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Arrowheadlines: Patrick Mahomes improved by keeping things simple

Chiefs headlines for Thursday, February 9

Super Bowl LVII Opening Night presented by Fast Twitch Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The latest

Super Bowl 2023: Chiefs vs. Eagles position-by-position breakdown and where each team has the edge | CBS Sports


Chiefs: Andy Reid (HC), Eric Bieniemy (OC), Steve Spagnuolo (DC)

Eagles: Nick Sirianni (HC), Shane Steichen (OC), Jonathan Gannon (DC)

This is perhaps the most intriguing — and potentially underrated — matchup of the game. Reid is second to none in terms of innovative offensive designs, especially in the red zone, taking full advantage of his QB’s acrobatics. And Spagnuolo has proven effective at dialing up the right exotic pressures in the most important contests. But Sirianni’s probably not getting enough credit for how casually he’s implemented league-leading aggression on key downs, tending to trust Hurts and Co. when many coaches, including even Reid, would prefer to punt. Gannon is a tougher egg to crack, relying more on straight-up front-four pressure than splashy calls, but his unit has done nothing but steamroll opponents under the bright lights. The Chiefs certainly have the all-time edge, and probably warrant more trust, but on paper, Sirianni is also 22-3 in his last 25, including playoffs.

Edge: Even

Patrick Mahomes Got More Boring This Season—in the Best Way | The Ringer

Mahomes is not only forcing defenses to account for multiple receiving options on every play; he’s also making them defend the entire width of the field. If defenses want to play zone, Mahomes is forcing those defenders to cover a lot of grass. If they play man, Mahomes can just pick out the right matchup, knowing that he has reliable targets who aren’t going to draw extra help, like Kelce and (in the past) Hill.

“It just makes it tougher for teams to try and game plan us,” Bieniemy said of this more well-rounded passing game.

Mahomes has lapped the rest of the field, other than Josh Allen, in EPA this season, despite not hitting downfield throws as often. And the offense is still averaging 29.2 points per game, the best figure in the league. But out of all the stats that show Mahomes’s maturation this season, this one sums it up best: A year ago, Mahomes averaged 2.41 seconds per throw on running back targets of less than 5 air yards—so checkdowns, essentially—which ranked 20th in the league, per TruMedia. Even rookie Zach Wilson was getting those throws off quicker in 2021. On those passes this year, his average time to throw dropped to 2.16 seconds. That was the third fastest in the NFL, even faster than Brady.

This week, when I asked Mahomes for a progress report on the goals he set for himself following the Super Bowl loss, those checkdown throws were the first thing he brought up. “I’ve gotten extremely better,” Mahomes said. “I took that as a challenge: How can you get the ball out of your hand when stuff’s not going great?

Every AFC team’s best win/worst loss of the 2022 NFL season |

Kansas City Chiefs

14-3 · 1st in AFC West

Best win: 23-20 over Cincinnati Bengals (AFC Championship Game)

This win was the Chiefs’ best for a couple of reasons: First, they snapped a three-game losing streak against the Bengals that included the 2021 AFC Championship Game. Second, they prevented collapsing in a second straight conference title match appearance. Playing on a bad ankle, Patrick Mahomes tossed two touchdown passes and scrambled for a first down that moved Kansas City close enough to kick the game-winning field goal. And when it was all finished, Travis Kelce got the last laugh, delivering this message to Cincinnati’s mayor: “Know your role and shut your mouth, you jabroni!” That’s what I call sweet victory.

Worst loss: 20-17 to Indianapolis Colts (Week 3)

Weird things happen in this league on occasion, and sometimes powerful teams take their opponents too lightly. That’s what Kansas City seemed to do on this strange day in Indianapolis, which was marked by a muffed punt, a missed PAT (by backup kicker Matt Ammendola), a failed fake field-goal attempt, a missed Ammendola field-goal try, a slow-moving but crucial Colts touchdown drive and a tipped Mahomes pass that ended in a game-sealing interception. The Colts didn’t do anything spectacular — Kansas City just flubbed multiple chances to put them away.

Greg Olsen’s key matchup in Super Bowl LVII? The offensive lines | FOX Sports

“They made it a point to go out and really improve as an offensive line, and they have,” Olsen said. “The right tackle, Wylie, is the only returning starter. All four new starters since that last Super Bowl. I think their ability to match up against this Philly defensive line, in the run and pass, but mostly protecting Mahomes and letting him do what he does, I think that’s going to be critical.”

