“No, I did not ask to be the poster boy of this particular situation that I have experienced,” Bieniemy said with a laugh. “At the end of the day, the only thing that you want to do is be recognized for all the things that you’ve accomplished and for whatever reason, that has not happened.”
That’s OK, Bieniemy added. The only thing he knows how to do is to just go back to work.
“Because that’s who Fern Handy Gibson raised, OK?” Bieniemy said. “You didn’t know who that was? It’s my mother. She raised me to make sure that I stayed focused, and I just continue chopping wood.”
Baker was signed to the active roster a month later, got on the field for special teams situations and played on defense for the first time in Week 17, with the Chiefs resting starters in a game they would eventually lose to the Chargers. Baker dropped Justin Herbert for his first NFL sack but did not make it out of that game, as he went down with a fractured femur. He had surgery and is expected to be ready to play at the start of next season.
“I’m glad you asked about him,” Spagnuolo said. “He was just on the practice squad, and then he played in the last game that didn’t mean anything to us, and he was playing really well, made a great break on one play, almost had an interception. The injury that he had, it was ugly, but he’s gonna be okay. The femur was fractured, believe it or not, but it was a clean one and it’s gonna heal fine. I kinda like his talent.
“It was hard to get to know him as a kid in that short of a period of time. I do like his talent. I’m hopeful we can get him back. I’d like to work with him.”
As prolific and terrifying as the Chiefs were in 2019, they’re even better now. In the passing game Mahomes slightly went down in per-pass efficiency, dropping from 8.1 yards per attempt to 7.9, but has been better at moving the chains. A staggering 40.5 percent of Mahomes’ passes resulted in a first down in 2020 (up from 36.6), while moving the ball more effectively.
The difference in the passing game is that the Chiefs moved from being big-play focused to running more intermediary routes that found soft spots in secondaries. The perception may be that the Chiefs are less exciting, and while that’s true to a degree — they’re far more threatening as a result. A year ago the Chiefs completed a league-high 18 passes for 40+ yards, with another 59 passes for 20+ yards. This year Kansas City flipped the script a little, moving to just 8 passes for 40+, and a league-high 69 passes for 20+ yards.
Morris says that when Mahomes threw an interception in college, the quarterback did not need to ask his coaches what he did wrong. He knew.
“He’d watch [the replay] the night of the game, and by the time you get to film review he’s basically answering questions for you: I know coach, they rolled Cover-3 and… .”
Mahomes’s progression can be measured in many ways, but maybe the easiest is his interception percentage:
Sophomore year at Texas Tech: 2.6%
Junior year at Texas Tech: 1.7%
First year as an NFL starter: 2.1%
Last two years as an NFL starter: 1.0%
19. Super Bowl LIV
Kansas City Chiefs 31, San Francisco 49ers 21
I had a really hard time ranking this Super Bowl. It was a thrilling game at the end — featuring a 21-point fourth-quarter comeback from Patrick Mahomes — but for a large part of the game it felt kind of disappointing. The 49ers played really well and the Chiefs just couldn’t convert their drives into scores. Finally, they took the top off, as the 49ers simply couldn’t contain them any longer, and they ripped off that trio of touchdowns to put this game away, including a 38-yard scamper from Damien Williams to seal things. Jimmy Garoppolo had a shot at taking the lead late, but he overthrew Emmanuel Sanders.
Damien Williams, Super Bowl LIV
Patrick Mahomes won Super Bowl MVP by helping bring the Chiefs back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV, but running back Damien Williams had a strong argument as more deserving. He had 17 carries for 104 yards and one touchdown, along with four catches for 29 yards and a receiving score in the 31-20 win.
Around the NFL
Eagle is the Super Bowl’s backup announcer. Its break-glass-in-case-of-emergency guy. Its Chad Henne. Eagle has gotten used to the job. “I’ve actually been the break-glass guy two other times,” he told me this week. At the 2016 and 2019 Super Bowls, CBS asked Eagle to be in town on Sunday on the small chance that Nantz lost his voice or had a medical emergency. Eagle, CBS’s no. 2 play-by-play announcer, would have called the game.
