Why Chargers drastically changed defenses for Ravens

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Philip Rivers, the only passer in the Class of 2004 left standing, jogged off the field in his grass-green Charger uniform late Sunday afternoon …

Whoa. Chargers wore white against Baltimore. “Grass-green?”

Grass-stained, from shoulder pads to nameplate to numbers, front and back. Equipment guys aren’t getting that baby pristine unless they wash it six times.

“YES! YES!” Rivers yelled, the fire still in his 37-year-old eyes, stopping to hug GM Tom Telesco and owner Dean Spanos outside the locker room after the 23-17 wild-card win over the Ravens.

Lots to unpack after this game. It starts with that defensive plan. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley threw the changeup of the NFL season at Baltimore, making a dominant run game feeble with a seven-defensive-back alignment from the first snap of the game to the last. When Bradley first discussed it with coach Anthony Lynn early in the week, Lynn said, “Are we insane, or what?” Nope. It worked. The Chargers (13-4) flummoxed Baltimore with 58 snaps (out of 59) of seven-DB defense.

The Chargers did this for health reasons—they’re beat-up at linebacker—but also for strategic ones. Instead of playing 240 pounds-250-251 across as their three ‘backers, Bradley wanted to go 195 (Jahleel Addae), 210 (Adrian Phillips), with rookie all-pro safety Derwin James (215) coming into the box at times—like the first defensive snap of the game. Lamar Jackson, the biggest running threat in the league at quarterback right now, broke for the right end on the first play from scrimmage in front of a jacked-up crowd.

Loss of one. James stoned him.

“The momentum of the defense rose from there,” James told me afterward. “When that play happened, we just got so jacked.”

Midway through the first quarter, an NFL GM acquaintance of mine texted me: “Chargers playing with 7 DBs. What’s this all about?” Speed. Quickness. Playing Lamar Jackson. That’s what it was about. “I wasn’t sure how this was gonna hold up,” Lynn said afterward. “They were running for 300 yards lots of games with Lamar playing. Gus felt like getting speed on the field could help contain Lamar. It could help in the passing game, dropping back and taking over routes that our linebackers usually cover. It worked. Our guys, they embraced it. It was risky, but it paid off. We’re talking about going up against a rushing attack that no one can stop right now. And we’re gonna do it with two 200-pound guys?

“What was cool,” said James, “is our DB room, we got seven or eight guys in there everyday. And today, every one of them started and played the whole way, basically.”

It’s infectious being around James, who will compete with Indianapolis linebacker and NFL tackles leader Darius Leonard for Defensive Rookie of the Year. You can tell he loves his space in life. He talked to every media member for as long as he could Sunday, punctuating it with talking on FaceTime to a slew of friends, at one point introducing one to Melvin Ingram. It’s cool to see someone who loves the game and wants to be great acting out his dreams.

“So you guys haven’t lost all year outside L.A.,” I told James. “Why are you so good away from home?”

“It’s fun being around guys who love being into football 24/7,” he said. “We love football. We love it, we love it, we love it. When we get on the road, we get to spend more time together talking football, being together.”

James, Desmond King, Ingram, Michael Davis … The Chargers have picked a bunch of players recently who love football the way Philip Rivers does. That showed up play after play Sunday. Did you notice Rivers acting out Sunday? He got whacked hard by Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon twice in the second half—and Rivers thought both hits came a little late, after he’d released the ball on a pass. So Rivers got fired up at Judon, and they jawed, and Judon at one point looked hurt and struggled to get up. “That’s what you get!” Rivers hollered at him.

And so on the Chargers’ last scoring drive of the game, early in the fourth quarter, Rivers, a plodder, escaped trouble and lumbered nine yards for a first down on third-and-eight. When he got up, Rivers looked like Steve Smith. He thrust his chest out for the 45 Ravens and 70,432 fans to see.

By his locker afterward, no longer grass-stained but still filthy (and deliriously happy), Rivers did his best to dissect how it happened. He did a terrific job of dumping off passes milliseconds before a cover-zero rush would get to him. “They brought cover-zero again on us some, and we took advantage when we got an opportunity for big plays. I told [friend and Baltimore safety Eric] Weddle and [defensive coordinator] Wink Martindale after the game they did a heckuva job. What did we have? A little over 200 yards of offense.”

Now the Rivers will head back to the East Coast late Friday after a full week of prep for the Patriots. And Rivers knows this could be his last shot at the elusive Super Bowl. One of the most annoying NFL storylines, to Rivers, is that his 2004 draft-mates Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning have a total of four Super Bowl wins. He has zero.

So, I asked him, will the trip to Foxboro be especially important, with the sands of time running out of the hourglass?

“I think … definitely, probably, maybe I’ll be even more excited. I think probably even a little bit more emotional. You know? So you’re going to Foxboro … That gets me a little bit. Last time we were there in the postseason was 2007, or January ’08, but 2007 season. That’s 11 years ago, you know. Now we’re going back in there … I went in there at 26 and go back in at 37. You know. With a totally different team.

