Season in Review – Kansas City Chiefs

By Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)

As we get to the end of our Season in Review series, we finally get to the story with the fairy tale ending. Here’s the lowdown on the 2019 campaign that saw the Kansas City Chiefs lift the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in 50 years.


ENTERING THE SEASON


2018 had been a successful year for the Chiefs, winning the AFC West and getting within a coin toss of reaching the Super Bowl. An overtime loss in the AFC Championship game to the Patriots may have ended differently if Patrick Mahomes had started with the ball instead of Tom Brady…

In the offseason, KC released two of their most established players in linebacker Justin Houston (now with the Colts) and safety Eric Berry (still a free agent). They also shipped out newly acquired receiver Sammie Coates, now starring in the XFL for the Houston Roughnecks.

DE Dee Ford was franchise tagged before being traded to the San Francisco 49ers, while Frank ‘The Shark’ Clark came in from Seattle. He was joined by running back Carlos Hyde, corner Bashaud Breeland and the Honey Badger himself, safety Tyrann Mathieu.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

All this trade action left KC with no first-round option in the 2019 NFL Draft. Nonetheless, with their first selection (#56 overall), the Chiefs acquired WR/return specialist Mecole Hardman from Georgia, who went on to the Pro Bowl in his first season. Their other Round 2 choice, safety Juan Thornhill, formed a solid partnership with Mathieu.

During pre-season, Chiefs fans wouldn’t have had a sense of what was to come. Of course, they beat the Bengals but lost the other three warm-up games to the Steelers, 49ers and Packers.


DURING THE SEASON


In 2019 – the Chiefs’ 50th NFL campaign, 60th in total and seventh under Andy Reid as Head Coach – they shot out of the gate with four straight wins. As well as going to Jacksonville (three receiving TDs for Sammy Watkins), Oakland (four TD passes by Patrick Mahomes in the second quarter) and Detroit (three rushing touchdowns), they dished out a rare L to the much-fancied Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium. One of Hardman’s two receiving plays that day was an 83-yard score during which he was clocked at 21.7 mph.


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But given how the season started and finished, it’s hard to believe that KC then went on a run of just two wins in six. Their 19-13 loss to the Colts ended a 25-game streak of scoring at least 25 points, and they also fell at home to the Texans (having only 20 minutes of possession didn’t help). Matt Moore stepped in at QB after Mahomes injured his knee in a TNF win over Denver, and started two home games: a loss to the Packers and a win against Minnesota, decided by a Harrison Butker FG with three seconds left.

Mahomes returned with a bang to face the Titans, attempting 50 passes, racking up 446 passing yards and nailing three TD throws, including a 63-yarder to Hardman, but it still ended in defeat. Luckily, it was their last one of the campaign.

James Kenney/Associated Press

Through their sticky patch, KC had stumbled from a confident 4-0 to an unsteady 6-4. But from Week 11 onwards – when the Chiefs dispatched the LA Chargers in Mexico City – they became the model of perfection, recording nine wins in a row, including The Big One in Miami on 2 February. 

After their bye week, the Kansas City defence really stepped it up, keeping Oakland to just nine points and running a blocked kick back to the house with the final play. After a 23-16 win over the Patriots, which sealed the AFC West crown for the fourth time on the bounce, the Chiefs held both the Broncos and Bears to a single field goal in easy wins. 

In Week 17, Hardman returned a kick-off for a 104-yard TD in another victory against the Chargers, earning them the No.2 seed in the AFC and a free pass through to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Chiefs battled back from 24-0 down after 15 minutes to see off the Houston Texans 51-31, with Mahomes throwing three of his five TDs passes to TE Travis Kelce, and Damien Williams running in two more. Their points tally was a KC postseason record, it sealed back-to-back playoff wins for the first time in franchise history and it was first time any team has scored TDs on seven consecutive drives since 1970, when Kansas last won the Super Bowl. (Oooh, spooky…)

Jeff Curry

The Chiefs hosted the AFC Championship, where they got their revenge over the Tennessee Titans in front of the Arrowhead faithful. Again, they trailed at the end of the first quarter but five TDs (including two for Tyreek Hill) saw them advance to Super Bowl LIV with a 35-24 win.

