Sunday, January 29, 2023

Playoff Judgments III

 By Clark Judge 
Patrick Mahomes
Credit: NFL Game Pass
After what we just witnessed from Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s hard not to like them as your next Super Bowl champions. Except history … and maybe common sense … offers a different message.

It tells us to beware.

First, let’s deal with the common sense. The Eagles are loaded -- offense, defense, special teams, coaching, you name it. Everywhere you look, they’re stacked with talent … and the results speak for themselves. They won a franchise-record 14 games this season, were the NFC’s top playoff seed and just shredded two playoff opponents by a combined score of 69-14.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, that last item is significant. Only four other teams in NFL playoff history won division and conference championship games in the same season by at least 21 points each … and all four won Super Bowls. Moreover, the last time the Eagles allowed seven or fewer points in consecutive postseason games was 1948 and 1949.

They won league titles both years.

But wait a minute. Kansas City has Mahomes, Kelce and a quick-strike offense, right? Correct. In fact, they’re the fourth team in the past 10 years to lead the league in total offense and reach the Super Bowl. The others were Denver in 2013, New England in 2017 and the Chiefs in 2020 … and quick now, tell me what those three have in common?

Uh-huh, all of them lost.

That covers the history portion of today’s lesson. Now for the common sense. I’ve said this before and it’s apparent now more than ever: Philadelphia is the most complete football team anywhere. Entering this season, the one question mark about the Eagles involved their quarterback, but all Jalen Hurts has done is win 16 of his 17 starts, including the playoffs, and evolve into an MVP candidate.

That award almost certainly will go to Mahomes, and it should. But one individual won’t determine the outcome of Super Bowl LVII. One team will, and the Eagles have the defense, the offense, an MVP-worthy quarterback and a head coach who’s taken them to the playoffs twice in two years.

In short, they’re covered everywhere.

Defense wins championships, we’re constantly reminded, and Philadelphia this season led the league in pass defense and led it in sacks -- setting a franchise record with 78, including the playoffs. That’s why I didn’t think it mattered who won Sunday’s AFC championship game. The Eagles would beat either team.

Then why did oddsmakers make Kansas City an early one-point favorite? Good question. My guess: It’s all about Mahomes and Reid and their Big Game experience. It’s their third Super Bowl in four years. But I don’t trust the odds. I trust history. And history tells us that defense will prevail … just as it did the last time Mahomes and Kansas City reached the Super Bowl vs. Tampa Bay.

Super Bowl LVII may be the Andy Reid Bowl, but my guess is that when it’s over, it will read more like that T-shirt that former Eagles’ star Brian Dawkins wore Sunday.

It said: “It’s a Philly Thing.”


1.       Arrowhead is not “Burrowhead.” Prior to Sunday, Joe Burrow was so successful in Kansas City (3-0) that his teammates called the Chiefs’ stadium “Burrowhead.” Big mistake. That didn’t go down well with the Chiefs, who last week vowed to set the record straight when the two teams met Sunday. They did with a 23-20 victory.

2.       Burrow- Mahomes is this decade’s Brady-Manning. They’ve gone mano-a-mano four times, with each game decided by three points. Mahomes is 27, Burrow is 26. Do the math. You have at least another decade of head-on collisions with these two.

3.       Kyle Shanahan is not a genius. If he were, the 49ers’ head coach never would have left a backup tight end to pass block Haason Reddick. “That injury (to Brock Purdy) is on Kyle,” said former Bay Area columnist Lowell Cohn. Bingo.

4.       The NFL should dress three quarterbacks for games. It did until 2011. It should again. The 49ers-Eagles game demonstrated why. “Not having three bona fide quarterbacks available for each team is a terrible look for the sport,” said former Jets’ GM Mike Tannenbaum.

5.       Andy Reid is Hall of Fame worthy. He has more playoff victories (21) than everyone not named Bill Belichick (31) and just advanced to his third Super Bowl in four years. That puts him in rarified air. Throw in 10 conference championship game appearances (five in each conference), and he’s a slam dunk for Canton. But now it’s all about the legacy. With another Super Bowl victory, he takes a giant step forward and starts to be compared with some of the all-time greats.