“But because you’re going against a Bill Belichick defense, a Bill Belichick team, and Tom Brady-led team … you’re talking about arguably the greatest of all time. I’m not playing Tom. But it’s always special. Peyton Manning was always a favorite to play. It was special to look over and say, ‘Peyton Manning’s leading that team over there!’ That was special to me. Tom Brady’s gonna be the guy leading that team over there this week. That’s special. I’m not going against Tom, but it’s special.

“I think this team is just … I think we’re a little more weathered. You know? We just been through a lot. We’ve been all over the place. We’ve been to London. We’ve been everywhere on the road and won. We’ve won with defense. We’ve won with offense. We’ve won with kick returns. We’ve won with field goals. There’s no other way we can win. I don’t know that we can be put in a situation and go, ‘Oh gosh, how are our guys gonna respond?’ That doesn’t mean you always win. But I don’t know anything that can come our way that can make us go, ‘Help!’ “

Good vibe out of the Chargers’ cramped locker room Sunday. They’re one-third of the way down the Super Bowl road. That second trip, though. It’s a doozy.

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How to watch Super Bowl 2023: TV channel, live stream info, start time, halftime show, and more

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Super Bowl 2023 takes place on Sunday, February 12 at 6:30 PM ET at State Farm Stadium–home of the Arizona Cardinals–in Glendale, Arizona as Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles will look to win their second Lombardi Trophy in franchise history and Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs make their third Super Bowl appearance in the last four seasons.

Not only will the match up feature two top seeds for the first time since 2017, but Super Bowl 2023 will be especially monumental because this is the first time that two Black quarterbacks will face each other in the league’s biggest game of the year.

RELATED: What to know about the 2023 Pro Bowl –  Dates, how to watch/live stream info, AFC, NFC coaches, competition schedule

Super Bowl 2023 will be nothing short of exciting, see below for additional information on how to watch/live stream the game as well as answers to all your frequently asked questions.

How to Watch Super Bowl 2023 – Philadelphia Eagles vs Kansas City Chiefs

  • Date: Sunday, February 12
  • Where: State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona
  • Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
  • TV Network: Fox

Who is playing in Super Bowl 2023?

The Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

Who is the home team in Super Bowl 2023 and how is it determined?

The Philadelphia Eagles are the home team in Super Bowl 2023. The designated home team alternates each year between the NFC and AFC champions. If it is as odd-numbered Super Bowl, the NFC team is the designated home team. If it as even-numbered Super Bowl, the AFC team is the designated home team.

Which teams have been eliminated from the 2023 NFL Playoffs?

The Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals have all been eliminated from the 2023 NFL playoffs.

RELATED: 2023 NFL Playoffs scores: Final bracket, recaps, results for every AFC and NFC postseason game

Who is performing the halftime show at Super Bowl 2023?

It was announced in September, that international popstar, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Rihanna will headline the halftime show at Super Bowl 2023.

RELATED: Super Bowl 2023 – What to know about national anthem, pregame performers ahead of Super Bowl LVII

Why does the NFL use Roman numerals?

AFL and Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt proposed using Roman numerals for each Super Bowl to add pomp and gravitas to the game. Roman numerals were, unsurprisingly, used in ancient Rome as a number system. I stands for 1, V for 5, X for 10, L for 50 and C for 100. That’s right: In 2066, get ready for Super Bowl C.

Super Bowl V was the first to use Roman numerals. They were retroactively added to the Super Bowl II to IV logos and have been used each year since⁠ until 2016. For Super Bowl L, or 50, the NFL tried out 73 different logos before breaking down and using a plain old “50.”

The Roman numerals for this year’s big game, Super Bowl 57, are LVII.

RELATED: Super Bowl halftime shows – Ranking the 10 best Super Bowl halftime show performances in NFL history

How many Super Bowls have the Eagles won in franchise history?

The Eagles have won just one Super Bowl title in franchise history, however, Super Bowl LVII will be their fourth Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

RELATED: Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl History

How many Super Bowls have the Chiefs won in franchise history?

The Chiefs have won two Super Bowls in franchise history (1969 and 2019). Super Bowl LVII will be the franchise’s fifth Super Bowl appearance.

RELATED: Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl History

Who was the first Black quarterback to play in a Super Bowl?

Doug Williams was the first Black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl. Williams, a product of Grambling State–a historically Black university–achieved the milestone on January 31, 1988 in Super Bowl XXII as the QB for Washington.

RELATED: FMIA Conference Championships – Eagles rout Niners, Chiefs outlast Bengals to set Super Bowl LVII stage

 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL season and playoffs, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

Chiefs Super Bowl history: When is the last time Kansas City made it to, won the Super Bowl?

