February 17, 2023 12:00pm

The NFL and Super Bowl Aftermath

With three Super Bowl appearances, two Super Bowl rings, two Super Bowl MVPs and two NFL MVPs in his first five seasons as a starter, Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback of his era.

Photo of Rick Gosselin
NFL Correspondent

With three Super Bowl appearances, two Super Bowl rings, two Super Bowl MVPs and two NFL MVPs in his first five seasons as a starter, Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback of his era.

That’s not subject to debate.

But the pecking order behind him is subject to debate, so in this week’s NFL Power Poll we asked our panel of former players, coaches, officials, talent evaluators, writers and broadcasters to identify the NFL’s second-best quarterback. We offered up five options – Josh Allen of the Bills, Joe Burrow of the Bengals, Justin Herbert of the Chargers, Jalen Hurts of the Eagles and Aaron Rodgers of the Packers.

Mahomes, of course, was the MVP of the Super Bowl. But it was such a strong effort by Kansas City in all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams – that delivered the victory over the Eagles.

So in our second question of the week, we again went looking for a runnerup. We asked our panelists who was the second most-valuable Chief in the Super Bowl and offered up four options – running back Isiah Pacheco, linebacker Nick Bolton, wide receiver/punt returner Kadarius Toney and, as a unit, the KC offensive line.

Burrow, who took the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl last season, was the easy winner to the first question, receiving 140 of the 214 votes cast. Allen was next with 38, followed by Allen with 22, Rodgers with 11 and Herbert with three.

“I don’t think there is much doubt about Joe Burrow being the second-best quarterback,” said Gene Frenette, a sports columnist for the Florida Times Union. “He beat Mahomes three times in a span of a calendar year and might have been 4-0 had it not been for some suspect officiating in the AFC championship game that favored the Chiefs.”

When you toss Lamar Jackson, Trevor Lawrence and Tua Tagovailoa into the mix, the AFC is top heavy with the game’s best young quarterbacks. All are under the age of 28. But not all the game’s best young quarterbacks are in the AFC. Hurts was the runnerup for the NFL MVP award for quarterbacking the Eagles to the Super Bowl. He had his supporters in the voting.

“He had the greatest performance ever by a losing player in a Super Bowl,” said Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “It was fitting that it came on the same weekend Chuck Howley, the only player from a losing team to win Super Bowl MVP honors, was named to the Hall of Fame. What Howley did probably will never happen again but Hurts was the MVP of the Super Bowl. If he didn’t play the way he did, the Eagles wouldn’t even have been in the game.”

Hurts passed for 304 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for 70 yards and three more scores against the Chiefs.

“I think right now No. 2 is very close between Hurts and Burrow.” said Vito Stellino, a former Hall of Fame voter. “You could toss a coin but I took Hurts because he played so well in the Super Bowl.”

Mahomes was voted the Super Bowl MVP after completing 21 of 27 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns. There have been 32 quarterbacks win Super Bowl MVP honors but Mahomes is only the

fourth to win the award with fewer than 200 yards passing. The others were Len Dawson, Roger Staubach and Joe Montana.

In response to the second question, the Kansas City offensive line was another runaway winner, receiving 153 votes, followed by Bolton with 30, Toney with 17 and Pacheco with 14.

Philadelphia became the first team in Super Bowl history to bring a 70-sack pass rush to the game. The Eagles had a nine-sack game against Minnesota, a pair of seven-sack games against the Giants and Saints and four other six-sack games this season. Only two defenses in NFL history managed more than the 70 sacks of the 2022 Eagles.

The pass rush was a big part of the reason Philadelphia finished second in the NFL in defense and first against the pass. But the Chiefs allowed the fewest sacks of any AFC team (26) and the third fewest in the league. Keeping Mahomes, who was playing with an ankle injury, upright figured to be a key to any Kansas City victory.

“Mahomes played with a high-ankle sprain and the Eagles led the NFL in sacks,” said Gerry Sandusky of WBAL in Baltimore. “This could have been a recipe for disaster for KC.”

Instead, it was a disaster for Philadelphia. The Chiefs held the Eagles without a sack.

“What happened to that Eagles pass rush that ran roughshod over everyone all season?” asked Bill Hubeer of Packers Central. “They ran into KC’s brick wall.”

Added Cory Curtis, the sports director at WKRN in Nashville: “Mahomes battled and was great – but the Chiefs’ offensive line was the real Super Bowl MVP.”

Trailing 14-7 in the second quarter with the Eagles at midfield and driving, Bolton scooped up a Hurts fumble and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown. He also led the Chiefs with nine tackles.

“I voted Bolton for personal reasons,” said Hall-of-Fame receiver Drew Pearson of the Dallas Cowboys. “I watched him play high-school football at Frisco Lone Star with my grandson. I’m proud of him. By the way, Frisco Lone Star played games at the Ford Center right on the Cowboys’ campus. How did they miss this talent?”

Toney turned in the biggest play of the game, returning a punt a Super Bowl-record 65 yards in the fourth quarter to set up a short Mahomes touchdown pass that gave the Chiefs their first lead of the game. He also caught a TD pass from Mahomes in the game.

The way to slow down a great pass rush is to make them tackle ball carriers. The Chiefs needed to establish a running game to slow down the Philadelphia pass rush and Pacheco did just that, gashing the Eagles for 76 yards on 15 carries – an average of 5.1 yards per carry – and scoring a touchdown.

But the bottom line – if the Chiefs don’t block, the Chiefs don’t win.

“The Chiefs negated the Eagles’ most impactful unit,” said Barry Wilner, the long-time Associated Press NFL writer.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of significant key players in American sports today. It's member list draws on people from media, team management, and league management. It is not a scientific survey, but the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those who know most about the sport.

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