Since the Super Bowl era began in 1966, the ultimate contest’s two participants have met the following year in regular season games only nine times. The most recent one of these—and one of the most significant—occurred last Monday night in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium.
In the much-anticipated matchup between Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs and Nick Sirianni’s Philadelphia Eagles, both teams played well enough to win, and poorly enough to gift the other. In the end, one of them clearly lost the game!
As you’re aware if you’re reading this blog, Kansas City head coach and future hall of famer Andy Reid has played a major role in both teams’ histories. He took over the struggling Philadelphia Eagles in 1999, and over the next 14 years guided the Eagles to the post season nine times—included 4 consecutive NFC title game appearances and a berth in Super Bowl XXXIX (29) against New England.
But by 2013, Andy’s team was fading fast, and Philadelphia fired him. Less than two weeks later, Kansas City offered Reid a second chance.
These days, Reid is on-track to pass Cowboys legend Tom Landry and become the fourth winningest head coach ever, trailing only Don Shula, George Halas and Bill Belichick. One of the big reasons for Reid’s success is his ability to find ways to win after bye weeks: He was 13-1 in Philadelphia, and 8-2 in Kansas City prior to last Monday night—when the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs lost to Philadelphia 21-to-17.
It marks only the third time ever that a reigning champion lost a regular season game to the team they beat in the Super Bowl the season before.
The first time it happened was September 20, 1970. That day, Bud Grant and his Minnesota Vikings recorded a decisive 27-to-10 victory over Hank Stram’s Chiefs. But months earlier, in Super Bowl IV (4)—the game that mattered—Kansas City throttled the Vikings 23-to-7, the first of four Vikings' Super Bowl defeats in eight years.
On September 12, 1993—nearly a quarter century later—the Buffalo Bills beat the reigning champion Dallas Cowboys 13-to-10, avenging Dallas’s 52-to-17 blowout of the Bills in Super Bowl XXVII (27). It’s worth noting that Cowboys’ future Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith was holding out and did not play that day.
When Smith returned and the Cowboys were again playing at full strength, Dallas fought their way back to Super Bowl XXVIII (28). There, they thrashed Buffalo for the second straight year, 30-to-13. Like the Vikings before them, it marked the Bills’ fourth Super Bowl loss—except in Buffalo’s case, all 4 defeats came in back-to-back, back-to-back seasons, the ultimate in big game futility.
Six other teams won Super Bowls then defeated those same teams the following regular season: the 1976 Raiders (Vikings, their 4th SB loss) the 1979 Steelers (Cowboys), the 1997 Packers (Patriots), the 2014 Seahawks (Broncos), the 2016 Broncos (Panthers), and, most recently, the 2017 Patriots (Falcons).
New England’s Super Bowl LI (51) win ranks as the biggest comeback in the ultimate game’s history. At one point in the second half, they trailed the Falcons 28-to-3. It’s also the only Super Bowl ever to extend into overtime.
Some might say "History was on Kansas City’s side" last Monday night. But since history is nothing more than facts and results open to interpretations with no real causal force—let’s explore what really happened.
Though they came into the contest with an NFL best 8-1 record, the Eagles are not dominating teams the way they did a year ago. The same with the 7-2 Chiefs.
Back in Super Bowl LVII (57), despite an unforgiveable fumble by Eagles QB Jalen Hurts that Kansas City returned 36 yards for a touchdown, Philadelphia led at halftime 24-to-14. But in the second half, the Eagles rush defense failed them, their special teams allowed a game-changing punt return, and their pass defenders were caught flat-footed in the red zone twice, allowing Kansas City to steal a 38-to-35 victory.
Last Monday, trailing by 10 points at halftime, Philadelphia capitalized on Kansas City's mistakes and rallied to take a 21-to-17 fourth quarter lead. Eagles’ fans will choose to remember that Philly’s defense held Mahomes and the Chiefs scoreless in the second half. But that doesn’t tell the full story.
Fact is, if Marquez Valdes-Scantling hadn’t tripped over the goal line and dropped Mahomes late-game bomb, Kansas City would have won. It seems dropped passes are Kansas City’s specialty this season. They share the league lead in that dubious category. As I said at the top, "One team clearly lost the game."
And so, for the first time in three decades, a Super Bowl loser has avenged its loss to the team that bested it for the Lombardi Trophy. Final score: Philadelphia 21, Kansas City 17. Another newly-minted footnote in NFL history!
It would surprise nobody if these two teams meet again next February in Super Bowl LVIII (58) in a Lombardi Trophy rematch. That’s only happened once before.