But unlike David Tyree’s helmet catch or Malcolm Butler’s interception at the goal line — both of which happened here — State Farm Stadium will be home Sunday to a different kind of landmark moment. It’s the first time two Black quarterbacks will face each other on the NFL’s biggest stage.
The game pits two of the league’s most dynamic stars, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes — who this week received his second NFL most valuable player award — and Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts, whose team was 16-1 in games he started this season.
“I’m really excited for both quarterbacks, what they can represent to a ton of kids,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “Not only are they two African American quarterbacks, but they’re the two best quarterbacks in the NFL this year. First-team All-Pro, second-team All-Pro.
“They both play at the highest level.”
Mahomes, 27, is playing with a high-ankle sprain he suffered in the divisional win over Jacksonville. That significantly hampers his ability to move and run, even though he gritted through a final, decisive scramble that — also thanks to a flag on Cincinnati — paved the way for a win over the Bengals in the AFC championship game.
“When you see a guy that’s hobbled that way, what I thought Cincinnati would do is push the pocket up the middle and not allow him to step up,” said Hall of Fame cornerback Charles Woodson, an analyst for Fox, which is broadcasting the Super Bowl.
“You saw him step up a couple times and throw off of the opposite leg but make pretty significant throws that were for touchdowns. So the way I’d see it is collapse the middle of the pocket, make him escape one way or the other, then you’ve got to have people that contain him on the outside.”
Hurts, 24, is still recovering from a sprained right (throwing) shoulder he suffered in December that sidelined him for two games, both of which the Eagles lost.
Hall of Famer Steve Young was the closest thing to a so-called running quarterback to win the Super Bowl, doing so with San Francisco in the 1994 season. But his career average was 25.1 yards rushing per game, half of what Hurts averaged this season.
Hurts averaged 50.7 yards rushing and finished with a passer rating of 101.5, close to the numbers Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson put up in 2019, when he was unanimously named the league’s most valuable player.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said his fascination with triple-threat quarterbacks dates to his college days as a fan.
“My favorite player in college, as a football fanatic, was a quarterback name Eldridge Dickey,” Lurie said, referring to the former Tennessee State standout drafted by Oakland in the first round in 1968.
“I couldn’t wait as a fan for the NFL to see what this guy could do, rolling to the left and throwing left, rolling to the right throwing right, extremely talented. He never got a chance because the Raiders had some really good players ahead of him, and he became a receiver. But I’ve always believed that the best athletes over the last several years and going forward are on the defensive side of the ball. And unless you can have some degree of mobility, it’s hard to have a sustaining elite offense.
“It can be done you know if you’re Tom Brady or Peyton [Manning] but in today’s world, all the good young quarterbacks in the league, you know from Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, the outstanding quarterback we’re gonna play on Sunday, Patrick [Mahomes], and the list goes on and on. They have some degree of mobility. So you know, it’s I felt it was important to us to have that triple-threat quarterback.”
Both quarterbacks figure to be under heavy pass-rush pressure. The Eagles led the NFL with 70 sacks and are looking to become the sixth team to lead the league in that category and win the Super Bowl in the same season. Kansas City’s defense, anchored by All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones, was second with 55 sacks. The 125 combined regular-season sacks are the most ever by Super Bowl opponents.
A football game is more than quarterback versus quarterback, of course, but the spotlight will be trained on Mahomes and Hurts.
“When you talk about the history of a league founded in 1920, this is a monumental moment,” said sportswriter Jason Reid, author of “Rise of the Black Quarterback: What It Means for America.”
“In so many ways, the story of this game talks about not just the story of this league, but the story of this country. When people are given opportunities, any one of us can rise up based on our merit and our ability.”
The Chiefs are playing in their third Super Bowl in four years, going 1-1 in the previous two. And their head coach, Andy Reid, is facing his former franchise. He was a fixture with the Eagles from 1999 to 2012 and is the only coach in league history to win 100 or more games with two different clubs.
This Super Bowl is also the first in which brothers are playing on opposite sides. Jason Kelce is the All-Pro center for the Eagles, and his younger brother, Travis, is an All-Pro tight end for the Chiefs.
This is the fourth Super Bowl appearance for Philadelphia, which lost its first two before winning the Lombardi Trophy five years ago. The Eagles were 5-0 against AFC teams this season.