1.       So much for Mahomes being impaired by playing on one leg. He accounted for 323 of the Chiefs’ 357 yards.

2.       Not sure who had a worse day in Philadelphia: Brock Purdy or the refs.

3.       I guess Joe Cool is not Joe Cold. Until Sunday, Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow was 8-0 in games where the temperature at kickoff was below 40 degrees. It was 22 in Kansas City when the game started, and 23-20, Chiefs, when it was over.

4.       Good to see Reid call out a “phenomenal” job by Steve Spagnuolo’s defense. Mahomes will get the headlines for his courageous performance, but it was the Kansas City defense that kept Burrow and the Bengals at bay. It produced five sacks (including four in the first half), two turnovers and forced a punt on Cincinnati’s last meaningful possession.

5.       And while we’re on the subject … welcome back, Chris Jones. Hard to believe, but he’d gone 13 playoff games without a sack. Then he terrorized Burrow, with two sacks, five quarterback hits and three tackles for losses. In fact, it was Jones who dropped Burrow with 41 seconds left to force that Cincinnati’s punt.

6.       Love this take from Darin Gantt: “Let this be a lesson for NFL teams looking to replicate the Eagles’ formula: If you want to make a Super Bowl, what you really need to do is make sure your opponents run out of quarterbacks.”

7.       Now we know there’s one thing that Jalen Hurts can’t do. Sing.

8.       Miami just hired Vic Fangio as its defensive coordinator. Smart move.

9.       It’s one thing to lose. It’s another to lose discipline and poise. The 49ers did both.

10.   Get ready to hear plenty from Donna and Ed Kelce the next two weeks. Their sons, Travis and Jason, are the first two brothers to oppose each other in a Super Bowl.

11.   Memo to Andy Reid: Reserve two game balls for Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor and defensive lineman Joseph Ossai. Taylor took an unnecessary timeout with 48 seconds left that wound up costing him, while Ossai outdid his head coach with an out-of-bounds hit on Mahomes that drew a flag and set up the game-winning field goal. “Stupid is as stupid does,” that esteemed philosopher, Forrest Gump, once reminded us. Someone pass the word to the Bengals.

12.   Great note per Rick Gosselin: Since the Cowboys’ last appearance in a conference championship game (January, 1996), 26 of the other 31 teams have been there. Carolina and Jacksonville are expansion franchises that date back to 1995, yet they’ve been to seven combined.

13.   Tell me again how Carolina let Haason Reddick and Christian McCaffrey go.

14.   Coming soon to Pay Per View: Trent Williams vs. K’Von Wallace.

15.   San Francisco’s DeMeco Ryans was on a lot of short lists of teams seeking new head coaches, and he should have been. But what about Jonathan Gannon? He’s the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, and that’s the unit that knocked two quarterbacks out of Sunday’s game … forced three turnovers … and put the 49ers in a fetal position the entire second half. In two playoff games, Gannon’s defense surrendered just 14 points, and, yeah, I think that merits a call.

16.   Memo to Kyle Shanahan: When a receiver bounces up from a “catch” and calls for a quick snap, you might want to think about calling for a review. Just sayin.’

17.   The Super Bowl will be a challenge for referee Carl Cheffers. His crew was the only one this season to call more than 200 penalties, the ninth straight season it topped 200. The NFL likes to cut back on flags in the playoffs. Cheffers doesn’t like to cut down on flags, period.

18.   Miami GM Chris Grier believes Tua Tagovailoa is no more prone to concussions than anyone else, but how would he know? Miami is the team that kept pushing Tua on to the field after he was first hurt.

19.   Mahomes called Tom Brady last week for advice, and whatever he said must have worked. But what can Brady tell him about the Eagles? When he faced them in Super Bowl LII, he threw for 505 yards and three TDs. He also lost, 41-33.

