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    It's hard to pick against the Eagles after 'gritty' win over Chiefs in Super Bowl rematch — and potential preview

    Zach Berman Avatar
    November 21, 2023

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Nick Sirianni strutted into the Eagles’ locker room with the bluster and the bravado of a coach who just beat the team that denied him the Lombardi Trophy, against the coach with the most wins in Eagles history, and in a game when the Eagles were underdogs and often picked to lose. So Sirianni found one reporter and playfully — and colorfully — mocked the pregame predictions.

    The Chiefs to win?

    The Chiefs have the advantage at quarterback?

    The Chiefs have the advantage at coach? 

    Never mind that Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes have both won a pair of Super Bowls, and Sirianni and Jalen Hurts are still trying to win one. And Monday’s 21-17 victory was certainly not the Super Bowl. Nor does it make up for losing in February; the only parade in Philadelphia this week will celebrate Thanksgiving. But for this night, Sirianni can strut. (And likely many more nights to come…)  Because the Eagles are the clear top team in the NFL, with a league-best 9-1 record and wins over Kansas City, Miami, Dallas, and Minnesota — all franchises that would be playoff-bound at this point. 

    Sirianni said the pregame message was not about being disrespected; rather it was about how were they going to win in a hostile environment against the vaunted Chiefs. The answer was not alone, but together.

    “Whoever was going to do it (must be) gritty, grimy, nasty,” Sirianni said. 

    That word — ”gritty” — was heard in all corners of the postgame locker room. Nobody would watch the Eagles’ victory and suggest it was a beautiful display of football. Their 238 yards were their second-fewest in the Sirianni era. They went 3 of 11 on third downs, which was the third-worst percentage of the Sirianni era. Jalen Hurts finished 14 of 22 for 150 yards and an interception, with 29 rushing yards and two scores. He was sacked five times. It certainly was not on his list of standout performances, nor was it one for the offensive line.

    “I don’t think we played clean tonight,” Hurts said. “I don’t think we played to our standard — nowhere near our standard. But the thing you can’t test or quantify is the resilience that a team has. And our team has that.”

    If anything, the praise after the game went to the defense. The Chiefs were held scoreless in the second half. Compare that to the Super Bowl last year, when the Chiefs scored on every possession after halftime. The Eagles bottled the running game, which was a focus during the break. The Kansas City running game helped flummox the Eagles in February.

    “(Defensive coordinator Sean) Desai, everything that we talked about was happening,” Graham said. “But it was more about us being in our splits and being gritty. We had to be on our edges, we knew that.”

    They forced four punts and had a critical takeaway in the red zone when Bradley Roby Peanut-Punched the ball out of Travis Kelce’s grasp. It was one of two turnovers the Chiefs committed in the red zone, taking potential points off the board. Kevin Byard’s interception in the first half was the other. Both veterans joined the team during the regular season.

    “Those guys are here because they’ve made plays in their careers,” Sirianni said.

    Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    It also helps to be lucky, like when Marquez Valdes-Scantling beat Roby and dropped a would-be, go-ahead touchdown just under two minutes. If Valdes-Scantling caught that ball, this story would have been about whether Hurts led the Eagles on the go-ahead drive he was denied in the Super Bowl.

    “Oh shit! Damn!’” Darius Slay said when explaining his thoughts on that play. “Then I said ‘yes! Shit boy, thank goodness.’”

     But even when that happened, the Eagles still found a way to limit the Chiefs. Josh Sweat forced Mahomes into an intentional grounding. It was the type of performance that shows why Desai deserves to be on head-coaching lists in a few months.

    “The defense kept making plays,” Sirianni said, “waiting for the offense to make plays, and they did in a critical time.”

    Sirianni was referring to a 42-yard catch by DeVonta Smith that set up Hurts’ touchdown run to give the Eagles the lead. The play was actually a check that Hurts made at the line of scrimmage. Hurts likes to say he’s a triple-threat quarterback, and it was his mind that helped the Eagles win the game.

    “Good quarterbacks make three or four plays that change a game with their mind,” Sirianni said. “They got to do a great job throwing the ball, running the show, but they make three or four checks a game with their mind that can make big differences.”

    “Those things kind of come to you in a game,” Hurts said. “You make those plays when you need to make those plays.”

    Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

    Throughout the week, the Eagles downplayed the angle of Super Bowl revenge. Often in this situation, the team can tout once it conquered the opponent. And for all of Sirianni’s bluster, it was more based on the excitement of the win — and the upset — rather than what happened last February. Because there remains only one Lombardi Trophy in the NovaCare Complex, and that’s not changing.

    “They ain’t giving us their rings back, I know that,” Sirianni said.

    He later added: “I’d trade winning last year for this one. But it feels good to win this one.”

    And part of it had to be because of the opponent. Reid barely loses coming off the bye, remember? And he never lost to the Eagles before Monday. The Chiefs seldom lose on primetime at home, remember? Mahomes has two MVPs to his name. 

    So even though the Eagles didn’t look at this as a Super Bowl rematch, it’s not farfetched to wonder if this might be a Super Bowl preview. Should that happen, perhaps the predictions might be different. Because the Eagles showed they can beat the Chiefs even without their top performance, and there isn’t a team to pick to beat them right now.

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