This week, Eagle is also listed as the backup for Kevin Harlan on the radio. “I’m officially José Oquendo,” he said.
In a normal year, backup Super Bowl announcers are minor figures. During the coronavirus pandemic, they feel like the Cabinet secretaries who get left home during the State of the Union address. The Super Bowl is a commercial-delivery vehicle worth more than $400 million to CBS. Eagle is helping to protect the game not just from a bout of laryngitis, but from a pandemic that left the networks scrambling all season. In a year full of backup plans, Eagle is the last one.
Free agent · QB
Must I produce 5,000 words of hot air to convince you? Not if you’re any fun.
A starting role evades him, but not cult-hero status. At 38, Fitzpatrick roams the field as a devil-may-care man of delights, comfortable in his own skin and full of fiery passion. It’s unclear where he lands next as he heads to free agency after a year spent alternating appearances with Dolphins rookie Tua Tagovailoa, but my Spidey sense tells me the Football Gods aren’t done with this charming warrior.
2nd AFC West · 8-8
The Raiders must: find a pass rush.
It’s hard to overstate how poor the Raiders defense has been since the day Jon Gruden showed up in 2018, with no improvement. Yes, it’s an offense-first league. Yes, Gruden has shown he can still create yards as a play-caller. But the lackluster Raiders pass rush (Las Vegas ranked 29th in sacks) created a prohibitively small margin for error for Gruden’s side of the ball. This group looks better on paper than reality with Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby leading the way on the outside. The Raiders need more juice there, and they need to get tougher at defensive tackle. It’s not like Gruden and GM Mike Mayock haven’t tried to improve the defense; they just need to find more success with new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley providing different energy.
With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, both figures are down from last year’s estimates from the AGA, despite 36 million more Americans having access to legal sportsbooks in their state or jurisdiction. Similar research from the AGA last year estimated that 26 million Americans would combine to bet $6.8 billion on Super Bowl LIV.
The pandemic is expected to cut into the amount wagered at retail sportsbooks and reduce casual bets, such as office and squares pools that are made in social settings. Online betting on Sunday’s matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, however, could increase dramatically, the research showed, with a record 7.6 million Americans potentially placing wagers on mobile betting apps and websites, a 63% year-over-year increase.
It’s clear that Ryan has years of good football left, and the Falcons appear in no hurry to completely reshuffle the deck in the first year under Smith and new GM Terry Fontenot, who is very familiar with Ryan from his days in New Orleans.
The other (main) reason Atlanta will stick with Ryan in 2021 is the massive dead-money cap hit it’d take by jettisoning the 35-year-old QB. The Falcons would be on the hook for more than $44 million in dead money in 2021 if Ryan is traded before June 1, per Pelissero. For comparison, Jared Goff just set the record for the biggest dead-money hit in L.A. at $22.2 million.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Reminded on Tuesday that recent Super Bowl-winning coaches have tended to be in their 50s and 60s, Reid acknowledged his age.
“I’m still part of the Geritol crew,” he chuckled. “We are a little bit older. There is experience that comes with that — and I guess wisdom with age — but there are a lot of good young football coaches out there that I look forward to seeing continue to grow in this business. We’re lucky to have them in the National Football League.
“By chance, a few of the older guys have gotten to this point. I’d probably attribute that to players — and a little bit of experience there. In my case, I’m fortunate to have a heck of a staff that I’ve been able to accumulate here for the last couple of years.”
The Chiefs are projecting road maps salary cap possibilities between $175MM-$195MM. Brett Veach said his cap guys have told him if it's $185MM or higher, "we'll be in good shape."— Sam McDowell (@SamMcDowell11) February 2, 2021