Super Bowl LII in frigid Minneapolis will be remembered for many things, but it will collectively go down in football’s history books as a championship prize fight. The ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’ going against the new kid on the block who, while continuing to prove himself, hadn’t earned full respect yet. The duel between Nick Foles and Tom Brady was phenomenal, with both signal callers throwing for a combined 878 passing yards and six touchdowns. While Foles didn’t win the statistical duel, he came out with the Vince Lombardi and MVP trophies.
While Foles was well deserving of the MVP, for the sole fact he was able to step in for Carson Wentz and still deliver a championship to Philadelphia; I noticed an unsung player for the Eagles who delivered a “Most Valuable Player” performance in his own regard. That man was Jason Kelce, who was arguably the league’s best snapper during the 2017 season. Kelce played an intricate role in many of the Eagles’ big plays during the Super Bowl, and it’s safe to say that without him the result of the offense, and the scoreboard, could’ve ended much differently.
THE RUN GAME:
Necessary to be a long-lasting and yet effective interior offensive lineman in the NFL, you have to be capable of moving well in space and engaging forcefully. Much like his play in the regular season, Kelce was effective in the zone blocking scheme during Sunday’s showdown.
Simple inside zone:
— Cagen Cantrell (@CeeingTheDraft) February 5, 2018
During this first long run of the evening, the entire Eagles offensive line did their part by immediately finding a defender to cover. Kelce, without a doubt does his job on this inside zone run. In the clip above, Kelce’s ZBS (zone block scheme) responsibility is to take his zone steps at a 30-45 degree angle track and hope to come across a defender to engage. As you can see, Kelce take his steps and runs directly into Patriots DL Eric Lee (#55). He’s able to engage, gain leverage by getting his hands inside and under the pads on the block, and then garner enough leg drive to clear up the running lane for Blount to burst into the second level of the defense. Even the small details of Kelce’s block development played high significance to this run. Kelce tightly splitting past the 1-shade defender allowed enough of a brief suppression for the left guard (Wisniewski) to engage and drive for his zone block.
Later on, during the LeGarrette Blount touchdown run, Kelce again gave major contribution to the successful Philly running attack early in the contest. As with the aforementioned play, being capable of moving in space and working into the second level of the defense is essential. Not only does Kelce check off both those boxes, the extensive effort that he gave with it ultimately resulted in six points. I mean you should be giving effort, it’s the Super Bowl right?
Inside Zone PART 2: Blount’s patience allows him to ride out until a vertical lane splits open. Kelce does some great work sealing into the second level until the RG can reach over into his track. He then get his body in front for Blount to burst to the endzone. #SuperBowl pic.twitter.com/nMFOR2vkL9 — Cagen Cantrell (@CeeingTheDraft) February 5, 2018
As you can see in the clip, Kelce dips his pad level low off his snap to earn momentum and leverage on the nose tackle. Once he engages, he’s able to then “seal off” his defender to complete the vertical running lane for Blount. As with the first clip, the details matter. Kelce notices the linebacker flowing and attempting to begin his pursuit angle to make the tackle. Kelce’s effort to quickly disengage his original seal block and then “cut off” the tackling angle gave Blount all the daylight he needed.
While Jason Kelce has proven to be a versatile run blocker, his pass blocking has not been so perfect. While he had allowed just two sacks on the entire season, Kelce has been labeled to “not always win” his battles while pass protecting. During the Super Bowl that didn’t appear to be case, as he fended off many defenders and maintained solid base and punch through his many snaps played. Early in the game, this 3rd down pass resulted in a conversion to Alshon Jeffrey down the middle, but that might not have been possible with Jason Kelce’s efforts:
Another excellent pickup by Kelce, realizing why he truly was the best center in the league this season. pic.twitter.com/MVU0NWrXlI
— Cagen Cantrell (@CeeingTheDraft) February 5, 2018
The Patriots’ game plan for 3rd down pass rush was simple; by having their DT/DE’s twist, they sought to set up the opportunity for someone to slip through the cracks of the rush manipulation in order to get to the quarterback. This is where Kelce was able to shine brightest during the game, as he was not fooled by this Matt Patricia pass rush scheme. In the clip above, the attempted twist / stunt by New England’s front was hoping to create an alley for James Harrison to rush through. Kelce’s was able to not only pin the stunt but then slide over to stop Harrison in his tracks.
Possibly Jason’s Kelce most important block of this game came on the touchdown reception by Corey Clement during the 3rd quarter:
The most underrated play of the game: Watch Jason Kelce’s PP on the Clement TD. -Steps through his pass pro zone to solidify the dbl team w/ Brooks on the 0-tech; but the big factor came after. -Kelce then disengages to pick up the stunt rush & stonewalls w/ inside hands #SBLII pic.twitter.com/1VZr0SqiFb — Cagen Cantrell (@CeeingTheDraft) February 5, 2018
Jason Kelce was able to pick up on the Patriots defensive gameplan early, and never second guessed him. He made sure to pick up all stunts, contribute to any chip blocks, and solidify any initial double teams. Offensive linemen will never truly relish the glitz and glamour these big games have to offer, but Kelce came in clutch and consistent when it mattered most for the Eagles.
I want to end this article with one thing, an emotional presser given by Jason Kelce after the victory:
— Cameron Cox (@CamCox12) February 5, 2018
He mentioned that when he was 18 years old and had received no Division 1 football scholarships out of high school, his grandfather presented young Kelce with a quote from former United States President, Calvin Coolidge.
That Coolidge quote reads as this: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Well, when I rememeber Super Bowl 52 for the remainder of my days, I will surely connect that quote with it. I will rememeber that even though Jason Kelce showcased talent, genius, and education during this frozen Super Bowl; his persistence and determination deservingly overshadowed all other factors. For that reason, Jason Kelce is now a Super Bowl Champion, and in my book, the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player.