On the latest episode of the Arrowhead Pride Out of Structure podcast, Matt Stagner and I discussed the Kansas City Chiefs’ amazing, unbelievable 42-36 overtime win over the Buffalo Bills during the AFC Divisional round.
It almost wasn’t a win — and if Kansas City had lost, the main reason why would have been the team’s pass coverage. Down the stretch of the game, wide receiver Gabriel Davis constantly found himself open over the middle of the field. In fact, all five of quarterback Josh Allen’s touchdowns — and all four of Gabriel Allen’s scores — came over the middle.
Josh Allen's passing zones and pass chart per Next Gen Stats . #Chiefs #Bills pic.twitter.com/c3Yrw2Sfhn— Nick Jacobs (@Jacobs71) January 24, 2022
It is not a coincidence that this part of the field was more vulnerable after safety Tyrann Mathieu suffered a concussion early in the first quarter and left the game. On Monday, he was still in the concussion protocol.
Without Mathieu, safety Juan Thornhill played every snap — while safeties Daniel Sorensen and Armani Watts played much more than they usually do.
Thank the Chiefs for being more concerned with Dawson Knox’s matchup skills to the detriment of allowing Gabriel Davis to get vertical unchallenged #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/VRbYjrZuyJ— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) January 24, 2022
On this play, Thornhill’s deep coverage wasn’t deep enough — allowing Gabriel Davis to get over the top for a big touchdown.
On other plays, the safeties’ over-the-top coverages just weren’t helpful enough. A player like Mathieu might have been able to make those throwing windows tighter — and the passes generally harder to complete.
The bottom line
Early Tuesday morning, it was reported by 610 Sports’ Bob Fescoe that Mathieu is expected to be able to play against the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship game; Fescoe also mentioned that cornerback Rashad Fenton is expected to return from his two-game absence.
After the secondary’s abysmal performance against the Bills, both additions will be welcome. As the Chiefs know all too well from Week 17’s shootout that ended in a Cincinnati win, the Bengals can present similar challenges.
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