As we all know by now, Mahomes rallied his team once last time in the season finale, leading a late charge to beat the 49ers 31-20 and take their first championship title since Super Bowl IV exactly 50 years ago. Read my take on the game here.


OFFSEASON OUTLOOK


Heading into the offseason, it’s obvious that KC really need a new quarterback… ha ha, as if.

While they may need a new backup, with Matt Moore entering free agency, their top priority should be re-signing Chris Jones, the team’s sack leader for the last two years. The defensive lineman’s contract could set them back around $20m a year – akin to what they pay Frank Clark – and when the time comes, they’ll have to pay Mahomes mega-bucks too. This won’t leave GM Brett Veach much of his $13.9 million cap space (the sixth lowest in the league) to be as aggressive as he has in previous offseasons unless something else gives.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Of the Chiefs’ 24 players whose contracts are expiring, LeSean McCoy, Terrell Suggs and Spencer Ware are three that will probably depart or even retire. And when it comes to April’s NFL Draft, the Chiefs only have five picks, having traded away their sixth and seventh rounders. As champions, they’ll pick last, starting at #32 overall.

Given the free-agent status of Jones, as well as Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller, the Chiefs may target a defensive lineman (Jordan Elliott from Missouri?), cornerback (Clemson’s AJ Terrell seems a possibility) or linebacker (I’m seeing Kenneth Murray out of Oklahoma and LSU’s Patrick Queen mocked to the Chiefs). Another edge rusher could complement Clark well, so Curtis Weaver (Boise State) or Zack Baun (Wisconsin) may also be in the mix.

On the other side of the ball, WR Sammy Watkins has another year left but he didn’t score after Week 1. The Chiefs could release him, save a shed-load of money and pluck a young pup from a loaded 2020 class. They could also upgrade at running back, either with a draft pick like Johnathan Taylor from Wisconsin or maybe a free agent, with the names Austin Ekeler and Matt Breida being bandied about.

But as you’d expect with a Super Bowl-winning side with a much-respected HC, there’s a lot of silver lining and not very much cloud in the long-range forecast. So if you fancy a flutter on the year ahead, the Chiefs (in or around 6/1) are the current favourites to defend their title next year in Tampa.

Full10Takeaways – Super Bowl LIV

By Tim Monk @Tim_MonkF10Y

The Super Bowl is done and dusted and the analysis is ongoing for the foreseeable future. Here I take a look at some storylines coming out of the Super Bowl and the 2 teams.


The sizeable difference in talent at the QB position

Patrick Mahomes only needed 1 quarter to obliterate double digit leads held by the 49ers, Titans and Texans in this years playoffs. Mahomes led the Chiefs to 21 unanswered points in the 4th quarter in the biggest game of them all. By doing so, he has put down another bit of tarmac on his path towards Canton.

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On the other side, Jimmy Garoppolo went missing in the 4th quarter after doing what he was told for the first 45 minutes. “Jimmy G” seems to split opinion on how good/bad a Quarterback he is; The yay-sayers will point to his winning record as a starter, his TDs and his yards per play. The nay-sayers will point to the scheme, the HC and his supporting cast getting YAC, masking the actual air yards per attempt.

No matter what side of the fence you sit on, there was a gulf in class on the field at the Quarterback position and was essentially what it came down to at Hard Rock on Sunday.

The one big question to be taken from SF though is the state Kyle Shanahan’s belief, trust and allegiance to his handsome Quarterback. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Jimmy G will not be the SF 49ers QB after next season (or maybe even the 2020 season!) if the tendencies of the HC from Sunday’s game are to be any indication of that relationship.

One thing we will learn in 2020 is whether or not Jimmy G can bounce back, whether he’ll thrive under the pressure and the character that the man possesses.


The running back debate

Super Bowl running backs Damien Williams and Raheem Mostert were both undrafted free agents.

