NFL

Super Bowl LVII: Inevitable but overlooked, Chris Jones seeks another title-clinching close

By Sports Desk February 09, 2023

In the NFL, there are some players who simply feel inevitable. You may succeed in containing them, but you won't stop them.

The Chiefs have three of them.

Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce's collective inevitability has powered a run that has seen the Chiefs progress to three Super Bowls in four seasons and helped Kansas City boast the most efficient offense in the NFL – by Stats Perform's Efficiency Versus Expected (EVE) metric – in 2022 despite the loss of Tyreek Hill.

Mahomes and Kelce are card-carrying members of the superstar club, and it is past time for the third member of the Chiefs' band of unstoppables, Chris Jones, to see his application approved.

Defensive tackle Jones has been the embodiment of consistency since he was drafted out of Mississippi State in 2016. His 65 sacks in that period are tied for the seventh-most, while his 471 pressures over that span rank third.

It's no surprise then that Philadelphia Eagles All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson labelled Jones "the elite of the elite" ahead of a mouth-watering Super Bowl LVII matchup between the Chiefs and the Eagles in Arizona on Sunday.

Johnson's effusive praise is reflected by Jones' performance in both pass rush and run defense win rate.

Indeed, Jones ranks ninth in the NFL in 2022 with a pass rush win rate (min. 50 rushes) of 58.03 per cent and fourth in the league (min. 50 run defensive opportunities) with a 72.73 per cent run defense win rate. His aggregate of those two metrics of 54.79 puts him behind only Derrick Brown and Aaron Donald, the defensive lineman long since considered the elite of the elite.

It is not just the production and the level of the disruption that separates Jones from the majority of his peers, but the timing of the destruction he has so frequently wrought.

While Mahomes' turnaround-sparking third-and-15 connection with Hill stands out as the defining play of the comeback victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, the Niners might have succeeded in getting off the mat if not for Jones taking over and spiking Jimmy Garoppolo passes as if he was playing volleyball.

Similarly, the Chiefs might not even be in Arizona had Jones not blown past the attempted block of Cincinnati Bengals right tackle Hakeem Adeniji and hauled down Joe Burrow on the Bengals' final offensive series of the game, ending a potentially decisive drive for Cincinnati and giving the ball back to Mahomes to get Kansas City in position for the winning field goal in a thrilling 23-20 triumph.

That pivotal play saw him lined up on the edge and Jones' 23.9 per cent pressure rate when shifted outside in 2022 is 10th among all defenders with at least 50 edge plays.

Jones' success in quenching his insatiable appetite for destruction is not dependent on where he lines up, but why is Jones so consistently impactful in the clutch?

"I think it's opportunity. As the game is played, more opportunities open up for me and I'm able to make a play," Jones said on Wednesday. 

"Obviously they have their gameplan in how they want to attack me, double team, or slide [the pass protection] my way or run away from me, so I have to be patient with that. 

"I think that's an evolving piece of my game, being patient, realising what's going on, realising how the offense is attacking me, kind of react off it when I can."

Offensive lines have found little success in attacking Jones regardless of the plan. His production in terms of pressures and sacks have come despite him being double-teamed on 93 of his pass rush snaps, accounting for 46.5 per cent of them. Against the run, the double teams have been more effective, with Jones defeating only two of the 45 he has faced when defending the ground game.

That could be considered an avenue to success for an Eagles team that has thrived in large part because of a diverse and devastating run game with quarterback Jalen Hurts at its heart.

 

But the Eagles' ground attack is built around unpredictability, and that uncertainty does not exist without the threat of a passing game that Jones specialises in taking away.

The Chiefs succeeding in limiting an Eagles aerial attack teeming with talent is obviously in part contingent on their young defensive backfield excelling against the likes of A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, but with Jones up front, their lives are a lot easier.

"You know that the quarterback has to throw the ball, quickly, so as a defensive back, when Chris is on it's like, 'we got about three seconds to cover, ball's coming out, let's do it,'" cornerback Trent McDuffie told Stats Perform. "Even dudes like Derrick Nnadi, Frank Clark, Mike Danna, George [Karlaftis], that defensive line having them has made it so much better for us on the back end."

The assistance Jones and his fellow defensive lineman offer will be badly needed against an offense that racked up 253 plays of 10 yards or more in the regular season, a tally second only to that of the Chiefs (257).

Against an Eagles offensive line that ranks first in pass protection win rate and second in run block win rate, Jones might need to display particularly high levels of patience to get his chance to provide that help to the secondary, and he may be forced to take a less aggressive approach than usual due to the duplicitous nature of Hurts' game, which allows the quarterback to emphatically punish defenders who overplay their hand.

The strength of the Eagles' offensive line and the personalities they have in the trenches have seen the likes of Jason Kelce, Jordan Mailata and Johnson receive substantial attention in the build-up to a fascinating battle.

Despite Jones' exploits and the strides made by his lieutenants up front, the level of hype surrounding the Chiefs' defensive line has been comparatively small.

That is not of any concern to Jones, who said of Kansas City's D-Line: "We're always overlooked so it's all good."

That feeling of being underappreciated may only be furthered at Thursday's NFL Honors ceremony, at which Nick Bosa of the 49ers is expected to be named Defensive Player of the Year ahead of Jones.

But if Jones once again rises to the occasion against the Eagles to reprise his role of closer and ensure the Chiefs complete their rise back to the top of the NFL mountain, the superstar recognition Jones has long since deserved will almost certainly come his way.

Related items

  • Patriots to retire number 12 shirt and build statue in Brady's honour Patriots to retire number 12 shirt and build statue in Brady's honour

    The New England Patriots will retire the number 12 shirt and build a statue in honour of iconic quarterback Tom Brady.

