The Kansas City Chiefs are now in Phoenix, continuing their preparations for Sunday’s Super Bowl LVII matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. The team treated the week off following the AFC title game as if they were preparing for a game this past weekend.
“Next week, we hit the reset button,” offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said of the process on Friday. “Now it’s all about reviewing, making sure that our guys are on the same page. Now it [isn’t] about us basically explaining to them. [Instead,] it’s all about those guys making sure that they have a complete understanding of what we want to accomplish — also understanding the schemes in which we’re going to be facing, the coverages we’re anticipating, the blitzes which we’re anticipating seeing.”
So this week’s practices in Phoenix will be focused on review.
“Now everything is just memorization,” said Bieniemy. “[As in], ‘Here’s what I’m expecting,’ ‘Here’s what we’re going to do,’ ‘Here’s how we’re going to do it’ and ‘This is what this guy is doing.’
“So it gives us an additional week.”
Kansas City will take all the time they can get to prepare for a talented Eagles team that tied the Chiefs for the NFL’s best record in 2022. Leading the way for Philadelphia is an MVP candidate of its own: Jalen Hurts. The third-year quarterback has had a phenomenal year that was highlighted by a record-breaking 15 rushing touchdowns.
But Hurts is a well-rounded player who is capable of beating teams in a variety of ways.
“Some quarterbacks we play are not going to run the football, so you take that out of your thinking,” Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo noted to reporters on Friday. “[Maybe] the pass rush is a little bit different — maybe the edge run support’s a little bit different.
“But when the quarterback can do what this quarterback can do, it brings it a lot more different issues. You’ve got to be on point with scheme [and] the players [have] to be on point with responsibility. You can see when that [hasn’t happened] with people that they’ve played. They expose them.”
Although the Eagles specialize in running the ball, they also have the elite players needed to beat teams in the air as well. The offseason addition of two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown to complement the team’s electric second-year wideout DeVonta Smith helped make Philadelphia’s passing attack one of the league’s best.
“They put you in a bind,” Spagnuolo told his listeners. “I mean, everybody knows the numbers game. [You’ve] all been around football long enough to say, ‘If you pack them in the box, you leave two really elite wide receivers all by themselves.’
“That’s tough on any corner or any safety or any nickel. That’s where I think they’ve opened up their whole game — playbook-wise, offensively — where you’re going to get those two guys then.
“We faced them a year ago, but A.J. wasn’t there — and that adds a whole other element to it and opens things up. It’s obvious why they did it — and they’re reaping the benefits.”
But the thing that makes the Eagles especially tough is that they are just as good on defense. Philadelphia led the league with 70 sacks. (The Chiefs ranked second with 55). Slowing down the Eagles’ pass rush will be critical for the Chiefs’ success on offense.
“70 plus sacks? These guys are pretty damn good,” Bieniemy acknowledged. “That’s an offensive coordinator’s nightmare.
“But the challenge is just making sure that we’re being accountable to one another. It’s our job as a coaching staff to make sure that we’re putting our guys in the right position so they can be at their best. On top of that, we’re going to put ownership on our guys: making sure that they can go out there and effectively do what they need to do in order for us to get it done — so guys understand their roles. They understand that, ‘Hey, we’re playing against the best. We have to be at our best.’”