Super Bowl has rare matchup of top 2 regular-season teams
Wed, Feb 8, 2023 10:18 AM
By JOSH DUBOW, AP Pro Football Writer
This year's Super Bowl features a rare matchup of the NFL’s top two teams from the regular season.
The Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs were the league's only 14-game winners, marking just the sixth time since the 1970 merger that the squads with sole possession of the two best records in the regular season met for the championship.
The last time it happened came after the 2013 season when Seattle beat Denver 43-8 in a matchup of 13-win teams.
That blowout was relatively typical of these meetings, with the average margin of victory in the previous five powerhouse matchups being 21 points.
The closest game was Washington’s 37-24 win over Buffalo following the 1991 season. The three others featured San Francisco beating Miami 38-16 after the 1984 season, Dallas topping Denver 27-10 to cap the 1977 season and Oakland beating Minnesota 32-14 the previous year.
Since seeding began in 1975, this is the 15th time the top team in each conference made it to the Super Bowl. The previous time came after the 2017 season when the Eagles won their first Super Bowl championship by beating New England 41-33.
This is also the third time both Super Bowl teams won at least 14 games in the regular season, although both Kansas City and Philadelphia needed wins in the added 17th game to get there. Atlanta and Denver did it in 16-game seasons in 1998, and Miami and San Francisco in 1984.
The Chiefs and Eagles also have been in control all postseason, with neither team trailing in the playoffs. The only other times both Super Bowl teams did that came in the 2004 season (Patriots vs. Eagles), 1991 season (Bills vs. Washington) and 1966 season (Packers vs. Chiefs).
AIR IT OUT
Patrick Mahomes will try to do something that has never been done before in the NFL by following up a regular season when he led the league in yards passing with a Super Bowl title.
Mahomes threw for 5,250 yards during the regular season — 511 more than second-place Justin Herbert for the largest gap between first and second place since Kurt Warner beat out Peyton Manning by 699 yards in 2001.
The only player to reach the Super Bowl after throwing for more yards in the regular season than Mahomes was Manning, with a record 5,477 in 2013. His Broncos lost 43-8 to Seattle in the Super Bowl.
That was one of six times before Mahomes that the player who led the league in yards passing made it to the Super Bowl, with all of them losing. The others were Tom Brady (2017 season), Brady (2007), Rich Gannon (2002), Warner (2001) and Dan Marino (1984).
Chiefs coach Andy Reid joins Dan Reeves as the only coaches to face a franchise in the Super Bowl that they previously took to the big game.
Reid coached the Eagles to their second Super Bowl following the 2004 season before getting fired after the 2012 season. He quickly built Kansas City into a power and now is ready for his fourth Super Bowl appearance as a head coach — the ninth coach to reach that mark.
Reid will hope for better luck in his rematch than Reeves had after the 1998 season against a Denver organization he had guided to the Super Bowl in the 1986, ‘87 and ’89 seasons before losing all three. The Broncos beat Reeves and the Atlanta Falcons 34-19 in the Super Bowl.
Two other coaches faced their former teams in the Super Bowl and ended up on the winning side: Jon Gruden led Tampa Bay past the Raiders after the 2002 season and Weeb Ewbank coached the Jets to a huge upset over the Colts following the 1968 season.
The Eagles will be the sixth franchise to reach the Super Bowl under four coaches, with Nick Sirianni joining Doug Pederson, Reid and Dick Vermeil.
The Raiders, 49ers, Colts and Rams all got there with four coaches, and the Broncos did it with a record five.
TERRIFIC TIGHT END
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has put together a playoff career topped perhaps only by the greatest receiver ever in Jerry Rice.
Kelce has 127 catches in 17 career playoff games for 1,467 yards and 15 touchdowns. The only player to top any of those numbers was Rice, with 151 catches for 2,245 yards and 22 TDs in 29 playoff games.
The Mahomes-Kelce connection also is one of the best, with their 13 TD passes in the playoffs trailing only the 15 Tom Brady threw to Rob Gronkowski.
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