“I understand why we’re the underdog — I get that — we had some ups and downs during the season,” Reid said on Thursday. “I never feel like an underdog going into a game, but I understand why it’s been situated that way. It is what it is.”
It’s been the Kansas Cit Chiefs’ offense that has been up and down this season, particularly early on. But they’ve hit their stride down the stretch, coalescing in a postseason run to the Super Bowl. Despite the presence of Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, a smothering defense, and a Super Bowl-winning coach in Reid, the Chiefs have spent the week as a two-point underdog to the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers.
The Chiefs sport youngsters up and down the roster, including the youngest defense in the NFL this season, but Reid said when kickoff occurs, his players will be mentally ready for the biggest game of the year.
No other team has a Patrick Mahomes
Take it from a Pittsburgh Steelers fan: the ride at the top can end quickly. While Ben Roethlisberger was never considered the best quarterback in the league, things got significantly worse from an aging Big Ben until now. This once-prestigious franchise has earned just 3 playoff wins in the past 13 years. Now their hope in returning to a Super Bowl rests in the hands of a quarterback who will have just 13 touchdown passes in 25 games before his 26th birthday.
I know that anything less than a Super Bowl victory feels like a failure for Chiefs fans, but soak it up. Enjoy every snap that Mahomes takes. One day in the not-too-distant future, this run of dominance will end, and Kansas City could find themselves back in quarterback purgatory.
Take pride in your generational quarterback and the dynasty that he has created for the Chiefs. Most of all, take comfort in knowing that no other team has a Patrick Mahomes.
HOW DOES BROCK PURDY HANDLE PRESSURE?
Overall, Purdy was one of the better quarterbacks against pressure during the 2023 season, ranking sixth in EPA per play and third in success rate. Of course, even the best quarterbacks perform significantly worse against pressure than when kept clean. That third-best success rate was only 38 percent.
While Purdy can handle pressure, some of his worst games were when he was pressured most often. In Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns, Purdy was pressured on half of his dropbacks. He completed 44.4 percent of his passes and averaged 4.1 yards per attempt. In Week 16 against the Ravens, Purdy was pressured on 44.1 percent of his dropbacks and had a 37.1 percent success rate.
The constant pressure can rush Purdy’s process and force him to flee the pocket. His ability to create and extend plays out of structure has separated him from previous Shanahan quarterbacks like Jimmy Garoppolo, but Purdy can’t live outside of structure.
Colorado head coach Deion Sanders didn’t exactly make a clear prediction when asked if he liked the Chiefs or the 49ers in this year’s Super Bowl.
“You gotta understand, I love me some Travis Kelce now. You ain’t going to get me to pick against Travis Kelce, but I do like the 49ers,” he said on Thursday’s First Take (5:40 mark). “But I love me some Travis Kelce and Patrick Mahomes.”
Tyler Sullivan: Travis Kelce to win Super Bowl MVP (+1200, DraftKings). I’m a sucker for a good storyline. If Kelce can repeat what he’s done in the last two rounds accompanied by a Chiefs win, he’ll be hoisting a Lombardi Trophy as the MVP while Taylor Swift and her latest Grammy will be watching along. Sort of feels how this season should end.
Isiah Pacheco Anytime Touchdown Scorer (-120)
Shop around as there is a better price out there, but it’s not considered widely available, so I’ll grade at -120. Pacheco has been a huge part of the Chiefs game plan this year, on the ground and through the air. Factor in that the Chiefs never sneak Patrick Mahomes, and Pacheco will get a bulk of the goal-line opportunities, and this is too good to pass up.
Worst line to bet: -130
The vast majority of Swift’s NFL attention has gone hand-in-hand with Kelce, but she’s also made a positive impact for at least one 49ers player: Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
Swift wore a winter jacket looking every bit like a Kelce jersey for Kansas City’s Super Wild Card Win over the Miami Dolphins, which just happened to be designed by Juszczyk’s wife, Kristin. Suddenly, Kristin’s star — and her designs — were on the rise.
Though Kyle Juszczyk remains appreciative of Swift sporting his wife’s clothing line, Swift will need to find another designer for Super Bowl LVIII when Kelce’s Chiefs take on Juszczyk’s 49ers.
“We’re big supporters of Taylor, but not this week,” Kyle Juszczyk jokingly told NFL Network’s Omar Ruiz on Wednesday night.
