PHOENIX — The Eagles’ defensive line doesn’t hit opposing offenses in waves. It’s coming at them like a tsunami, one giant pass-rusher after another wreaking havoc on quarterbacks and destroying game plans.
Thanks to a franchise-record 70 sacks in the regular season and eight more in two postseason games, this Eagles front is being mentioned in the same breath as the 1985 Chicago Bears and 1986 Giants, two of the best defensive teams. in NFL history.
Now, they have one job left to cement their reputation forever: to crush and destroy Patrick Mahomes. Make the best quarterback in the NFL look like just another guy. If necessary, cleanly remove him from the game the same way Haason Reddick removed San Francisco’s Brock Purdy from the NFC Championship Game.
Whatever is needed.
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The Eagles have a better chance than most teams to accomplish that difficult task for a couple of reasons. One is that they are really good. The other is because Mahomes is playing with a severely sprained right ankle. He’ll be a wounded seal in the sea during Super Bowl LVII, and the Eagles have a chance to hunt him down the same way the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did in the Super Bowl two years ago.
A limping Mahomes should be blood in the water for the best defensive line in the NFL.
“Oh yeah, sure,” said Brandon Graham, the veteran defensive end who returned from ACL surgery this season and posted a career-high 11 sacks. “Any time you play these great quarterbacks here, you have to affect them. You can’t have them playing seven against seven. The line definitely has to affect everything that happens with each play. I know we have a great defensive line, but we have to prove it every week.”
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As he fielded questions about being one of the most handsome coaches in the NFL — “someone had been drinking too much,” he said — and how many cheeseburgers he could consume if the Chiefs won their second Super Bowl in four seasons, head coach Andy Reid He recognized that this Eagles defensive line deserves to be considered among the best in league history.
“Philadelphia’s defensive line is excellent,” Reid said. “They have those five guys and then five other guys that can step in and go. They can keep throwing fastballs at you throughout the game with new players.
The Eagles had four guys — Reddick, Graham, Josh Sweat and Javon Hargrave — with double-digit sacks. Fletcher Cox, an 11-year veteran, contributed seven sacks, which was the third-highest total of his career and would have been good enough to lead six teams.
Milton Williams (four sacks and nine tackles for losses), Ndamukong Suh, Jordan Davis and Marlon Tuipulota were part of the second wave to receive significant playing time this season.
As the teams were briefly onstage together Monday on Super Bowl LVII Opening Night, Mahomes was reminded that Graham fired Tom Brady to seal the Eagles’ first Super Bowl title five years ago. He laughed and said he had no intention of antagonizing the Eagles’ ferocious pass-rushers.
As good as they were this season, the Eagles weren’t interested in upsetting Mahomes either. When asked about bringing down the limping quarterback, Cox leaned forward on his podium and quickly dismissed the idea.
“Didn’t you see him at the end of the game (of the AFC Championship) running the ball?” Cox asked. “It looked healthy to me. I know that he has had another week to rest and I know that he is a competitor. Seeing him go out and then come back and finish the game (against Jacksonville) like he did, it was very special.”
Reddick, the fiercest of the Eagles’ running backs, agreed.
“I don’t know if you can contain it,” he said. “Pat, this is his team. He is the midfielder. Everything goes through him. He just a great talent and I love his game”.
Mahomes, who is playing in his third Super Bowl in four years, has been mostly excellent in his 13 career postseason starts, posting a 10-3 record. In those wins, he completed 263 of his 377 passes for 3,062 yards while throwing for 26 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He also has rushed 51 times for 276 yards and four touchdowns.
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But in his three losses, he completed just 68 of 119 passes for 1,126 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions. Mahomes has turned the ball over nine times in his 13 playoff games, but notably has lost only one.
“You can bring up his playoff past, but I don’t know,” Reddick said. “That guy, you can never dismiss him no matter what’s going on in the game. He’s a tremendous competitor and somehow, somehow… more often than not, he finds a way to fight back and win the game. I can’t sit here and say we’re going to get turnovers and be a lock to win the game. He will help. He will give us a chance ”.
If this Eagles defensive line wants to be remembered as one of the greats, they have to finish the job and find a way to make Mahomes look normal.
“It’s a huge task,” Graham said.
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Bob Brookover can be reached at [email protected].