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How Andy Reid dominated Eagles’ tendencies after halftime of Super Bowl LVII

Reid outsmarted Philadelphia — and Kansas City woke up.

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NFL: Super Bowl LVII-Winning Team Head Coach and MVP Press Conference Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s difficult to know where to start with this.

I’ve been writing about the Kansas City Chiefs since the 2019 offseason, and I’ve always felt like I had a decent sense of what to write in these posts. A lot of my work during the week and gameday is built around what I want to talk about during the week.

I’ve never had to write one of these film pieces after a Super Bowl win. In 2019, I hardly knew anything about the Chiefs’ scheme, and in 2020-21, it took me a long time to stomach watching film of those games. This was the first time I covered a Super Bowl win, and I needed time to reflect on what had occurred.

After re-watching the game from multiple angles, the most significant moment in the game came after halftime. The Chiefs were reeling, with their offense only running 21 plays and quarterback Patrick Mahomes reaggravating his ankle injury. On this drive, head coach Andy Reid came out of halftime with one of his best possessions ever, methodically working his way down the field on a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.

On Twitter, I broke down this drive play-by-play, but here were my five favorite plays on the drive, showing how Andy was destroying the Eagles’ defensive rules.

The drive

To start the drive, Reid was able to establish the tone — deciding to go under center to start. The Chiefs are in 13 personnel (one running back, three tight ends) — and motion tight end Travis Kelce across the formation. That pushes the Eagles’ linebackers' gaps over, which helps this run concept.

The Chiefs run G-H Counter, pulling left guard Joe Thuney and Kelce around. Right tackle Andrew Wylie and tight end Noah Gray seal the 4i-technique (player aligned on the inside should of the tackle) and right guard Trey Smith “backblocks” the nose tackle well, creating a frontside seal to where no penetration can blow up the play. Running back Isiah Pacheco bounces this to the sideline, creating a nice drive starter for the Chiefs that set the tone for the rest of it.

Reid’s creativity always shows up in short-yardage situations. Here, the Chiefs get into an offset-I formation but put running back Jerick McKinnon as the fullback and wide receiver Skyy Moore as the tailback. Gray motions across the formation, which forces the Eagles to flip their safeties to deal with the change in run strength. Because of that shift, that leaves no back-side player to deal with the counter run.

The Chiefs run a fullback trap, working back to the weak side of the formation. Thuney seals Eagles’ defensive tackle Javon Hargrave from getting upfield, and the MIKE linebacker was late to get over the top as the A-gap (between the center and guard) player. That late shift left that B-gap (between the guard and tackle) open, and Thuney got enough of Hargrave to open a gap for McKinnon.

I could write an entire post about how the Eagles responded to motions with Kelce, but Reid had defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon in a blender when it came to these short motions with the future Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end. The first touchdown of the game came off this motion, so Reid wanted to see if the Eagles kept their same coverage check to these short motions by Kelce.

When Kelce would run this short motion, the Eagles would always respond by walking their safety — either weak side or strong side — over Kelce, which gave Mahomes the confirmation the Eagles were playing man coverage. Gannon didn’t adjust his calls to deal with this, which gives Reid too much information to dial up the correct play.

Kelce cooks Eagles’ safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson on this Dig route, being able to feign outside, work back inside, then jab outside once more before breaking his route inside. Mahomes showed great pocket presence here as well, navigating pressure through the B-gap to step up and deliver this great throw.

Kelce and Mahomes made amazing plays here, but Reid turning to the same motion gave him confirmation of the Eagles running the same coverage check against Kelce throughout the game, and Reid was able to dissect the Eagles with the same motions.

Right before the touchdown, Reid dialed up a terrific pass call in the red zone. The Eagles play almost exclusively Cover 1 in the red zone. When they see a team run a jet motion with a receiver, they adjust to the motion with a “rock-and-roll” call. When a receiver runs across the formation, the secondary will have the centerfield safety run with the motion, replacing the safety with that original defensive back covering the motion.

Ron Kopp Jr. wrote a great piece about Reid’s motion usage in this game, but he had the Eagles' defense in a bind with these motions. The Eagles run that here, which allows McKinnon to leak into the flat on this play. Slot cornerback Avonte Maddox makes a great play to tackle McKinnon, but Reid failed a great play to free McKinnon on what should have been a touchdown.

To finish this drive, Reid dialed a play he called from the Week 18 game against the Las Vegas Raiders, putting in Pony personnel (two traditional running backs) and putting McKinnon as a “sniffer” on the play. The Chiefs run jet motion again, but send Moore on motion going both ways, which leaves the Eagles confused about who’s rock-and-rolling before the play.

Weak safety Marcus Epps doesn’t get the communication on who’s now playing centerfield, which leaves the B-gap vacated. The Chiefs run G-H counter again, but with McKinnon lead-blocking for Pacheco. Smith, McKinnon, left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., and Gray all block this up perfectly, and the Chiefs end this drive in the same way they started it — running G-H Counter to perfection.

The bottom line

Reid is the best offensive coach ever in being able to beat your defense with formations, motions and personnel versatility. As a defense, it’s almost impossible to have a beat on any tendency from the Chiefs, since they can get to so many different formations and plays with their personnel.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon decided the best way to deal with these issues was to simplify his defense, which, in theory, would help his players handle the formations and motion well. The problem is, giving Reid too much information on how you respond to his checks will allow him to dial up plays to beat your structure every time, which leaves you hopeless as a defense.

I’d argue this was Andy Reid’s best-called game. Gannon’s lack of flexibility helped, but Reid was in complete control of that matchup. Ultimately, that was the Chiefs’ biggest advantage coming into this game — and Reid won that matchup thoroughly.

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