One could argue they have ascended into NFL relevance and proved all the critics wrong and are here to stay in the NFL after bouncing around the league trying to find their spot. They recently exchanged jersey’s due to their friendship and appreciation of one another, leading to Mostert actually handing back his exchanged jersey to the Super Bowl winning RB.

@anezbitt on Twitter

Williams was the first player in Super Bowl history to garner 100 rush yards along with a rush and receiving TD. Raheem Mostert was one of the stories if not THE story of the 2nd half of the NFL season culminating in 220 rush yards and 4 TDs in the NFC championship game.

Both these players are on paltry contracts in comparison to the other skills positions on offence and the running back position is undervalued generally by most of the 32 teams in the league.

Despite their efforts in getting their respective teams to the biggest game of them all, they’ll have a tough time persuading each of their front offices for a healthy rise.

Why?

Todd Gurley, LeVeon Bell, Devonta Freeman, Melvin Gordon and Jerick McKinnon are all running backs that have been paid handsomely over the past few years and it’s fair to say those investments have not returned the required production relative to the rest of the league. Add in Derrick Henry’s recent quotes of wanting to equal Ezekiel Elliott’s money, it’s very hard for running backs to get their due in this league.


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Deebo Samuel could be a star

One of the stars from the losing side in Super Bowl LIV was Deebo Samuel.

Samuel, a 2nd round pick, enjoyed a stellar first season in the NFL totaling over 1,000 scrimmage yards (inc payoffs) and 6 total touchdowns.

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Erza Shaw / Getty

He may have only mustered 159 of those yards in the postseason and may not have found pay dirt in January, but Deebo Samuel put down a marker in his first season and is a perfect fit for the Kyle Shanahan system due to his rushing ability and his versatility to fulfil a variety of roles in this highly creative offence including as a blocker.

Expect more to come from “Deebo” in 2020.


1 curse laid to rest, 1 still to pacify.


In the NFL there are two well known curses. The Madden Curse and the Super Bowl hangover.

The Madden curse for those that don’t know, stems from an American Football computer game. Each year, a different players sports the spotlight and hits the game’s front cover and bestowed upon them, a curse which has thought to be such a thing, that players have declined the opportunity to appear on it.

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Go back over the past 10 years and you’ll see some of the greatest names to play the sport and the majority will find their way in to the Hall of Fame. They include Brett Favre, Drew Brees, Odell Beckham and Tom Brady. For each season each superstar graced the Madden cover, a mysterious spell was cast over their following season. All but 1 player (Richard Sherman) saw their PFF grade drop from the previous season and as a rule, you were lucky to play all 16 games and in some instances fell off the face of the earth (insert image of Peyton Hillis on a milk carton).

Step forward Patrick Mahomes. The man who can do no wrong.

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The Kansas City QB glowed over the red and yellow background for Madden 20 and has hopefully laid to rest the curse once and for all. But, it was looking dicey for the new prodigy as a dislocated knee injury struck Mahomes down during the regular season. He was able to see the field again fairly quickly and go on to win a Super Bowl win to add to his MVP award last season hopefully allays all the fears from the front cover going forward. Or perhaps we can just continue to keep Mahomes on it forever more and give him the gig full time?

The other curse is a 2-parter: The Super Bowl Curse and the Super Bowl Hangover.

The curse is relating to the team hosting the Super Bowl; No team has ever played the big game in their own back yard. Atlanta and Minnesota, the 2 hosting teams prior to Miami this year were more than equipped to go all the way, only to fail. Minnesota were however, the closest to breaking that curse when they got all the way to the championship game (including the Minneaplois Miracle), eventually losing to Philadelphia.

It’s a 54 year curse that is yet to be broken…on to you Tampa.

Whilst Tampa cannot attribute their poor recent run of form to a Super Bowl appearence, Carolina, Atlanta and most recent sufferers, the LA Rams have all struggled after Super Bowl defeats.

This is known as the Super Bowl hangover.

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Some people point to a shorter offseason due to an extended run from the season prior whilst some point to a change in attitude in the locker room, with many players demanding a more lucrative salary and the coaching staff being poached by other teams wanting to taste the same success.

