Every game has its turning points, and of course, the Super Bowl is no different. The plays upon which the NFL’s biggest game of the season are more important than any other, and Super Bowl LVII has not suffered from a lack of key moments we’ll be talking about for a very long time.
From the opening drives by both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs, to the little things that could make a major difference as things go along, here are all the turning points in the first half of Super Bowl LVII.
Philly's opening drive.
On the Eagles’ opening drive, the Chiefs’ defense was presented with the same problem every defense has against Jalen Hurts — do you go all-out to pressure him, or do you mush-rush to keep him in the pocket and away from the open field? Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo alternated between both strategies, but when he called more conventional pressures, Hurts bit back by either running, or throwing first- and second-read passes to open receivers. Hurts completed four of five passes for 54 yards on the opening drive that went 75 yards on 11 plays, and ended with Hurts running for a one-yard touchdown.
— NFL (@NFL) February 12, 2023
Travis Kelce's touchdown.
The Chiefs countered on their opening drive with concepts that left tight end Travis Kelce open all over the field, and this was a failing on the part of Philly defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and his staff. The better play would have been to deal with Kelce by bouncing him off the line of scrimmage with a linebacker, and having that linebacker hand him off in coverage. Instead, Kelce was unobstructed on the way to the end zone on this 18-yard touchdown pass.
The Eagles were in Cover-1 against the Chiefs’ 11 personnel, and on the right side of the formation, cornerback Darius Slay and safety Marcus Epps were trying to deal with Kelce and receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Kelce’s pre-snap motion inside put Epps instead of Slay on Kelce, and Epps just couldn’t keep up.
Short motion from Kelce isolates Epps one-on-one in single-high, the bump at the line only makes things worse. pic.twitter.com/vwsHlOGEZE
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) February 13, 2023
Epps tried to bump Kelce at the line, but you gotta do better than this.
WHO ELSE BUT KELCE 😉 pic.twitter.com/wqt5vG2Vgy
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) February 13, 2023
Kansas City's first-quarter missed field goal.
The Chiefs had driven down to the Philadelphia 24-yard line with 2:32 left in the first quarter, but then, Eagles edge-rusher Haason Reddick (more on him in a minute) pressured Mahomes, forcing an incomplete pass. On fourth-and-3 from the 24, Andy Reid decided to take the ball out of Mahomes’ hands, and rest things on the foot of kicker Harrison Butker. However, Butker doinked the 42-yard attempt, and the Chiefs had a wasted drive.
As called on French TV: pic.twitter.com/VXakUh9hzq
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) February 13, 2023
A.J. Brown's perfect touchdown adjustment.
On Philly’s subsequent drive, Hurts hit receiver A.J. Brown on this incredible 45-yard touchdown pass, which proved how valuable Brown is to the offense with an amazing adjustment to get the ball in his hands. That put the score at 14-7, and the Chiefs were starting to look vulnerable.
WHAT AN ADJUSTMENT. HURTS TO BROWN 45-YARD TOUCHDOWN!
— NFL (@NFL) February 13, 2023
Nick Bolton's scoop-and-score fumble return touchdown.
With 9:48 left in the first half, the Chiefs’ defense got their team back in the game with this 36-yard touchdown return of a Hurts fumble. This prevented the game from getting too far out of hand.
CHIEFS TIE IT BACK UP WITH A SCOOP AND SCORE
— NFL (@NFL) February 13, 2023
Haason Reddick's two third-down pressures.
Eagles edge-rusher Haason Reddick came into Super Bowl LVII with 19.5 sacks on the season, and 9.5 of those sacks, as well as 26 of his pressures, have come on third down. So, it should have come as no surprise to the Chiefs that Reddick would be a force on third down in Super Bowl LVII.
Reddick has been exactly that, ending two Chiefs drives in the first half with pressures on third down.
There was the Patrick Mahomes incompletion to Joe Fortson with 2:32 left in the first quarter that was predicated by a Reddick pressure, and then, there was this Mahomes incompletion to JuJu Smith-Schuster on third-and-8 with 13:35 left in the second quarter. On this play, Reddick stunted inside late, which is something the Eagles have liked to do with Reddick quite a bit this season.
Reddick came on the stunt on 3rd-and-8 pic.twitter.com/VhImnGBoTh
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) February 13, 2023
Fletcher Cox de edge rusher, Reddick entre compañeros y jugando stunt por dentro… os enseñé un frente parecido en mi artículo de la semana. El resultado el habitual, presión al QB rival. pic.twitter.com/iUXeC2YRKa
— Marco Álvarez (@deionmarco) February 13, 2023
Reddick has been the NFL’s most dynamic sack artist this season, and the Chiefs’ offensive line will have to be on point with him throughout the game if they want those third downs to become first downs.
Jalen Hurts' 28-yard run... and what the NFL may have missed.
With 5:28 left in the second quarter of the game, the Eagles had fourth-and-5 from the Kansas City 44-yard line, and quarterback Jalen Hurts trucked Kansas City’s defense for 28 yards.
An impressive play, and one that led to a four-yard touchdown run five plays later. But if you watch the end of the play, Hurts was slammed to the turf, and the back of his head clearly hit the ground hard. Hurts asked for assistance getting up, and the game simply continued. He should have been taken out of the game until he could go through the NFL’s “concussion protocol.”
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) February 13, 2023
Given the NFL’s abhorrent history with head trauma, you’d think the league would want to be careful at this point, but you can ask Tua Tagovailoa about that.