By Nick Athan
In the aftermath of a wild ending to the AFC Championship game, the Kansas City Chiefs begin their weeklong journey, which they believe, will culminate in the franchise’s third Lombardi Trophy. To make that happen, Super Bowl LVII is a business trip and one that would enshrine the legacy of its MVP Quarterback, its future Hall of Fame Head Coach, and one of its heavenly angels.
As the Kansas City Chiefs prepare to face the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday in Super Bowl LVII, I can’t help but look at the nostalgia facing this franchise. The headlines this week will be obvious, Andy Reid looking for his second title, the Kelce brothers on opposite sides, and the quarterback battle between Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts.
Those are hot topics heading into Super Bowl week. Yet, after the way the Chiefs rebuilt so many pieces of their offense and defense in the off-season, to see it yield another Super Bowl appearance, remains a remarkable and improbable outcome.
If you would have said to me, KC’s defense was going to rely on as many as six rookies to play significant minutes this season, I would have laughed at you. If I had told you trading away, Tyreek Hill, was a good idea, you would have told me I was nuts.
For the Chiefs thankfully, both worked to near perfection! General Manager, Brett Veach, molded the Hill trade and rebuilt the secondary in one draft. He was able to find a trio of NFL veteran Wide Receivers, who made enough plays to offset the loss of Hill.
Still, there was another element that isn’t getting as much run as it should. How in the world did, Reid get everyone on the same page this quickly?
Reid has not been known to play rookies, or more direct, trust them to play significant minutes. Further, Defensive Coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, felt the same way about rookies. He preferred to lean on veterans and ease the kids into the mix. But early on, the decision was made by Reid to instruct his Super Bowl winning defensive coach, to play the depth chart not the age.
On offense, Reid remained the mastermind, but with the addition of Matt Nagy to the staff, and Offensive Coordinator, Eric Bieniemy back for another season, the trio was left to craft an offense that incorporated new veterans and young guys, most notably, Running Back Isiah Pacheco. With his insertion into the starting lineup and the clutch play of Jerrick McKinnon, mid-season, that duo gave the offense a productive running game.
Still, the fact these young guns played beyond their years, remains a testament to some serious work and trust by the entire coaching staff to buy into that youth movement. However, there were other factors. Frank Clark from the first day of training camp, and veteran, Carlos Dunlop, took George Karlaftis under their wing. In the secondary, Cornerback, L’Jarius Snead and free agent Safety, Justin Reid, did the same with rookies, Trent McDuffie, Bryan Cook, Joshua Williams, and Jaylen Watson. It was clear early in training camp all five rookies had talent. Yet, none of us thought they’d be making plays that would potentially change the outcome of playoff wins against the Jaguars and Bengals.
But they did and the Chiefs are back in another Super Bowl.
Now to defeat the Eagles, all the moves, the coaching, the hard work of trying to win their previous 19 games, the success of failure to win the Lombardi Trophy rests on the League MVP, Patrick Mahomes.
In back-to-back postseason wins, Mahomes overcame a serious ankle injury, limited mobility, and the expectations, as the NFL’s best overall player, to deliver and win another Super Bowl. He was driven to avoid failure. He remembers vividly the disaster in Tampa two years ago, when the Buccaneers kept him out of the end zone. He remained committed to never lose another Super Bowl.
Now that’s easier said than done because the Eagles’ defense is very good. They have speed, they create havoc, and are a turnover machine. To win this game, Mahomes must be better than some of his earlier Super Bowl appearances. At times in the past, he’s been out of sync and plagued by turnovers. Some of that was his fault for trying to do too much. He won’t make that mistake again.
All this week we’re going to overanalyze this game and predict the outcome. But if you’re a Chiefs fan, looking for a silver lining in this game, I offer you this nugget.
Last Sunday in the fourth quarter, when the game was in doubt. I looked up to the Heavens I asked my friend and childhood hero, Len Dawson to help the Chiefs. Shortly after that plea, Chris Jones made the biggest sack of the game and a few plays later, Harrison Butker sent the Chiefs into the Super Bowl with a clutch field goal.
On that kick, the ball sailed high into the Arrowhead night sky. I wondered if it had enough distance to clear the crossbar. So, I closed my eyes for a split second, then raised my arms in triumph – my prayer had been answered.
I have no doubt I will make the same plea at one point this Sunday, and the result will be the same because Chiefs Nation has Lenny on their side!