QSAO\’s Super Bowl 55 Preview: Kansas City Chiefs

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By Jack Bleiweis

The stage is set for Super Bowl 55.

Chiefs vs Bucs, Mahomes vs Brady, Le’Veon Bell vs Antonio Brown(?).

Whatever way you spin it, football fans are in for a treat, for what should be a great matchup between two explosive offenses. Super Bowl 55 is one of the year’s biggest events, so it only makes sense for QSAO to make a big deal of it.

This three-piece series will provide readers with in-depth analysis on both the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, how they reached the Super Bowl, how (and why) they lost their games this year; players to watch, and more.

We’ve organized each topic by section and team, so you can skip to whatever you feel is most important to help you pick this year’s Super Bowl winner.

So, without further ado, here is QSAO’s Super Bowl 55 Breakdown for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Click here to read our breakdown on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Click here to read our in-depth matchup analysis on Super Bowl 55

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Photo credited to Kim Klement — USA Today

Team Overview

The Chiefs finished with a 14-2 regular-season record and placed first in the AFC, earning a first-round bye into the playoffs. Led by an unstoppable trio of offensive stars, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, wideout Tyreek Hill, and tight end Travis Kelce combined for record-breaking numbers this season. The Chiefs offense averaged a staggering 415.8 yards a game with 303.4 coming through the air; both NFL-leading stats.

Of those 303 yards a game, Kelce and Hill averaged 94.4 and 85.5 yards, respectively, almost 60% of the team’s total offense. The duo finished the season with 2,692 yards during the regular season, third all-time for any WR/TE combo, trailing only their 2018 iteration and Wes Welker & Rob Gronkowski in 2011. The Chiefs offensive line was sixth in the NFL in team pass-block win-rate at 63%, meaning that the Chiefs blockers can give Patrick Mahomes at least 2.5 seconds to throw the ball.

While all eyes are on Mahomes, Hill and Kelce, their offense doesn’t stop there.

While a calf injury holds Sammy Watkins to questionable status for the Super Bowl, speedster Mecole Hardman has slotted into the Chiefs\’ WR3 role. As per Pro Football Reference, Hardman\’s near 14 yards per catch ranks 20th amongst wide receivers with at least 40 catches. Both Hardman and Hill can get it done on the ground as well. Here is Hardman\’s run in the AFC Championship game against Buffalo last week, where he burned the Bills for 50 yards.

Here is #Chiefs Mecole Hardman\’s 50-yard run against the #BillsMafia in the AFC Championship game #SuperBowl pic.twitter.com/q4DFPXWkjp

— Constantine Maragos (@CMaragos123) February 2, 2021

In the same game, Hill did one better where he ran for 71 yards.

Here is #Chiefs Tyreek Hill with a huge 71-yard run against #BillsMafia in the AFC Championship #SuperBowl pic.twitter.com/CMPtmd41QW

— Constantine Maragos (@CMaragos123) February 2, 2021

The Chiefs\’ backfield consists of rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and veteran Le\’Veon Bell, who was acquired via free agency in October. While Edwards-Helaire, the Chiefs\’ 2020 first-round pick, has been sidelined with an ankle injury, Bell and RB3 Darrell Williams have split the bulk of the work. Although the Chiefs don\’t rely much on the run, their talented backs are more than capable of carrying the load when asked. The Chiefs only run the ball 25 times on average per game, good for 23rd in the NFL, and despite only playing 13 games in the regular season, Edwards-Helaire finished the year with over 1000 yards from scrimmage.

But, what makes the Chiefs really special is their coaching. While Andy Reid\’s Coach of the Year award came many years ago, he is still known as one of the games top coaches. The Chiefs run a play-action on almost 40% of plays, ranking second in the NFL, but only 1% less than the leading Bills. In last week\’s game against the Buffalo, the Chiefs ran plays with pre-snap motion 82% of the time, the fifth-highest total of any team in any game this season. The combination of Reid and offensive coordinator (and future head coach) Eric Bieniemy leaves opposing defenses guessing on almost every play, thus making the game look easy for Mahomes and their offense.

However, on the other side of the ball, the Chiefs aren\’t as dominant. While they have dominant players, like star safety Tyran Matthieu and defensive tackle Chris Jones, their numbers alone aren\’t always good enough. Jones can create a pass-rush within 2.5 seconds 20% of the time, second in the league among defensive tackles. But, as a team, the Chiefs fall to 18th in pass-rush win-rate (defender beating his blocker within 2.5 seconds). Opposing teams averaged 22+ points per game and 359 yards against the Chiefs, putting them in the middle of the pack in both of those categories. However, their defense is still making plays and creating turnovers. Kansas City created the 10th-most defensive turnovers this year with 22, including six interceptions by safety Mathieu, the NFL\’s third-highest individual total.

In summary, the Chiefs have an out of this world offense with great coaching and slightly above-average defense.

