After the Kansas City Chiefs lost Super Bowl LV to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, Matt Stagner was able to find a balanced list of winners and losers from the ugly loss, while John Dixon focused on a big factor few had noticed before the game. But in his rapid reaction, Pete Sweeney articulated the biggest problem.
Let’s get this out of the way: the game was officiated poorly and unfairly — especially in the first half. That is not the reason the Chiefs lost the Super Bowl. The Chiefs lost the Super Bowl because they were outplayed at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football.
All week, it was suggested that the Chiefs makeshift offensive line would be tested against a Buccaneers front that willed its way past Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago. That rang true, and in fact, was a grand understatement. The Chiefs missed tackles Eric Fisher and Mitch Schwartz dearly; they also missed Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Kelechi Osemele.
#Chiefs Patrick Mahomes was pressured the most of any QB in Super Bowl history.— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) February 8, 2021
29 pressures = 52%
Shaq Barrett was relentless — and by the fourth quarter, Patrick Mahomes — already hobbled by turf toe that is expected to require surgery — was running for his life.
Speaking to the press on Monday, the head coach recognized that the offensive line had been an issue in the Super Bowl but refused to get himself worked up about it.
“I’m not obviously pointing my finger at the offensive line — we have guys that were moving around a little bit, and they take great pride in their work and busted their tail,” Reid said.
It did not help that last year’s starter at right guard, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and rookie Lucas Niang opted out of the 2020 season. At this writing, they are expected back for 2021.
“With the guys that are injured that are potentially coming back or opted out... we’ll kind of get all that covered here in the next couple days. I don’t think that outlook is bleak by any means. We should be good there, and then Brett will obviously keep an eye on that, as he does everything. Just see how that works, but I’m optimistic going forward and I’m proud of the guys and the effort that they gave last night.”
Then Kent Swanson went in search of the silver lining from Sunday’s loss.
Winning a Super Bowl is difficult — and you need some luck on your side. You saw that on Sunday, as the Chiefs rolled out a completely decimated offensive line trying to protect a quarterback playing through turf toe. Attrition is a major contributing factor in a team’s ability to sustain success. Just ask the San Francisco 49ers.
The hard part is putting yourself in a position to win that final game every year. The Chiefs have been to three straight AFC championship games. They will be there again several times. They will be in the Super Bowl several times as well. And they will win some — probably most they play in — but not every single one.
I’ll choose this pain every time. The hopes and dreams of Chiefs fans for generations are finally realized — the Chiefs are actually contenders.
And now we all better understand firsthand the burden that comes with it.
As expected, the Chiefs signed most of their practice squad players to 2021 reserve/future contracts on Tuesday — highlighted by two relatively recent additions.
Cornerback DeAndre Baker
Baker, 23, is likely the most well-known name on this list. The 2019 first-round draft pick joined the Chiefs in mid-November after he was cleared of off-the-field legal issues. There was a chance Baker might have contributed in the postseason, but he broke his leg in the Chiefs’ Week 17 game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo have both spoken highly of the defensive back since his arrival to Kansas City.
Tight end Evan Baylis
Baylis, 27, is a former 2017 undrafted free agent who has had a limited number of offensive snaps in his career. Baylis was most recently a member of the Arizona Cardinals, who used him in five games this past season before demoting him to the practice squad.
As the Buccaneers celebrated their victory, their coach took a shot at the Chiefs’ 2020 slogan.
“I cannot take credit for any of this,” started Arians. “We have the best coaching staff in the NFL, and we damn sure got the best players in the NFL. All right? And anybody that says, ‘Run It Back’ — bulls—t. That’s Kansas City’s bulls—t. We goin’ for two. We goin’ for two, and we ain’t stopping. We’re going to keep this band together, and they know how to win... You beat every damn thing we lined up against you. You did it the right way. We did it the right way. We physically kicked their ass.”
Wednesday brought more news on the situation surrounding the Chiefs assistant coach who had been involved in a tragic car crash in the days before the Super Bowl.
Britt was involved in a multi-vehicle accident last Thursday night and is currently under investigation for driving impaired. A 5-year-old girl suffered life-threatening injuries as a result of the incident.
The Chiefs announced in a statement Tuesday evening that Britt, who had been on the Chiefs’ staff in various roles since Andy’s arrival in 2013, had been placed on administrative leave. A day later, he is no longer an employee.
On Thursday, Matt Stagner assembled his list. Guess what was at the top?
1. Protect Patrick Mahomes.
When you have the greatest player in the game, protecting him with an offensive line that makes him feel comfortable executing the offense should always be a top priority. After watching the complete breakdown in protection in the Super Bowl, and given the significant injuries at the offensive tackle position, the situation looks pretty dire.
The cupboards aren’t bare, with some returning players (like LDT and Lucas Niang) who might be able to contribute. But, assembling a deeper offensive line with some top-end starters —inside and out—has to be the top priority.
They could use pick 31 and/or 63 on any of the three offensive line positions, and it would be seen as a smart move. They could also look to free agency for immediate contributors. To free up resources, they’ll have big decisions to make regarding Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, and to a lesser extent, Austin Reiter. We could see a very different offensive line unit by the season opener.
On Friday, Ron Kopp put on his GM hat, revealing the choices he would make about the team’s offensive free agents.
It’s easy to continue giving chances to Watkins — a very talented wide receiver that has played a significant role in two of the three Chiefs’ playoff runs he’s been a part of. It’s the latest one that proves why his unreliability has become too much to accommodate.
A calf strain suffered in Week 16 nagged him enough to keep him off the field for over a month. When he finally played in Super Bowl LV, he was nearly invisible — catching his only target for 13 yards while playing the lowest percentage of offensive snaps he’s played all year.
The inconsistency has become too much of a burden. The Chiefs needed a third pass-catcher to step up in the championship game; a healthy, confident Watkins can absolutely be that — but there’s no telling when you’ll get that (and when you won’t) from the soon-to-be 28-year-old receiver.
Even in the case of an inexpensive, short-term deal — I’d let another team give him a chance.
Verdict: Let him walk
On Friday, the Arrowhead Pride Nerd Squad revealed their latest mock draft for 2021 — now including a Chiefs selection a little earlier than originally expected.
31. Kansas City Chiefs - EDGE Jayson Oweh, Penn State
We gave the Chiefs offensive line help in rounds two and three, so let’s just get that out of the way right now. You can listen to the podcast to hear those.
Bet on dense, athletic pass rushers always. Oweh was a disruptor in the Big Ten despite not recording a sack. Make no mistake about it though — this isn’t just an athlete playing football. This is still a football player — and one who affected the quarterback despite not bringing him down much in 2020. You can’t find his athletic profile after the first round very often. He’s expected to post some absurd numbers when he tests. He’s got the raw materials to turn into a problem in the NFL. Brendan Daly would be thrilled to have this kind of player in his room.