Only 3 teams have managed a Super Bowl win after a Super Bowl loss and whilst the league is aligned to making it difficult to achieve the feat, it seems unexplainable the struggles some teams suffer after an appearance in the big game.

It’s not something the Patriots have had to worry about however, much to the dismay of the other 15 AFC teams.

Super Bowl LIV: Reid all about it

By Sean Tyler (@seantyleruk)

In his 21 seasons as Head Coach, Andy Reid had won everything except the thing that mattered most: the Super Bowl. Having missed out 15 years ago with the Philadelphia Eagles, Reid finally broke the hoodoo on Sunday evening (or Monday morning here in the UK), overseeing a 31-20 victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid reacts as he is doused following Kansas City’s 31-20 Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
David J. Phillip / AP

Ahead of Sunday’s triumph in South Florida, Reid’s impressive list of accomplishments – 207 regular season and 14 postseason wins, 10 divisions titles and seven conference championship games – still had a hollow ring to it. But that’s all changed with career victory #222 and Super Bowl victory #1.

After the game, when asked if it was worth the wait, even that superb walrus moustache couldn’t hide his broad grin. “Absolutely,” came Reid’s reply. “Absolutely.” And for all the talent and potential in the 49ers’ camp, who could begrudge ‘Big Red’ his moment of glory?


Did the game stick to the script?


With no clear pre-game favourite, this one was a tough one to call beforehand. As it happened, the momentum ebbed and flowed, and the result hung in the balance till the end.

In many ways, Super Bowl LIV in Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium was exactly as billed. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was named the game’s MVP, Niners kicker Robbie Gould maintained his faultless postseason record with two field goals and two PATs, and Kansas trailed in the final quarter before yet another comeback. 

And then again, Mahomes struggled for much of the night, both tight ends had understated outings and the Niners’ running game wasn’t quite the well-oiled machine we’ve seen of late. Granted, Kyle Shanahan’s attack used play-action and misdirection to keep the KC defence guessing, but Raheem Mostert (58 yards) and Tevin Coleman (28 yards) largely flattered to deceive.


Did Mahomes deserve the MVP crown?


Yes. And no.

San Francisco’s best bet was always to keep Mahomes off the field by dominating possession with their running game, then keep him under wraps as best they could. And for much of the game, Robert Saleh’s defensive game plan worked.

And yet, despite starting slowly again, Mahomes still rushed for the opening TD and threw for three more. With ‘The Mahomes Factor’, the Chiefs can win from anywhere, at any time. He began with a three-and-out, was pressured all night and when flushed out of the pocket, he was forced to scramble or attempt a risky pass. Hence, he didn’t deliver the all-out air raid some pundits predicted.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrates a Super Bowl victory on Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers.
Getty Images

His stats – 26-of-42 for 286 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs (for the first time this season) – don’t scream MVP but it’s more about context than box score. Sure, he was far from perfect, following up sacks with interceptions to Fred Warner and Bashaud Breeland on consecutive second-half possessions, but when it mattered most, he rose to the occasion.

On the other side, Garoppolo (20-of-31 for 219 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) found some rhythm with Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne, connected with Kyle Juszczyk for a 15-yard TD and set up Raheem Mostert’s 1-yard rushing score. But he also gifted Bashaud Breeland an interception with an unnecessary and desperate throw in the first quarter. And that was really how it went – he didn’t play poorly but equally, it never felt like it was going to be the Jimmy G show.

Hats should also be tipped in the direction of SF’s Deebo Samuel for the most rushing yards for a receiver in a Super Bowl (53 yards on just three carries), and the Chiefs’ Damien Williams (17 carries, 104 yards, 2 TDs), the only 100-yard rusher on the day. The guy had his struggles when playing for the Dolphins on the very same field but he seems to have left them well behind him.

But despite these fine efforts, and those of trench warriors such as Chris Jones and Mitchell Schwartz (check out our Super Bowl podcast for more on them), the MVP was probably Mahomes, if only for what he masterminded in the final quarter. Which brings me to…


The turning point


At the end of the third, after Mahomes was sacked and then intercepted, the Niners were up by 10 and looking good for their sixth Super Bowl title. The Lombardi Trophy was heading back to California, right?

