In Super Bowl LVII, the Kansas City Chiefs faced one of the game's best defensive lines. The Eagles fierce pass rush won them many games in 2022. Their run defense, not so much. The Eagles' run defense ranked just 16th in the league in run defense despite finishing second in total defense.
The Chiefs found a way to exploit this flaw, and they did so by running eight different types of run plays.
Isiah Pacheco rushed for 76 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown, while Jerrick McKinnon rushed for 34 yards on only four carries. This was due to Orlando Brown, Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, Trey Smith, and Andrew Wylie dominating the line of scrimmage. At the same time, head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bienimey called a perfect game.
The Chiefs opened the game offensively by running counter and used a wrinkle to catch the defense off guard.
KC runs a variation of a counter-sweep. 52 snaps the ball and then pulls to kick out the EOL. 77 pulls through and gets a nice block on the filling DB. 10 fights ahead for a few. Not the most yards but this was a tone-setting play. A ridiculous level of difficulty for Creed. pic.twitter.com/nU2N4beCb3— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) February 13, 2023
The Chiefs typically run a traditional counter, where the guard and tackle both pull from one side of the line of scrimmage — or they run a "Y" counter, where a tight end pulls instead of the tackle.
On this counter, instead of the back-side guard pulling through, Creed Humphrey snaps the ball and pulls. This is due to the defensive formation that the Eagles are running. The wide 3-technique over Trey Smith's outside shoulder makes this a much harder back block for Humphrey, so the Chiefs switch the responsibilities.
Humphrey snaps it, pulls and meets Josh Sweat (No. 94), hammering him to open the game. The run only goes for three yards, but it sets the tone for the kind of game Kansas City wanted to play.
It didn't take the Chiefs long to return to their bread and butter, and Pacheco exploded for a big rip.
Zone left for KC. 62 uses leverage to move the 4i off a spot. 52 quickly gets vertical and drives the DB downfield. 65+77 seals the backside and Pacheco finds the big lane, finishing the play by running a man over. pic.twitter.com/kZYXn5HrBQ— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) February 13, 2023
The motion moves a defender opening up more space for the big run. Brown and Thuney both win their play side blocks, while on the back side, Smith and Wylie seal block while Humphrey climbs.
This sets Humphrey apart and makes him one of the elite centers in the NFL. He explodes into the second level and drives a defensive back downfield, leading the way for Pacheco.
The massive hole opens up in the back-side A-gap (between the guard and center). Smith had an exceptional reach block on the nose tackle, and Pacheco made his cut off of Humphrey's block. It was a gain of 24 yards and showed that the Chiefs could match the physicality of the Eagles.
The Chiefs kept the Eagles' pass rush honest all game long, and they didn't hesitate to call a play that they had not run at all during the regular season.
KC ran trap! 62 + 57 inside release off the LOS and block up the second level. 52 with an outstanding back block to seal the inside. 65 open pulls and puts a big hit on the 3tech. McKinnon loses his footing after about five yards, turf made it hard to cut for KC. pic.twitter.com/SsbGPk8GjX— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) February 13, 2023
Thuney and Brown take inside releases and work to the second level. Humphrey roots out the 2i-technique (inside shoulder of the guard) and Smith open pulls, "trapping" the 3-technique with a big hit that he does not expect.
Running back Jerick McKinnon takes the handoff and explodes out of the backfield, following Thuney, who made an excellent block on the linebacker. Unfortunately, the porous field causes McKinnon to slip.
In the red zone, the Chiefs ran power (nothing new to the offense), but how they ran it was different than what they have shown in the past.
Two back power with McKinnon lined up as the H. Smith with the big kick-out block, and McKinnon leads through. Pacheco hits it as hard as he can. Brown seals the 5tech inside. pic.twitter.com/RfiguVYjr7— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) February 14, 2023
The Chiefs primarily only run one-back power, but this time they run two-back power. Usually, on two-back power, a team will use a fullback or tight end as the second back, but here, the Chiefs use McKinnon, who leads through the hole, giving Pacheco a clear path to score a touchdown.
Smith annihilates the end man on the line of scrimmage with his kick-out block to start the play. The plays with the Chiefs' interior players being the first to contact the Eagles kept them off balance for most of the game.
Another new concept that the Chiefs unloaded was the tackle wrap.