Quick Facts

Kansas City heads into Super Bowl 55 with the NFL’s highest total yards per game and second in yards per play, while their passing game ranks top-five in passing attempts per game, passing completions per game and yards per pass attempt.

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Photo credited to Getty Images

Who they lost to (and why)

The Chiefs succumbed to two teams this year; division rivals Las Vegas Raiders in Week 5 and to the Chargers* in Week 17. An asterisk accompanies this loss only because it wasn’t a game Kansas City needed to win. Regardless of the outcome, they would’ve finished with the first seed in the AFC. Notable players who didn’t play include Mahomes, Mathieu and Hill.

October 11 — Week 5 – Home game vs. Las Vegas Raiders

The only real loss the Chiefs faced was a Week Five matchup at home against the Raiders, by a score of 40-32. Coming off of two double-digit wins and a 4-0 record, the Chiefs entered the game as 11-point favourites. However, thanks to a couple of big plays and Vegas\’s offensive game plan, they matched the Chiefs\’ firepower. 

Kansas City simply couldn\’t stop Las Vegas\’s aggressive offense. The Raiders scored on 7/10 offensive drives, with Vegas QB Derek Carr throwing touchdowns of 59 and 72 yards, converting on both fourth-down conversions and most importantly, winning the time of possession battle and keeping the ball out of Patrick Mahomes hands. Raiders running backs Josh Jacobs and Devontae Booker got going just enough to give Carr time and space, running for 77 and 62 yards respectively, including a 43-yard rushing play after a Chiefs touchdown. 

It didn\’t matter that the Raiders couldn\’t stop Mahomes, they focused on their offense, running the ball and slowly controlling the clock, not letting the Chiefs get into a rhythm.

Bottom Line

The game couldn\’t have gone better for Las Vegas. Every time the Chiefs were close to stopping the Raiders offense, they were able to break through with a massive play. Even in a game that could\’ve been deemed a \”blowout\” to a fan who turned it on halfway through, the Chiefs trailed 40-24 with five minutes left and still had a chance to win. 

Never count the Chiefs out.

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Photo credited to Getty Images

Kansas City’s Path to Super Bowl 55

The Chiefs only played two games in the playoffs this year, both at home and each game\’s expected winner. Regardless, here’s how they got it done.

AFC Divisional Round vs. Cleveland Browns

The Chiefs were the typical Chiefs in the first half of this game. 

Scoring on every drive in the first two quarters, they were up 19-3 by half time (what really should’ve been 19-10, Cleveland got unlucky when receiver Rashard Higgins reached for the endzone and fumbled). Then, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield threw his first interception of the day, three plays into the second half.

At this point, it seemed the Chiefs sucked all life from the Browns. 

Then, slowly, the momentum started to shift. 

After Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker missed a 33-yard field goal, the Browns marched 77-yards downfield and scored their first touchdown of the day, off a 4-yard Jarvis Landry reception. Following a Mahomes concussion on the next Kansas City drive, it seemed like the perfect recipe for a Browns win. They charged another 75-yards to cut the lead to 22-17. Unfortunately for Browns fans, the Mahomes-less Chiefs are still the Chiefs. Backup QB Chad Henne looked great (or good enough), throwing a 23-yard pass to Hill on his first play from scrimmage. 

Although Henne threw a brutal interception in the red zone, between the Chiefs talent and tactful playcalling, Kansas City was able to put the Browns away, racking up a total of 438 yards, 22% of those coming with Henne under centre.

AFC Championship vs. Buffalo Bills

Kansas City had one of their worst starts of the season in the AFC Championship. Following a muffed punt by Hardman, the Bills led 9-0 at the end of the first quarter. 

Then, in typical Chiefs fashion, Kansas City scored on every drive for the remainder of the game

It didn\’t matter how Buffalo did on offense because if they weren\’t putting points on the board, they were in trouble. Mahomes conducted touchdown drives of 80, 82 and 77 yards before the Bills could blink as they entered the second half down 21-12. 

Buffalo\’s offense wasn\’t even bad in the second half. They also put-up points on 75% of drives. The only problem was that while they were scoring field goals, the Chiefs were scoring touchdowns. Everyone on the Chiefs\’ offense got involved, they had touchdowns from 4 different players and 290 combined yards from stars Hill and Kelce. The Bills simply couldn\’t keep up, even when spotted nine points from the start.

Wrapping it up

Kansas City is the prototypical team of the next generation. When Kansas City\’s offense is clicking, it doesn\’t seem like anyone in the league can stop them. The trio of Mahomes, Hill and Kelce are lethal whenever they touch the ball. Paired with a defense who knows how to make plays and take the ball away, the Chiefs are nearly impenetrable. Even when they go down, and the odds seem to be against them, they always find a way to come back. In short, the Buccaneers are going to have their hands full against the Chiefs.

Statistics retrieved from ESPN.com, NFL.com, and Pro Football Reference

Cover graphic credited to Charlie Neibergall, Matt Ludtke — Associated Press

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