    Brady was inducted into the Patriots' Hall of Fame on Wednesday, having led them to six Super Bowl titles during his 20-year stint with the franchise.

    The three-time MVP is the all-time regular-season leader in pass attempts (12,050), completions (7,753), passing yards (89,214) and touchdown passes (649) in the NFL.

    Patriots owner Robert Kraft said the statue would be placed outside the franchise's Hall of Fame to recognise Brady "not as the greatest in franchise history, but as the greatest in all of NFL history".

    "I am eternally grateful. I am Tom Brady. And I am a Patriot," Brady said at the ceremony at the Gilette Stadium.

    Former Patriots coach Bill Belichick added: "Thank you for all that you've done for us. Thank you for all you've done for me. And thank you for the example and motto you've been for all of us on a daily basis for 20 years."

  • Suryakumar leads India into T20 World Cup Super 8s after overcoming USA Suryakumar leads India into T20 World Cup Super 8s after overcoming USA

    India secured their place in the T20 World Cup Super 8s with a game to spare after recovering from a slow start to see off the United States.

    Suryakumar Yadav hit an unbeaten half-century as India successfully chased down their opponents' target of 111 for a seven-wicket victory - and their third win in as many Group A matches.

    The tournament co-hosts also entered the contest with a perfect record from their opening two games, but endured a poor start as Arshdeep Singh claimed Shayan Jahangir and Andries Gous in the first over.

    That left them at 3-2, but they managed to settle with Steven Taylor (24 from 30 balls) and Nitish Kumar (27 off 23) top-scoring as their side finished at 110-8.

    However, the States made a purposeful start in the field. With the second ball, Virat Kohli was gone for a duck as Gous caught him from Saurabh Netravalkar, who also dismissed Rohit Sharma for just three.

    Suryakumar (50 off 49 not out) stepped in and held the fort alongside Shivam Dube (31 off 45 not out), though India were still in danger of a potential shock, needing 35 off the final 30 balls.

    Nevertheless, an untimely five-run penalty was awarded to them as the USA took longer than a minute between overs for the third time.

    That swung the pendulum firmly in India's favour. Successive boundaries from Suryakumar eased the pressure as they saw out what was eventually a comfortable win.

    Data Debrief: India through, but Kohli's struggles continue

    It was not as comfortable as India would have hoped for but, nevertheless, they managed to get the job done, with Suryakumar leading the charge.

    However, the form of Kohli will be a cause for concern. His dismissal for a golden duck means he has now scored just five runs in his nation's opening three matches.

    The five-run penalty proved a crucial moment in the contest, with USA the first team to be penalised by the stop-clock rule, but they can take plenty of positives from their display in New York.

  • The pride of Italy: Sinner's route to world number one in Opta numbers The pride of Italy: Sinner's route to world number one in Opta numbers

    Step aside Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz, tennis has a new world number one on the block in Jannik Sinner.

    The 22-year-old, born in San Candido, ended a 51-year wait for Italy to boast the ATP's best player in the world rankings after moving to top spot this month.

    Sinner overtook Djokovic at the summit of the men's game after his French Open performance, reaching the Roland-Garros final before falling in a five-set thriller to the battling Alcaraz.

    Having already secured his first major at the Australian Open earlier this year, Sinner's remarkable rise continued in Paris – but how has the Italian managed to do so?

    Here, we unpack the best of the Opta data to delve into Sinner's surge to world number one.

    Major champion in Australia

    Sinner was crowned a grand slam champion for the first time in his career back in January, defeating Daniil Medvedev in the final after overcoming a two-set deficit in Melbourne.

    Sweeping aside Djokovic in the last four and Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals, his route to glory was far from straightforward, too.

    Aged 22 years and 165 days at the time of his Melbourne Park triumph, Sinner became the youngest-ever player to achieve successive ATP top-five wins in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final of a major, surpassing Michael Stich – 22 years and 262 days at Wimbledon in 1991.

    That Medvedev victory, at the time, also marked Sinner's fourth top-five scalp of 2024.

    Since 1973, Sinner is the only fourth player aged under 23 to claim four such wins in the opening three months of a season, after Bjorn Borg (1978-79), Miloslav Mecir (1987) and Andy Murray (2007 and 2009).

    Special 2023 sets tone for this year's success

    Sinner enjoyed a remarkable campaign last year, winning his first Masters 1000 title at the Canadian Open and finishing the season by reaching the showpiece of the ATP Finals.

    He finished with a win-loss record of 64-15 in 2023, breaking the Open Era record previously held by Corrado Barazzutti (55, 1978) for most ATP match wins by an Italian in a calendar year.

    En route to the Indian Wells semi-final defeat to Alcaraz, Sinner also claimed a 19th consecutive ATP match win after overcoming Jiri Lehecka, breaking Adriano Panatta's record for the longest winning streak at ATP level of any Italian in the Open Era.

    It is hard to argue with his position at the top, too.

    Sinner became only the fifth player before turning 23 to defeat the men's world number three times in a calendar year, having overcome Alcaraz and Djokovic (twice) in a remarkable 2023 season.

    The Italian also helped his country lift the Davis Cup, though major individual honours were always around the corner for the excellent right-hander.

    The best in the world

    Australian Open successes and a fine 2023 campaign brought Sinner to his crowning moment in June as he became the first Italian to reach world number one since the ATP rankings started in 1973.

    Sinner is one of four players in the past two decades to hold the ATP's number-one ranking before the age of 23, along with Roger Federer, Nadal and Alcaraz.

    Since 2000, Sinner is also just the third male player taller than 188 centimetres to reach the summit of tennis before turning 23, along with Andy Roddick and Marat Safin.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.