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After losing 27-24 in OT to the Cincinnati Bengals in last year’s AFC Championship, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are back in the postseason for the 8th straight year. The Chiefs are now set to make their third Super Bowl appearance in the last 4 seasons, after a 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship game but their history with the NFL’s most coveted game is so much more.

RELATED: 2023 NFL Playoffs Schedule – Bracket, game dates, times and TV networks

Super Bowl LVII  takes place on Sunday, February 12 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. See below for additional information on how to watch.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

Founded in 1960 by Lamar Hunt, the Chiefs started in the American Football League as the Dallas Texans. After winning the 1962 American Football League Championship in the longest championship game in professional football history, Hunt decided to relocate to Kansas City. The team changed its name to the “Chiefs” in honor of Mayor Harold Roe Bartle, who convinced Hunt to move the team to the City of Fountains.

After winning the AFL Championship in 1966, Kansas City represented the American Football League in the AFL-NFL World Championship Game, retroactively known as the first Super Bowl, on January 15, 1967, against the NFL Champion Green Bay Packers. Kansas City played Green Bay close in the first half, but Green Bay scored 21 unanswered points to win the game.

RELATED: When do the 2022 NFL Playoffs start: dates, schedule, playoff format, overtime rules, and more

It wouldn’t take the Chiefs long to taste victory in the Super Bowl though – it came just three years later in Super Bowl IV. Though they faced the feared Purple People Eaters of the Minnesota Vikings defense, Kansas City head coach Hank Stram had a plan. He took advantage of Minnesota’s aggressive defensive with short passes and trap plays. The Chiefs would prevail 23-7 for Kansas City’s first Super Bowl win.

It would be another 50 years until The Kingdom made its return to the Super Bowl, but it would come back armed with some of the most explosive weapons the NFL has ever seen.

RELATED: 2023 NFL Playoffs scores: Final bracket, recaps, results for every AFC and NFC postseason game

When was the Chiefs’ last Super Bowl win?

Half of a century went by before the Chiefs earned a Super Bowl berth, but they were back in the 2019 season with a bang in Super Bowl LIV. Led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who was coming off an MVP season the previous year, Kansas City made it to the championship game overcoming double-digit deficits in the Divisional Round and AFC Championship Game. They even fell behind by 10 in the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers.

However, the magic wasn’t over for the Chiefs. The offense scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to secure the team’s second Super Bowl championship. Kansas City retained most of their core and many expected them back in the championship game in 2021.

RELATED: What are the highest-scoring and lowest-scoring Super Bowls in NFL history?

When was the last Chiefs Super Bowl appearance?

While the team did make it to the Super Bowl in the 2020 season, they ran into an old nemesis. Quarterback Tom Brady was now with the NFC Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the last time he faced Kansas City was in 2018 as a member of the New England Patriots, who eliminated the Chiefs in the AFC Championship.

He would get the better of them again.

Kansas City could not stop Brady and the Bucs’ offensive onslaught. On the other side, Patrick Mahomes couldn’t move the ball against a Tampa Bay defense that caught fire in the postseason. The end result was a 31-9 rout with The Buccaneers hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and the Chiefs hoping to get back to the Super Bowl next year.

Chiefs Super Bowl history

  • 1966 season: Lost Super Bowl I vs. the Green Bay Packers, 35-10
  • 1969 season: Won Super Bowl IV vs. the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7
  • 2019 season: Won Super Bowl LIV vs. the San Francisco 49ers, 31-20
  • 2020 season: Lost Super Bowl LV vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 31-9

Chiefs Super Bowl records and firsts

  • Tied for fewest touchdowns – 0 (Super Bowl LV)
  • Hank Stram was the first head coach ever to be “miked for sound” in the Super Bowl (Super Bowl IV)
  • Lowest attendance for Super Bowl – 24,835 (Super Bowl LV) *due to COVID Pandemic 
  • Lowest attendance, attendance not restricted –  61,946 (Super Bowl I)
  • Participated in first Super Bowl
  • First team to come back from three double-digit deficits in the playoffs and win Super Bowl (2019)
  • Most penalty yards in a half (Super Bowl LV)

How can I watch and live stream Super Bowl 2023?

  • When: Sunday, February 12, 2023
  • Where: State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona
  • TV Channel: FOX
  • Follow along with ProFootballTalk and NBC Sports for NFL news, updates, scores, injuries, and more

RELATED: Who is playing in Super Bowl 2023?

Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!


How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

What devices are compatible with Peacock?

Peacock is available on a variety of devices. See the full list here.

In addition to Sunday Night Football, what else can I watch with Peacock Premium?

Premium is your key to unlocking everything Peacock has to offer. You’ll get access to all the live sports and events we have, including Premier League and WWE Premium Live Events like WrestleMania. You’ll also get full seasons of exclusive Peacock Original series, next-day airings of current NBC and Telemundo hits, plus every movie and show available on Peacock. There is always something new to discover on Peacock Premium.

Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!