“That’s another really cool thing is that everyone who sees her work, I haven’t heard any negative things about it,” Juszczyk added. “Everybody is like, ‘Wow, that’s really cool. That’s really impressive.’ So, I feel like it’s rare, usually when you blow up on this level, you’re going to find some negativity and there’s been so little of it.”
Around the NFL
Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell told ESPN on Thursday that he’s hoping to have Mike Vrabel, his best friend and former teammate, “around as much as possible” with the team in an informal role the upcoming season.
“I love Mike and want him around as much as possible,” Fickell told ESPN. “I want to see how much he’d like to be around, in the spring for sure. And we’ll go from there.”
Fickell joked with ESPN that he’s not intimidated by Vrabel’s 6-foot-4 frame, laughing as he referenced an anonymous quote to The Athletic that Vrabel’s physical presence could be intimidating to someone in an organization.
With limited reps in practice behind Niners starter Brock Purdy, Darnold said he will end his days sitting in his apartment and then recite a play call, break the imaginary huddle and envision the field in front of him. He’ll send the first motion, then the second one – not uncommon in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
“If there’s a third motion, send that one as well,” Darnold told USA TODAY Sports. “But no, it’s just going through the whole process and what I see and going through different coverages and just visualizing everything. That’s really the thing I’ve learned this year: go home, study, have my own process and don’t move on with the day until my process is done.”
Darnold, the 2018 third overall pick by the New York Jets, had the first part of his career derailed by several factors largely beyond his control. He never completed a full season as the Jets’ starter, his run plagued by injury and illness. During a brutal “Monday Night Football” performance against the New England Patriots in his second season, the microphone attached to his pads caught him saying he was “seeing ghosts” on the field. After the 2020 season, the Jets traded the USC product to the Carolina Panthers for a trio of draft picks. Injuries and organizational strife followed him there, too.
Reid noted that there isn’t space on his coaching staff for Bieniemy to come back, but his influence clearly has some level of value where he can be an asset for a team. If the NFL isn’t the move for him — and recent hiring cycles when his stock was higher indicated becoming a head coach is unlikely — there could be a spot for him at another place.
And his alma mater may have a need for him next to Deion Sanders.
Yes, that sounds wild at this point, but think about it for a second. Colorado’s 2023 season fell apart largely because it wasn’t up to par with the competition the Buffaloes faced, but they had problems with their play-calling (or at least a perceived problem). Sean Lewis, who is now the head coach at San Diego State, had play-calling duties stripped from him in favor of former NFL head coach Pat Shurmur, who struggled getting the Buffaloes’ offense in order.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
1. Can the Chiefs control the 49ers’ pass rush?
The 49ers have built their defense around its pass rush. Between Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave, Arik Armstead and Chase Young, the team has a lot of firepower up front.
Still, I don’t see the same force in the defensive line that San Francisco has displayed in previous seasons. According to ESPN, the 49ers are 12th in pass rush win rate after ranking fifth in both 2021 and 2022. Bosa is still absolutely dominant — with 95 pressures and 14 sacks, per PFF — but outside of that, the team’s pass-rushing juice isn’t the same. Hargrave’s productivity was down in 2023, with only 52 pressures and seven sacks. Armstead is slightly below his peak productivity at only 42 pressures. Since arriving in San Francisco, Young has had only two games with more than four pressures.
San Francisco’s depth isn’t the same, either. The team used to hockey-substitute defensive linemen — but not any longer. Drake Jackson and Clelin Ferrell are both out, leaving the 49ers very thin at defensive end.
But one thing hasn’t changed: at their best, Bosa, Hargrave, Armstead and Young can create a swarming pass rush that can take over full quarters (or even halves) of games. Here’s the good news: in big games (like Super Bowl LVII), we’ve seen the Chiefs completely wipe out opposing defensive lines.
Can the Chiefs do it again? How much does Joe Thuney’s availability change the offensive lines’s effectiveness? Can Kansas City’s tackles hold their own against Bosa? What can head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes do to limit the 49ers’ defensive line?
I’m not as scared of the San Francisco defensive line as I used to be, but it’s still very good. The Chiefs must have a plan to deal with it.
Social media to make you think
~ In Memoriam ~#Chiefs legend Derrick Thomas tragically passed away 24 years ago today.— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) February 8, 2024
Here's the famous clip showing the special player-coach bond between DT and head coach Marty Schottenheimer.
RIP gentlemen pic.twitter.com/droCAoN5PH