As the confetti fell at the end of Super Bowl LVII, Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid marveled at the resilience of his team and coaching staff. Among them was his offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy, who he made sure to credit for his outstanding effort. Reid’s praise of Bieniemy rings loudly in hindsight as he and Reid both did a masterful job at exploiting the Philadelphia Eagles' defense.
Since Bieniemy took over as the Chiefs offensive coordinator in 2018, they have gone through many roster changes, and the team has had to drastically modify its offensive strategy as a result.
Many thought the offense would suffer after losing Tyreek Hill in free agency to the Miami Dolphins. Hill is one of the fastest and most explosive players in the league. He has the nickname “Cheetah” for a reason, and his absence from the offense is part of the reason many had doubts about the Chiefs this season, especially in the big game.
The Kansas City Chiefs rookies played 418 snaps in the AFC Championship game, which is the second most by rookies in a playoff game in the last 15 years. In addition, they were also the fourth team in NFL history to play 10 rookies in the Super Bowl, which hasn’t happened since 1981. Among those rookies was running back Isiah Pacheco, who played a massive role in the running game and in Bieniemy’s game plan to confuse the Eagles' defense.
In the regular season, the Eagles defensive backs had a tendency to switch any pre-snap motion, essentially passing off coverage responsibility to a teammate on the other side of the field. When defenses switch like that, there is always a brief second of space for an offense to work with, taking advantage of the secondary’s communication to fake the pre-snap motion and convert it into a route on the opposite end of the field.
Reid and Bieniemy were able to exploit this miscommunication twice in the fourth quarter to confuse the Eagles secondary. Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney fooled Eagles cornerback Darius Slay with this misdirection. Slay saw the pre-snap motion from Toney and was ready to pass the defensive responsibility to the safety, which distracted him from seeing Toney cut back outside for the open score.
The Chiefs ran the same play almost three minutes later with the game on the line. This time it was wide receiver Skyy Moore baiting Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox with the pre-snap motion for an easy score.
This attention to detail by Reid and Bieniemy is why the Chiefs were able to score 38 points on eight possessions against the defense that gave up the second-fewest yards per game this season. Even with quarterback Patrick Mahomes playing on a bad ankle that only got worse as the game progressed, the Chiefs were able to rely on the run-pass option game in the second half, using misdirection to also fool the Eagles linebackers.
In the passing game, the Chiefs used pre-snap motion by Toney and Pacheco to trick the Eagles linebackers into thinking the Chiefs were running the ball. The linebackers froze on several occasions, reacting to all the motion, which led to a great performance for Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who together combined for 13 receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown.
What the Chiefs' offense was able to do with a young, inexperienced roster and an injured quarterback against one of the league’s best defenses in the biggest game of the year is truly a marvel. Reid and Bieniemy deserve a ton of credit for their game plan.
In a game where they trailed by double-digits at halftime, the Chiefs scored on all four possessions in the second half. A lot will be made of the controversial holding penalty in the final minutes of the game; however, to many players, the game was decided before that.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ absolute dominance in the second half is what doomed the Philadelphia Eagles, cemented the legacies of several players and established the dawn of a new day — the Kansas City Chiefs dynasty.