20.   Is it me, or did Philadelphia’s Lane Johnson commit numerous false starts Sunday that weren’t flagged? Nope, it wasn’t me. Not a good weekend for officials.


n  Jalen Hurts now has 15 rushing touchdowns this season, including the playoffs. That’s an NFL record for quarterbacks.

n  Kansas City is 12-0 when scoring first.

n  With 13 playoff TDs, Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce rank second all-time in quarterback-receiver duos. Only the Tom Brady-Rob Gronkowski combination has more with 15.

n  At 27 years, 134 days, Mahomes is the youngest quarterback to reach 10 playoff victories.

n  Philadelphia’s 39 rushing touchdowns are the most ever in one season, including the playoffs. The previous record of 37 was set by the 1962 Green Bay Packers. They won the NFL championship.

n  The Eagles’ 78 sacks are the third most in league history. Only the 1984-85 Bears had more, with 82 in 1984 and 80 the following season.


n  “Losing feels awful. But, yeah, this one was worse.” – San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan.

n  “My arm just feels like it stretched out. It felt like a lot of shocks all over from my elbow down to my wrist.” – San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy.

n  “My joy comes in winning. I know the job isn’t done.” – Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts.

n  “This is the most physical defense in this league.” – Philadelphia coach Nick Sirianni.

n  “He has nothing to be sad about. He’s the reason we got to this game.” – San Francisco linebacker Fred Warner on Brock Purdy.

n  “I got some words for that Cincinnati mayor. Know your role and shut your mouth.” – Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce.

n  “We expect to be back there, and I think they do, too.” -  Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow on losing to the Chiefs.

n  There were plenty of plays that we left on the field that could’ve put us in better position.” – Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor.


  1. Chris Jones is also putting together a HOF worthy career along with Andy Reid with 3 All pros and 4 Pro Bowls.

    Refs were bad in both games but Bengals had their chance and didn’t come through.

    I would not blame the lack of poise on the Niners given the whole team had to play “hero ball” to make up for a 4th string QB.

    Shanahan deserves scrutiny for his performance in the Niner playoff losses. He’s similar to Andy Reid during his tenure in Philly, gets close but never won the title. Problem for Shanahan is he only has 3 years left on his contract, his key players are getting older and who knows how much patience does Jed York have. The one thing Shanahan does have over Jim Harbaugh is that he’s got a growing NFL coaching tree.

    Josh Johnson should just stick to playing USFL for the rest of his playing days. Embarrassing botched snap.

    Eagles has the easiest path to the Super Bowl with NY giants mediocre receiving and 49ers QB luck.

  2. Always a pleasure to read Mr Judge, I'm a fan for years. I like to mix of opinions, football logic and stats.

    It also makes me smile to see him taking a small shot here and there against Kyle Shanahan. The guy is far from being a genious. A "genious" would had put together a far better play calling against the Patriots in the infamous Falcons meltdown... BTW, 52-46 record is enough to be a genious, now? Standards are low these days ;)

    Is father was called a genious, too, but he was not as well. What did he win without Elway and TD? Nothing. The Father Genious also ruined RGIII.

  3. From Brian wolf ...

    Tough day for officiating ...

    The Niners right tackle also had false starts that werent called and in both games, the offensive linemen get away with too much head and arm movement.

    The Bengals last penalty was pure frustration, as it seemed like the Chiefs offense were bailed out alot by questionable Bengal penalties.

    Where were the running games in KC? Mixon, Pacheco and McKinnon hardly ever got the ball. Too much were put on the QB's shoulders.

    Clark is right, Gannon has done a great job with the Philly defense and Reddick was MVP yesterday.
    Reid better give Mahomes some running game help in the SB.

    Shanahan got outcoached yesterday but Purdy also got questioned on his toughness.
    He shouldnt have ... not only did Reddick get his wrist but Purdy's elbow banged against his helmet as well. Even Bradshaw knew how a stinger like that affects the grip and throwing motion. The same type of hit, plus Suh's weight, knocked out Johnson as well, who kept worrying about pressure from the right side.

    Tough losses for SF and Cincy.

  4. Chris Jones finally with a big game...against the Bengals backups. Cincy clearly the better team but OLine injuries and sketchy officiating was just barely enough to get KC the win

    1. That and a head coach getting too cute. There was no reason for the Bengals not to run the ball more but instead, had two big turnovers and a dropped TD pass that might have been the difference. When the flow of the game is disrupted by penalties and clock mishaps, a team has to find a way to survive.

  5. From Brian wolf ...

    Great piece on 2023 HOF Class Clark, on talkoffametwo ...

    Can Mahomes win SB and MVP for the first time since Kurt Warner in 1999?