Tackle wrap, with Brown pulling around, and Smith working up the linebacker. Smith makes sure Wylie has the 4i secured and then works up the second level with Pacheco following. The box was light and the Chiefs exploited it. pic.twitter.com/kQuUZ64n5c— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) February 14, 2023
Brown pulls around the end while Wylie base blocks the defensive end. Smith climbs to the second level while Humphrey and Thuney back block on the nose tackle and 4i-technique (just inside the tackle).
Pacheco has options: either follow Brown and run the play to the outside or cut it up and run behind Smith. When the front-side linebacker slides too far to the outside, Pacheco makes a great read, cutting upfield and running off of Smith's block.
A year of improving his vision helped Pacheco make the correct decision here.
The Chiefs were outstanding in short-yardage situations, breaking tendencies and aligning players in different spots. On third-and-1, McKinnon was aligned where the fullback would normally go. This led to a significant gain.
McKinnon lined up in a 3-point stance in the backfield. KC runs zone left, but the angle at which McKinnon takes the handoff helps him get through the LOS quicker, as well as gives him a better angle to take advantage of the blocking on the first level. pic.twitter.com/mJz9sumR68— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) February 14, 2023
This play is designed to get the ball into the hands of the fullback quickly, cutting down the distance needed to get across the first down marker. McKinnon is quicker than most fullbacks, so when he hits the hole, the play results in a big gain.
The physicality that the Chiefs front played with all game should not be ignored. These plays are creative and well-schemed, but they have no substance without brute physicality.
Orlando Brown takes Javon Hargrave for a ride. Gets some help from Gray who gallops in, but once he gets going the entire line of scrimmage is moved. Gray and Fortson also do a great job to work to the second level. Pacheco is just a wrecking ball between the tackles. pic.twitter.com/b5ErLbslA5— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) February 14, 2023
Brown has Javon Hargrave's head up on him, and the call is duo. This means that Brown must block Hargrave with minimal help from his teammates, and the ball will come behind him.
Due to Brown's size, he can sometimes struggle to create leverage, but he steps and strikes Hargrave (with a small assist from Noah Gray) and drives him nearly 10 yards down the field.
This enormous amount of push alone gives Pacheco a massive lane, but Gray working put to the linebacker and making an excellent block also helps create the play.
Duo is a downhill physical play, and the Chiefs ran it, knowing they were starting to wear on the defense.
Buck sweep/Pin and pull
On a crucial third-and-1 late in the game, the Chiefs would save one of their most creative looks for last.
KC runs the buck sweep that uses many of the same principles as pin and pull. OB down blocks, Burton times it perfectly, cuts down the edge while Thuney gets around and seals the DB to the inside. Great block from Skyy. Only man between Pacheco and the endzone makes the play. pic.twitter.com/nAmGlBPgTt— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) February 14, 2023
Out of a split backfield (two backs lined up on each side of the quarterback), Mahomes hands it off to Pacheco. Brown blocks down on the 4i-technique, while Thuney pulls around. Michael Burton cut blocks the walkup edge player, and Thuney can get to the second level and make a great block. Smith pulls around also and makes sure nothing leaks out.
The safety has to step up to make the play, which prevents a likely touchdown.
As the game would pan out, the Eagles would have likely preferred Pacheco have scored on this play.
Burning the clock
After converting first downs and bleeding the Eagles of timeouts, the Chiefs would have an interesting situation unfold late in the fourth quarter.
Philly was prepared to let McKinnon score, but that doesn't stop Smith from getting one more big hit in as he pulls and kicks out Sweat. McKinnon realizes the situation and takes a slide in bounds to keep the clock running. Kelce approves. pic.twitter.com/2n9ai2Z5sF— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) February 14, 2023
The Eagles were prepared to let McKinnon score — which Smith did not know — but he wisely slid just short of the end zone to keep the clock running.
Harrison Butker would complete a field goal a few plays later, and the Chiefs were world champions.
This heads-up, selfless play by McKinnon gave the Chiefs the win and really showed that this team cared more about winning than statistics or individual glory.
The bottom line
In football, as creativity and physicality meet, the results are positive. This summed up Super Bowl LVII for Kansas City well. The coaching staff was on point with the calls, and the players executed in every situation.
Important football games are won in the trenches, and the Chiefs imposed their will multiple times throughout this game.
A year ago, the Chiefs lost a chance at a title due to their refusal to run the ball in big situations. This year they learned from their mistakes and trusted the unit around Mahomes — not solely relying on him to win games.
The offensive line reached its full potential, a young star was born, and an old veteran finally won his ring.