Without the epic performance of right tackle Andrew Wylie, the Kansas City Chiefs would not have won Super Bowl 57. The Philadelphia Eagles entered the game with the number-one pass rush in the NFL and were being touted as one of the best defensive teams of all-time.
The vaunted pass rush had four players with double-digit sacks and was led by NFL sack leader Hasson Reddick. It would be a tall task for the Chiefs' offensive line, with eyes on Wylie.
The fifth-year veteran started every game as the right tackle for the Chiefs this season, the first year of his career that he started every game, and all at the same position. While his play has drawn criticism throughout his time in Kansas City, it has not been as warranted as it might seem.
Throughout his career, Wylie has amassed just over $6 million dollars in career earnings and accounted for just .57% of the Chiefs' total salary cap in 2022. 17 regular-season and three playoff games from a tackle who accounted for less than one percent of the team's entire salary cap for the 2022 season is remarkable in the modern NFL.
Even more remarkable was that Wylie saved his best for last, giving Reddick and the Eagles a game they would never forget.
Protecting the MVP
The key to beating the Chiefs during the Patrick Mahomes era has been very simple to explain yet hard to execute. Teams must be able to beat rush Mahomes with four but no more than five, allowing the maximum number of players to drop into coverage and muddy up his reads.
If there was ever a team that should have been able to do this, it was the Eagles, who recorded 70 sacks as a team in the regular season — as well as 12 sacks in the postseason. Wylie and the Chiefs' offensive line had other plans.
No help from TE's and no chip blocks from the RB and the OL gives Mahomes a clean pocket. 57+62 pick up the E/T twist on the left. 77 is shocked initially by 7, but he resets his hands and is able to fight it off. 65 jump sets the 3tech 52 on cleanup. Kelce is always open btw. pic.twitter.com/2loCIWCbii— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) February 13, 2023
Wylie uses a perfectly timed strike to engage Reddick, placing his hands perfectly down the middle of his body. As Reddick starts to get some push into the backfield, Wylie resets his hands and regains leverage, sinking his hips and locking out his arms to stop the power rush. Mahomes has as much time as he needs and finds Travis Kelce for a touchdown.
During the first drive of the game, it felt like Reddick was feeling out Wylie, looking for what move he wanted to set up for later in the game. In the next series, he would try out the edge, looking to bend the arc to get to Mahomes.
57+62 were excellent all game in working through the Eagles' DL movement. Another twist picked up. 77 is nasty here against 7 who goes for the chop and rip. 77 avoids it and gets his hands inside latching on. 7 wants to take off upfield, but Wylie drives him to the ground pic.twitter.com/35NI42OO5m— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) February 13, 2023
The timing and placement of Wylie's hands in pass protection were vital to the success he had. He understood how Reddick wanted to get upfield to use his speed and flexibility around the arc, but he also knew that he could use his strength advantage and momentum to knock Reddick off his feet.
This physical style of play set the tone for the game and started to frustrate Reddick, and Wylie's confidence skyrocketed.
A point of emphasis for the Chiefs seemed to be physical domination over the opponent. They didn't come out and try to dance around the Eagles' pass rush; they came out and attacked.
Wylie helped lead the charge, trying to aggravate and antagonize Reddick every chance he got.
KC has some fun at Philly's expense. The standing sprint out catches the defense off guard and gives McKinnon extra space to operate. Gray initiates contact with Reddick, and Wylie comes through to clean him up. They were looking to beat up the Eagles' edge rushers. pic.twitter.com/1KFUo1xU0h— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) February 13, 2023
With the use of some excellent acting on the left side of the field, a screen pass to Jerrick McKinnon on the right side of the field gave them a nice gain. Reddick lined up head-up on Noah Gray but was taken back by the quick snap and the subsequent play toward his side of the field.
Knowing he is late to set the edge, he tries to outrun Gray but is knocked off his feet by Wylie. A visibly frustrated Reddick throws his arms in the air, either shocked at the play or wanting a flag.
Little frustrating plays like this can add up throughout the game.
