HomeFootball DirtThe Foundation of Kansas City’s Super Bowl Victory is Short-Lived

The Foundation of Kansas City’s Super Bowl Victory is Short-Lived

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This was not the Kansas City Chiefs we’re used to. Patrick Mahomes’ receiving corps was whittled down to one trustable wideout who happened to be a rookie. Travis Kelce was another year into his 30s. Their opponent, the Baltimore Ravens, had the presumptive NFL MVP behind center and few weaknesses to exploit. Yet here they are, coming off their sixth straight AFC title game. Headed to their fourth Super Bowl in six years thanks to a 17-10 victory in Baltimore Sunday.

This was a team that knew it could get torched by Lamar Jackson because it *was* torched by Lamar Jackson. The first quarter of this game looked like a preview into a shootout thanks in large part to one brilliant play that took Kansas City’s defensive aggression and turned it upside down via impossible athleticism: TOUCHDOWN ZAY FLOWERS!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/vvOzEjxA5u — Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 28, 2024

Overreacting would have meant easing off the gas. One week earlier, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s aggression dialed up 10 blitzes on 39 Josh Allen dropbacks, which the similarly slippery quarterback escaped en route to zero sacks, 72 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns and nearly cost Kansas City the game. It would have been a reasonable adjustment. And as Sunday’s game proved, an unnecessary one. Spagnuolo’s aggression kept Jackson wading through crowded pockets all afternoon, sacking him four times in 41 dropbacks. Half those sacks came on key third downs in the second half as Baltimore tried to battle back from a 17-7 deficit. J. REID WRAPS HIM UP‼️ pic.twitter.com/1AqRMK69Vo — Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 28, 2024

It wasn’t just Spagnuolo’s aggression that paid off. The Chiefs’ defense played with the discipline needed to erase Jackson’s off-the-cuff improvisations before they could get too dangerous. That group was table to take a situation where the likely MVP had more than 11 seconds to throw the ball or take off with it and run on third down and turned it into a loss of two: 11+ seconds from snap to the finish of the play, against Lamar Jackson, and it ends in a loss of 2. Steve Spagnuolo has his guys disciplined as hell pic.twitter.com/iGWHnQ6FTP — Christian D’Andrea (@TrainIsland) January 28, 2024

But the most impactful play hinged on star cornerback L’Jarius Sneed’s ability to brush off one awful snap and trade it in for an incredible one. With 32 seconds to play in the third quarter, his secondary blanked Zay Flowers for what would be a 54-yard gain into Kansas City’s red zone. But it net just 39 yards after Flowers got dinged for a well-deserved taunting flag. can’t do that, Zay Flowers pic.twitter.com/pfzonSrHcz — Christian D’Andrea (@TrainIsland) January 28, 2024

This could have rattled Sneed or pushed him to retaliate in a truly stupid way. Instead, he got perfect, beautiful revenge. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, L’JARIUS SNEED!!! pic.twitter.com/rHw8hcuUgG — Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 28, 2024

This didn’t just take a touchdown off the board — a play worth -5.2 expected points added, per RBSDM.com. It also sent a frustrated Flowers to the bench, where he cut his hand either slamming down his helmet or punching something inanimate, depending on the sideline report. His inability to shake off a bad decision meant Baltimore had to mount its comeback without him; the Ravens’ WR1 didn’t have a single target after this. This limited an offense that ranked third in points per play in 2023 to a single touchdown Sunday and just three points after the first quarter. That wasn’t the only place where a short memory came in handy. Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports This inability to be defined by the past wasn’t limited to the defense. The Ravens’ top two defense opted to press Travis Kelce at the line in the aftermath of one of his least effective seasons. They had guys who could turn and run with him. It did not matter. it wasn’t even bad coverage, Mahomes just knows exactly where to put it pic.twitter.com/504hmJ72Pp — Christian D’Andrea (@TrainIsland) January 28, 2024

When Baltimore shifted its best defensive back, All-Pro safety Kyle Hamilton, to handle Kelce personally he responded with sticky coverage. And again, it didn’t matter because Patrick Mahomes knows exactly where to put the ball. MAHOMES TO KELCE. 17th TIME IN THE PLAYOFFS. pic.twitter.com/Icli7WxL5A — NFL (@NFL) January 28, 2024

When coverage downfield was so tight it had both Mahomes and Kelce running in circles … well, you know the rest. THESE. TWO. 🔥pic.twitter.com/5aH98n8rke — Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 28, 2024
The end of the regular season provided heaps of data suggesting this wouldn’t work. Kelce averaged just 50 yards per game after Week 8 and found the end zone once in that stretch. On Sunday, he exploded for 11 catches on 11 targets, 116 yards and his third touchdown in his past two playoff games. As good as he was, he may not have been the best example of a short memory benefitting Kansas City. Instead that belongs to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who dropped a long would-be go ahead touchdown late against the Philadelphia Eagles in a loss at Arrowhead Stadium. But when head coach Andy Reid needed someone to haul in a deep ball that would ice this game and send the Chiefs back to the Super Bowl, he and Mahomes went right back to their embattled WR. MVS IN A BIG SPOT. pic.twitter.com/qRCH0uuAdw — NFL (@NFL) January 28, 2024

In the end, Kansas City trusted its talent despite underwhelming recent returns. In the case of Kelce and Mahomes, that was a no-brainer. But an aggressive defense and the vital re-emergence of MVS proved to be the extra dimensions that allowed the Chiefs to upset the Ravens on the road. Kansas City’s 2023 was loaded with mistakes. Reid discarded the ones that were fatal and built from the ones on which his team could grow. Temporary letdowns proved to be just that, and the Chiefs proved to be THE CHIEFS once more, even when they didn’t look like it. Ultimately, that ability to brush off disaster and stick to a plan ended the Ravens season and gave us Mahomes’ fourth Super Bowl in six years.

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