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Eagles’ dominant pass rush preying on Patrick Mahomes could decide Super Bowl

By Steve Serby,


They are Birds of Prey, and the prey on Super Bowl Sunday will be Patrick Mahomes.

“No QB has completed a pass while lying flat on his back,” Buddy Ryan, the 1985 Bears’ defensive mastermind, liked to say.

Perhaps Mahomes is the only quarterback you can think of who possibly could.

When Mahomes lost Super Bowl LV to Tom Brady, the Buccaneers sacked him three times and intercepted him twice. They pressured him on 32.7 percent of his snaps while blitzing on just five snaps.

Defense wins championships.

Just not always.

“Defense wins championships,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said this past summer, “but the Super Bowl is won by the quarterback.”

Sometimes it can be both. The Super Bowl XLII Giants beat the undefeated Patriots, 17-14, because they sacked Tom Brady five times and never stopped making him uncomfortable, and Eli Manning somehow found David Tyree, and then Plaxico Burress in the end zone, in crunch-time.

“It wouldn’t be the Super Bowl if they weren’t talking about coming to knock me down and trying to knock me out,” Brady said before his second loss to Manning and the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.

If you are betting on the Chiefs, you are betting that the Super Bowl will be won by Mahomes.
Haason Reddick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates with Fletcher Cox #91 after recovering a fumble against the San Francisco 49ers.
Getty Images

If you are betting on the Eagles, you are betting that the Super Bowl will be won by the Birds of Prey.

The Rams sacked Joe Burrow seven times and beat the Bengals, 23-20, in Super Bowl LVI last year. Defense wins championships.

Any and every one of the five Eagles on the defensive front — who have combined for 64 of the club’s 70 regular-season sacks, third-most in NFL history, and eight more in two playoff games — can swoop down on Mahomes at any given moment.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes reacts after being sacked by Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle BJ Hill (92) during the AFC Championship game.

I asked ESPN analyst Marcus Spears, a nine-year NFL defensive end, if these Birds of Prey were similar to any front he has seen.

“That [Super Bowl XLII] Giants front when they beat New England,” Spears told The Post, “with Stray [Michael Strahan] and Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck. Now the defensive tackles are different, the tackles in New York were smaller guys in stature as far as weight. It almost looks like blitzes when just four of ’em are rushing, because of the amount of pressure that each individual is putting on the quarterback.”

The Birds of Prey:

Haason Reddick — the 6-foot-1, 240-pound outside linebacker — recorded 16 sacks and has been a terror in the postseason, totaling 3.5 sacks, and knocking Brock Purdy out of the NFC Championship game.
Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick (7) sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Josh Johnson (17) during the first quarter in the NFC Championship

“Speed, man,” Spears said. “He works edges and he finishes as well as anybody. They played him off the ball at Arizona! Watching how fast he gets off the football and puts tackles in a bad way as far as trying to get out. He’s one of the better finishers. It’s a lot of guys that can win rushes but can’t get the quarterback on the ground. He does both.”

Brandon Graham (11 sacks) is a compact, 35-year-old Super Bowl champion trash-talker who looks nothing like the prototypical defensive end.

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“Brandon is just old-school throwback,” Spears said. “The traits don’t align. You remember [former Raven] Elvis Dumervil? Brandon is kind of like Elvis. I think he probably catches a lot of people off guard with how strong he is, but his effort has always been one of the things that stood out to me, and he makes a lot of plays because of that. Now he can rush and he has hand usage and all of that stuff, but Brandon is more the thousand miles an hour from first quarter to fourth.”

Josh Sweat (11 sacks) is the 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end who enjoyed a breakout season.

“He’s the one that actually looks like a dude that should be able to be able to rush the passer,” Spears said. “Long arms, and that’s what he uses more than anything, you just can’t get to his body. He’s evolved as a rusher at understanding how tight to stay around the edge and not getting behind quarterbacks, and I don’t think he gets enough credit for his effort either.”

Javon Hargrave is the defensive tackle who led NFC interior defensive linemen with a career-high 11 sacks.

“His ability to get guys’ hands off, and how quick he wins in his rush,” Spears said. “The rarity for defensive tackles like him is you’re not working with a lot of space, so your literal pass rush box is condensed. And his ability to work right off his man, but his hands in not allowing people to get hands on him and kind of hang him up is what’s so impressive about him.”
Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is sacked by Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham #55 during the fourth quarter.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Fletcher Cox (seven sacks) is the 32-year-old Super Bowl champion and six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle who was re-signed to a one-year, $14 million contract two days after his release.

“It’s power,” Spears said. “He just understands how to … work the pocket, been doing it for so long. But he understands space. Has great situational awareness. He could use speed to power, crazy to say since Fletcher is like 195 years old. But his pass-rush ability has always been the ability to either power through guys, or his athleticism is very sneaky, he has good hips and can transition and get to edges of guys.”

Mahomes has been sacked five times in a game just once, in 2018 against the Cardinals. The 49ers sacked him four times in their Super Bowl LIV loss to the Chiefs.

“All of ’em, quote-unquote, like we like to say, they hunt … but they also work so well together, it’s not a lot of outs for quarterbacks,” Spears said. “I liken D-lines like this one to good basketball teams: There’s always help when somebody sets a screen. They are very smart, down-in-and-down-out football players as far as how they rush, and how well in sync they are working together.”

Fly (to the quarterback), Eagles, fly (to the quarterback).

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