time, a 26-yard scramble up the middle to put Kansas City in the red zone with two minutes left. It was nothing less than an epic performance by the world’s greatest player.
Running back Isiah Pacheco: The other reason Kansas City was able to close out the game was the rookie running back that general manager Brett Veach snagged in the seventh round of last spring’s draft. Pacheco was one of the real keys in Sunday’s championship game — and throughout the season. When the Chiefs needed to move the ball, Pacheco was willing to crash into defenders to keep it going. He averaged over five yards per carry and scored a touchdown — and contributed some key touches in the four-minute drive. He took a couple of nasty hits from C.J. Gardner-Johnson, but he wouldn’t be denied.
Wide receiver and punt returner Kadarius Toney: His role on offense wasn’t as substantial as we expected. He barely played in the first half — and had only one receiving target in the game. Of course, he turned that one target into a touchdown to start the fourth quarter and give Kansas City the lead. Then with ten minutes left in the game, he fielded a punt at the 30-yard line, reversed the field and returned it all the way to the Philadelphia 5-yard line. it was the biggest punt return in Super Bowl history — made by a guy that Kansas City had acquired in a late-October trade. It might not be obvious from the box scores, but Toney was one of the season’s biggest acquisitions — and a significant part of the reason the Chiefs hoisted a trophy on Sunday night.
Wide receiver Skyy Moore: His story of the season is about redemption — and a rookie class that exceeded all expectations. So of course Moore would score his first NFL touchdown in the second half of the Super Bowl. It was a beautiful play-call (and route) for a wide-open score. We all celebrated with Skyy; his joy when crossing the goal line was infectious. Moore didn’t have the most productive season, but he made big plays in key moments during two of the three postseason games. That experience should serve him well going forward — and makes it a lot easier to forget his earlier troubles fielding punts.
Tight end Travis Kelce: “How is he always open?” is a question that echoed throughout American households on Sunday — not to mention the Eagles’ film room over the next few months. Kelce was his usual excellent self, catching all six of his targets for 81 yards and a touchdown. He scored on a pretty over-the-shoulder catch, but it was probably only his second-best snag of the day. His stumbling, shoestring catch was a highlight that may be forgotten, but it came on a play where Mahomes was under pressure and got the ball out as he was in the grasp of a defender. This quarterback-tight end combination is unmatched in NFL history — and against the Eagles, it was evident from beginning to end.
Linebacker Nick Bolton: The first Mizzou player to ever score a Super Bowl touchdown nearly had a second score. First, Bolton scooped up a second-quarter Jalen Hurts fumble and returned it 36 yards for a score. Then on Philadelphia’s first drive of the second half, L’Jarius Sneed forced what looked like a fumble by Miles Sanders. Bolton was once again on the spot, running it back for a 24-yard score — only to have the fumble overturned. As usual, Bolton was the team’s leading tackler, collecting big open-field stops to prevent first downs. The Chiefs needed someone on the defense to step up, make some big plays and get a couple of stops on an otherwise unstoppable Eagles offense. Bolton did that — and fellow linebackers Willie Gay Jr. and rookie Leo Chenal also had really good games.
The Chiefs’ offensive line: Coming into this game, the story was that Philadelphia’s lines were dominant on both sides of the ball. The Eagles’ depth and pass-rushing ability on the defensive front could — and would — wreck the game. A line with four guys who have 11 or more sacks in the regular season is no joke — and in the playoffs, Philadelphia’s Haason Reddick had been on a tear. The Chiefs had an ailing quarterback and a running game that went nowhere against the Bengals. Orlando Brown Jr., Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, Trey Smith and Andrew Wylie all took that personally. The result? Mahomes wasn’t sacked once — and importantly, the Chiefs ran for 158 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. In the second half, the offense was deadly efficient while driving methodically down the field — and the guys up front made it all possible.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling: Mahomes only had one deep attempt on Sunday. It was also Valdes-Scantling’s only target. It appeared to my eye that the receiver didn’t get to the spot where Mahomes expected him to be — which happened a few times this year. While Valdes-Scantling was the hero of the AFC Championship game, he didn’t make a noticeable impact on the Super Bowl.
Anyone trying to stop a QB sneak: Listeners of the “New Heights” podcast already knew that Jalen Hurts could convert quarterback sneaks about 93% of the time. In the Super Bowl, sneaks accounted for Hurts’ first touchdown, a second-half third down, another on the next drive, a fourth down later in the game, a third down on the Eagles’ final touchdown drive and a touchdown to tie the game. At one point, defensive tackle Chris Jones tried launching himself over the formation to hit Hurts — only to watch the quarterback convert on the second push. With the rule that allows blockers to help push ball carriers forward, the Eagles are literally unstoppable with a yard or two to gain.
The Chiefs’ secondary: The logical scouting report on the Eagles was to try and slow down their running game — making Hurts beat the Chiefs through the air. Based on what he had done in recent games, it wasn’t likely that he could put up big passing numbers. Kansas City would be able to trust its young secondary to make plays on the ball — especially since it had done so well against the Bengals. Part of this game plan worked. Kansas City held Eagles running backs to 45 yards on 17 carries. But Hurts had a career game — both in running (70 yards and three touchdowns) and in passing, putting up a rare 300-yard game against Kansas City. The receiving trio of DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown and Dallas Goedert combined for 254 yards and a touchdown — including a pair of 45-yard receptions. While there were a couple of blown coverages, Kansas City’s defensive backs mostly turned in good coverage. They just weren’t able to get their hands on the football — and thereby allowed some spectacular catches (and near-catches). There’s still a very bright future for the group, but they’ll have plenty of tape from which they can learn.