Against the Las Vegas Raiders, [I] pinpointed a disastrous two-minute drill as the microcosm for pre-snap chaos. Over a 10-play span, the Kansas City Chiefs on four occasions didn’t make it to the line of scrimmage until fewer than 10 seconds remained on the play clock.
You know how many times that happened — rushing to the line of scrimmage with the play clock in the single digits — against the Bengals over more than 50 offensive plays?
That’s how you not only clean up the pre-snap chaos but how you produce the post-snap success. And that’s the piece the Chiefs can carry into the postseason.
They offered Mahomes, the offensive line and wide receivers time to actually survey a defense. And there were two plays on film, given ample time to do so, in which it was obvious Mahomes altered a play-call.
And another in which a wide receiver altered one. I wrote about it after the game — Rashee Rice approached the line of scrimmage, noticed a busted coverage based on the Bengals alignment and converted his route to a fly patter than produced the Chiefs’ longest play of the season.
Amazing what can happen when you have time to implement those checks, isn’t it?
Kansas City Chiefs
DE George Karlaftis
The second-year pro has emerged as a capable sidekick to all-world DT Chris Jones, providing Kansas City with a disruptive playmaker off the edge. With 10.5 sacks, 17 QB hits and seven tackles for loss in 16 games, Karlaftis is a destructive force at the point of attack with splash-play potential. As the Chiefs engage in more grind-it-out affairs due to offensive struggles, this energetic edge could tilt the game in K.C.’s favor with a strip-sack in crunch time.
DT Christian Wilkins
The injury losses of edge-rushing studs Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips put the onus on Wilkins to wreak havoc on opponents as an interior pass rusher. The former Clemson star possesses freakish athleticism and a destructive game, but the Dolphins will need more pure dominance from Wilkins in order to slow down the explosive offenses in the AFC playoff field. If he can up the ante as the designated playmaker up front, Miami can move through the tournament with Vic Fangio masterfully managing an injury-riddled defense.
The National Weather Service’s latest forecasts put the temperature for the Kansas City Chiefs’ kickoff on Saturday at 3 degrees — with windchill making it feel like negative 17.
And it will get worse from there: By the game’s end, Arrowhead Stadium could be a crisp negative-3 degrees, with windchill of negative-24.
“With the temperatures they’re expecting for Saturday, we’re predicting a risk of only 30 minutes of exposure before you could start to develop frostbite.” says Julia Slater, medical director of the Burnett Burn Center at University Kansas Health System.
The playoff match is expected to set the record for coldest game ever played at Arrowhead Stadium. That title has long been held by a 1983 Chiefs-Broncos contest, where the temperature was between 1 and 0.5 degrees, according to Pro Football Reference.
However, the former Chief is excited about taking on his former team in Arrowhead Stadium.
“My favorite memory from Arrowhead was probably my rookie year,” Hill said. “The crowd chanted my name against the Raiders on Thursday night football. That was a very special moment for me because as a kid that’s what you grow up visualizing in your head. ... I’m going to have moments like that.”
As far as dealing with the frigid conditions, Hill said you simply have to put on layers and get after it.
“I know he’s ready for it,” linebacker Willie Gay Jr. said of Hill. “We’ve got to make sure he doesn’t have a good homecoming.”
One of the biggest objectives for the Chiefs defense Saturday is to replicate the success the unit had — or even improve on it — in limiting Hill’s production. Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo used a variety of blitzes, zone coverages and plays that involved using two players to bracket Hill to hold him to eight receptions on 10 targets for just 62 yards.
The Chiefs understand Saturday’s elimination game gives Hill a chance for a redemptive performance. He could be the hero, leading the Dolphins to their first playoff victory in 24 years and knocking out the team that traded him in March 2022.
[In it,] a narrator [Mitch Holthus] says over a clip of highlights of the Chiefs 2023 season:
“The regular season is over and we’ve had a great year
Happy post season, Chiefs kingdom, the playoffs are here
It might not be a holiday but we’ll treat it like like one
Three Super Bowls to our name and the fun’s just begun”
Then Kelce, 34, appears on screen throwing a football into the stands after scoring a touchdown, and the speaker refers to one of Swift’s biggest hits.
“Valentine’s Day is jealous of the ‘love story’ we have
Who could ever separate the end zone from Trav?”