Reddick lines up over Wylie and tries to use a jump chop. Wylie uses independent hands, stabbing and locking out with his right hand and then stabbing and pressing up the field with his left. Reddick loses his balance and Wylie mauls him as Mahomes scrambles for a first. pic.twitter.com/KrrAGwqzky— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) February 14, 2023
Reddick finally went to his signature jump-chop — a pass-rush move where the defender gains momentum to get around the tackle by skipping and chopping his hand down past an offensive linemen's arm. Wylie was ready for it and unleashed a trick of his own.
The use of independent hands in pass protection is a relatively new concept to pass protection and one that is taught at the highest levels. Instead of traditional two-hand pass protecting, which the jump-chop quickly takes care of, the independent hand from Wylie allows him to lock out and strike Reddick when he is in the air. Wylie then quickly works upfield, latches on with his other hand, and drives Reddick before he has a chance to win the edge.
A combination of Reddick being taken off guard and poor field conditions cause him to slip, allowing Wylie to live out every offensive linemen's dream. He was embarrassing the best the game offered and closing in on winning the battle.
Winning the fight
As the Chiefs mounted a fierce comeback, the pressure and stakes of the game would grow. Mahomes was picking the Eagles apart one pass at a time, and the Eagles' pass rush made little impact.
As Reddick continued to press, Wylie's play got better.
Wylie uses an independent hand here again to start out with Reddick. He gets the hand tight inside and uses leverage tries to snatch him down coming back over the top with his inside hand. Reddick wildly swings to get off the block, but Maomes has all day to operate. pic.twitter.com/RinPuwgMYS— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) February 14, 2023
Reddick tries to get off the block and beat Wylie back to the inside, but once more, the use of independent hands allows Wylie to take his inside hand and press it into Reddick's hip before he can get around. Reddick slaps Wylie in the helmet and grabs him by the neck, trying to do anything to get free, but it doesn't work.
Mahomes laces a pass downfield to JuJu Smith-Schuster for a big pickup. Frustration turned to desperation during the Chiefs' final drive of the game.
Reddick was desperate to get into the backfield and tried to sell out to bend the arc, but again the field conditions and timing of Wylie's strike were enough to knock him off his feet and give Mahomes a clean window to throw. pic.twitter.com/hbIihRSko5— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) February 14, 2023
Reddick had thrown everything he had at Wylie, and time after time, he was denied. He tried to fire up one last speed rush, but the turf had gotten so bad by that point in the game he lost his footwork instantly, and Wylie made sure he didn't get back up.
Mahomes would find Kelce quickly, and the Chiefs would drive into the red zone, eventually kicking a field goal to win the game.
While the turf most definitely played some role in the game, the field conditions were the same for both sides. Using it as an excuse for the game's outcome and dismissing the game Wylie had is a weak excuse.
Hasson Reddick on the field conditions of State Farm Stadium. #SuperBowl #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/RGVRjyNViC— Mick Akers (@mickakers) February 13, 2023
The bottom line
Many factors played a role in the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl, but Wylie shutting down one of the best pass-rushers in football was vital in keeping Mahomes on his feet through the course of the game.
Looking back to Super Bowl LV, Wylie had started the game at right tackle due to injuries to starters Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers dismantled the Chiefs, and Wylie struggled.
After being replaced by Lucsa Niang, Wylie would eventually come back to start seven games at right tackle last year after injuries sidelined Niang.
Through two consecutive years of criticism, scrutiny, and finger-pointing from fans, analysts and the media (myself included), he defied the odds and turned in the performance of a lifetime.
He played a gritty, physical and intelligent game, and those three words do a great job of describing the player that he is. An undrafted free agent from Western Michigan, Wylie was cut by three teams — Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns, and the Los Angeles Chargers — before landing on Kansas City's practice squad in 2017.
He has played left guard, right guard, left tackle and right tackle. He has done whatever the coaching staff has asked of him — and now he has two Super Bowl rings to show for his work.
He owes this town nothing. Now he is a free agent again, and — whether he returns on a new contract in 2023 and beyond or takes a better offer elsewhere — his impact has been felt.
So on behalf of the Chiefs Kingdom, thank you, Andrew Wylie.