Philadelphia’s defense finished two sacks short of the NFL’s single-season record for a team, with four players finishing in double digits in sacks: Outside linebacker Haason Reddick had 16 (along with an NFL-high five forced fumbles), and Javon Hargrave, Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham had 11 each. That’s a significant challenge for the Chiefs’ line up front, but one that could help decide Sunday’s final outcome.

“If they can hold up, and they did a great job against Cincinnati for the most part last week, if they can have a similar type production, I think that goes a long way,” Olsen said. “In a game where the other offensive line gets all the attention, if Kansas City’s line can have the game they’re capable of, I think that really bodes well for their ability to match up against Philadelphia.”

Super Bowl 2023 Chiefs-Eagles ripe with storylines: Here are five best | USA Today

Will Eagles offseason moves pay off with Super Bowl win?

The Eagles have undergone a massive transformation since they last appeared in the Super Bowl when they beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to wrap up the 2017 season. They have moved on from quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Nick Foles and coach Doug Pedersen, among others. Eight players remain from the Super Bowl 52 roster.

To return to the Super Bowl six seasons later is a major accomplishment for a franchise that has seen so much turnover.

Credit Eagles general manager Howie Roseman for executing Philadelphia’s rebuilding effort in quick order. Among his top moves: trading Wentz, firing Pederson, drafting Hurts and hiring Nick Sirianni as coach, acquiring receiver A.J. Brown and piecing together one of the best defenses in the NFL.

The Eagles started this season 8-0, won 13 of their first 14 games, clinched the NFC East and cruised past the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs.

Christian McCaffrey: 49ers will have ‘a lot of fuel this offseason’ after heartbreaking NFC title game loss |

“You know, I hope both teams lose. To me, it doesn’t matter,” McCaffrey said. “Obviously I wish I was, we wish we were playing so bad, that game still hurts and it will for a while, but I think Nick Bosa said it best: I don’t know if I’m going to watch the game, it might hurt too much.”

Around the NFL

Roger Goodell defends NFL officiating - Never been better | ESPN|

“I don’t think it’s ever been better in the league,” Goodell said at his annual Super Bowl week news conference. “There are over 42,000 plays in a season. Multiple infractions could occur on any play. Take that out or extrapolate that. That’s hundreds if not millions of potential fouls. And our officials do an extraordinary job of getting those. Are there mistakes in the context of that? Yes, they are not perfect and officiating never will be.”

In the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game, Kansas City ran a play on third-and-9 that ended up short of the sticks. Instead of a fourth-down punt, though, the Chiefs got to replay the down. The field judge noticed a clock error before the play and tried to run in to stop the play. He was unsuccessful and the play continued. While the Chiefs’ offense ran off the field for the punt unit, officials conferred and nullified the play because of the clock issue, allowing the Chiefs to replay the prior down.

“In the championship game, that was stopped appropriately because the clock was running by an official on the field,” Goodell said Wednesday. “That happens frequently in our game. That’s not an unusual thing to have that happen. ... We may not agree with every TV announcer or officiating expert, but we think our officials are doing a great job. We’re always going to look to our competition committee and everything else we have, how we improve our officiating, but it will never be perfect.”

In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride

Chiefs-Eagles Super Bowl LVII: During Steve Spagnuolo’s career, defending quarterbacks has changed a lot

But over the last two decades, mobile quarterbacks — and schemes designed around them — have become more common. College formations that were once brushed aside as “gimmicky” are now staples of professional offenses — especially the Eagles, whose quarterback Jalen Hurts has rushed for 760 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. That’s in addition to his 22 scores through the air.

“Now that [it] is in NFL football,” noted Spagnuolo, “it does change everything. It puts a lot more challenge on the defensive guys when the quarterback can not only drop back and throw — which this quarterback can do — but he can also beat you with his legs.

“And in that offense, he’s making decisions within the play to make you look bad. Because he can decide whether to hand it off, throw it, or run with it.”

It makes a defense’s job much more difficult than it was in the early days of Spagnuolo’s NFL career.

“I think football today is legendary,” he declared, “when you think about what quarterbacks do and how hard it is to run a defensive play. We’ve got to find a way to slow him down somehow.”

A tweet to make you think

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