From her 2008 second album, Fearless, “Love Story” was certified eight-times platinum. Inspired by “Romeo and Juliet,” Swift, also 34, told Time magazine in 2009, “That’s the most romantic song I’ve written.”
When she recorded the track for Fearless (Taylor’s Version) in 2021, she said in a press release, “It also is a good example of what a hopeless romantic I was — and still am.”
Around the NFL
[NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport] reported that if Mayo, 37, is owner Robert Kraft and the Pats’ choice, the team could simply hire him. There would be no need to navigate a lengthy hiring process as the Patriots have already established a firm, contractual succession plan in a prior contract and communicated it to the NFL.
There is league precedent, as noted by Rapoport: Jim Mora succeeding Mike Holmgren as Seattle Seahawks head coach (2009); Jim Caldwell taking over for Tony Dungy as Indianapolis Colts head coach (2009); and Eric DeCosta succeeding Ozzie Newsome as the Baltimore Ravens general manager (2019).
In somewhat unconventional fashion for the Belichick regime, the Patriots announced in January 2023 that the team had begun contract extensions with Mayo that “would keep him with the team long-term.”
Roughly two months later, Kraft told NFL.com senior national columnist Judy Battista that Mayo was, indeed, a “strong candidate.”
“I don’t understand how Bill Belichick could not be the hottest candidate,” a high-ranking personnel evaluator said. “I haven’t seen him lose any passion or steam, he still has a deep understanding of the modernized game and details.”
Other NFL observers noted a well-respected coach leaving an imprint on a new franchise is not without precedent. The reigning Super Bowl-winning coach, who was in his mid-50s when he got his second NFL shot, is perhaps a proxy for what Belichick could accomplish elsewhere.
“He can have an Andy Reid-type impact on a new team, similar to when Reid went from Philadelphia to Kansas City,” an AFC personnel official said. “Assuming he’s still got the energy to do it, he’s about as good of a coach as you can hire. Knows what it takes to win.”
Belichick’s prospects will of course depend on the profile of coach an owner desires. While Belichick is as proven as any candidate could be, any organization seeking a new-school approach is unlikely to look his way — at least initially.
“I don’t think teams will be clamoring for Belichick,” one NFC exec said. “Might be wrong but I’m skeptical. He’s older and things got stale in New England. It would take a pretty desperate owner, in my opinion.”
Houston and Cleveland will forever be connected for the blockbuster trade they pulled off that sent Deshaun Watson to the Browns in exchange for significant draft capital. The Texans still have one more Browns first-round pick to spend in April. None of that matters now, though, because Watson has been unavailable since Week 11, and the playoff berths mean that pick won’t land in the top 10.
The rest, though, matters a whole lot. The NFL’s last two expansion teams (Cleveland returned to the league in 1999, while Houston joined as the 32nd team in 2002) will meet for a second time in the 2023 season, and this time, the result means much, much more. A 16-year gap exists between the 38-year-old Joe Flacco and rookie sensation C.J. Stroud, but both will be expected to be at the top of their games Sunday. Expect fireworks, folks, because neither of these teams were supposed to be here — and they certainly aren’t ready to go on vacation.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Overall, I thought Anudike-Uzomah’s pass-rushing process looked good on Sunday. He showed some understanding of what he’s doing — and he’s trying to vary his pass-rushing moves. But he needs work in two critical areas:
1. Improving his get-off, so he can do more with his first step
2. Adding weight — and improving his functional strength
The first part is something he can fix in an offseason just by continuing to work with defensive line coach Joe Cullen. He’ll need more time and experience to hone that in — but he’s off to a good start.
The second part is going to take more time. While Anudike-Uzomah has the frame to add weight, he has no power. He needs a lot of work in the weight room. That will help him add power counters to his game.
So while he continues to work on these issues, I would expect Anudike-Uzomah to be a situational pass rusher in 2024. The Chiefs should be able to use him on third downs where he can pin his ears back and rush the passer. Then in 2025, I think we can reasonably expect his physical development (and practical experience) to form the basis of a Year 3 breakout.
Social media to make you think
Tyreek Hill says he hasn't texted Patrick Mahomes since the Chiefs beat the Dolphins the first week of November and that Travis Kelce hasn't texted him back. Hill joking, "those two are too famous for me now I guess." #ChiefsKingdom #FinsUp #TaylorSwift pic.twitter.com/TjiLrBuQJo— Josh Moser (@TheMozKnowz) January 11, 2024