Wrong. Having seen the Texans and Titans games, we know better than to rule the Chiefs out, especially when the odds are stacked against them. They were at least 10 points behind in both those postseason match-ups and eventually won by at least as many. It’s like they need to be down by double figures before they realise the seriousness of the situation.

And in Miami, lightning struck yet again. Mahomes turned the game on its head by finally morphing into the gunslinger. Facing a third-and-15 from his own 35, he had the nerve to drop back nine steps before connecting on a 44-yard bomb to the turbo-charged Tyreek Hill (9 catches, 105 yards). Four plays later, Mahomes hit Kelce for a 1-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to 20-17.

Image result for patrick mahomes tyreek hill 44yards"
Charlie Riedel / AP

The 49ers were limited to a three-and-out, so back came Mahomes, notching a 38-yard pass to wideout Sammy Watkins (5 catches, 98 yards), before finding running back Damien Williams for the go-ahead score. Despite being sacked again, Mahomes recovered to release Williams down the sideline from 38 yards to ice it with a killer two-play TD drive. In response to the 49ers’ 17 unanswered points, the Chiefs notched up 21 of their own in the final six-and-a-bit minutes.

Garappolo still had time to muster a comeback attempt of his own with 1:40 left to play, but when called upon, he overcooked a pass to an open Emmanuel Sanders on a third-and-10 that coulda – shoulda – been the go-ahead score. The moment was gone.

Cue Reid being drenched with a barrel of Gatorade.


How the (mind) game was won


The 49ers were arguably the more complete team but they couldn’t compete with the never-say-die attitude of Mahomes and the courage of HC Andy Reid, who twice rolled the dice on crucial 4th-and-1 attempts. Damien Williams converted both, the first of which set up a 1-yard scoring run by his QB. On the flip side, Shanahan settled for two field goals that gave the 49ers a 10-point advantage, rather than the 14 or 18 it could have been.

The HC’s play-calling was also pivotal, especially when he veered away from what works for the Niners: the run game. In the fourth, for example, Mostert found a lane but got hauled down on a first down. Two throws then fell incomplete, which stopped the clock and handed the ball back to the Chiefs with plenty of time for the go-ahead touchdown.

Under Steve Spagnuolo’s guidance, Kansas’ defence also held up when it mattered, with Chris Jones batting down a couple of passes, Daniel Sorensen clobbering Garoppolo with a massive hit, Frank Clark grabbing a sack and Kendall Fuller snatching the game-ending interception.

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

When the dust settles…


Kyle Shanahan was minutes away from taking the 49ers from 4-10 last year to winning this season’s finale. The loss is going to hurt for a while yet, especially as it’s the second time in four seasons he’s been on the wrong end of an heartbreaking collapse. (His final game as the OC for the Atlanta Falcons saw them blow a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI and lost to the Patriots in OT.) But the Niners have plenty of reason for optimism heading into 2020 and beyond. They’ll lick their wounds and rise again, especially considering that Jimmy G’s only started 29 games. As George Kittle eloquently told the press: “The Legendary Revenge Tour of 2020. It’s coming.”

As for KC, Mahomes (eventually) earned his corn to become the second-youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl. He’s now racked up 30+ points in all five of his postseason appearances and should never be written off until the game clock hits zero. He is resilience personified. He isn’t fazed when things go wrong; he just presses the reset button and goes again. Undoubtedly the current face and the future hope of the franchise, I doubt that’s the last time we’ll see him strutting his stuff on the NFL’s biggest stage.

Bottom line: it was all about Andy

The Chiefs couldn’t have won their first NFL title in 50 years without their inspirational quarterback but to come full circle, this win was all about Andy Reid. A Super Bowl title was the only thing missing from his CV and that’s now been rectified.

As the after-game soundbites from his players suggest, they couldn’t be happier for their Head Coach. And I’m dead chuffed for the fella too.