- Chiefs face major offseason decisions after Super Bowl LV loss
- Key offseason needs for the Chiefs to address in draft and free agency
- How can the Chiefs avoid another disappointment next season?
And just like that, it was over. The 2020 season has come to a disappointing end for the Kansas City Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes and co, falling 31-9 in the Super Bowl to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Despite missing some important players along the offensive line, the defeat comes as a shock considering the level of play we are accustomed to seeing whenever Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill grace the gridiron.
Kelce, Hill and key coaches such as head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy are all expected to run it back next year with the Chiefs in search of their third Super Bowl appearance in three years. However, as many greats of the sport know, there is no guarantee you make it back to the big game, never mind winning it.
Reid, Mahomes and everyone in the Chiefs organisation will pause for a while to contemplate this crushing loss before gearing up for another run at it. This upcoming offseason will be critical in the Chiefs process of re-tooling and re-calibrating in search of their second Super Bowl victory in three years.
So, what are the three things the Chiefs have to do in order to improve their chances of creating a dynasty in Kansas City?
Patrick Mahomes was beaten into a pulp. Not since Cam Newton in 2016 did we see a quarterback take so much punishment in a Super Bowl. Funnily enough, tackle Mike Remmers was lining up to protect Newton in 2016 against Von Miller and Demarcus Ware – and he failed in Super Bowl 55 as he did in Super Bowl 50.
During the game, Mahomes was pressured 29 times in 56 dropbacks according to ESPN NextGen Stats.
Moreover, per ESPN’s Seth Walder, Mahomes was forced to run for 497 yards before throwing the ball against the Bucs. This is echoed in Mahomes’ average time to throw which came in at 3.71 seconds compared to only 2.27 seconds for Brady. This may give the illusion that Mahomes had time to throw, but it was only because he was running for his life over and over again trying to make something out of nothing. It’s a miracle that Mahomes only allowed himself to be hit 8 times and sacked 3 times.
There is simply no other way to put it: the Chiefs got demolished upfront.
And the painful thing is, the Bucs and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles didn’t even have to play games and scheme up pressure. 27 out of the 29 pressures Mahomes faced were generated by the four-man pass rush. Mahomes only faced the blitz 6 total times on 56 dropbacks. Bowles brought a cornerback blitz early in the game, then Devin White through the A Gap once and looping around the right side another time, but for a large portion of the game the Bucs got pressure with their front four and covered the back-end soundly.
It is important to note that the Chiefs were missing their starting left-tackle and pretty much their entire Week One starting offensive line. However, this is football, injuries happen and you have to account for that. Andy Reid and Eric Bienemy did a poor job of adjusting to the blitz. They stayed in only 5 man protection for 92% of their snaps – setting Mahomes up for failure.
So, where does this leave the Chiefs entering 2021 from an o-line perspective? All across the offensive line, the Chiefs could look to upgrade coming into 2021.
Stalwart left-tackle Eric Fisher may have played his final game in a Chiefs uniform as after tearing his Achilles, Fisher is entering the final year of his contract in 2021 and, if cut, could save the Chiefs $12 million in cap space.
Right-tackle Mitchell Schwartz is coming off of a big injury and is also entering the final year of his contract with the Chiefs. With the two veteran tackles financial futures somewhat uncertain, as well as being liabilities health-wise, the Chiefs could look to draft a tackle this upcoming spring.
As with the tackle situation, the same could be said for the interior of the Chiefs offensive line. Centre Austin Reiter (also injured for the Super Bowl) is expected to be offered a big contract elsewhere as the Chiefs are expected to find replacements at both guard positions.
Whether Chiefs general manager Brett Veach decides to emulate the Browns and the Buccaneers strategy of prioritising that young, cheap, rookie tackle by trading up in the draft and securing that position for the next ten years or goes out and tests the waters in free agency is uncertain.
The same can be said for the interior o-line.
But whatever avenue Veach elects to take, he has to protect his half a billion-dollar investment at quarterback.
Keep building the defence
Per Football Outsiders, the Chiefs defence finished the 2020 season 22nd in defensive DVOA.
The defence excelled in spots against certain offences, especially in the playoffs. However, the inefficiencies against the run and against a seasoned quarterback like Brady were brought to light in the Super Bowl.
Entering 2021, the Chiefs are expected to be $19 million over the cap and with that comes some tough decisions regarding defensive personnel.
After his ‘rah-rah’ theatrics in the Super Bowl, veteran safety Tyrann Mathieu could depart Kansas City, saving the Chiefs $14 million in cap space. At the same time, Veach would be wise to bolster this defence with young talent similar to his astute selection of cornerback L’Jarius Sneed.
It is incredibly difficult to maintain a stellar defence over a number of years, and the best way to do it is by drafting wisely. Just look at the Chiefs opponents in the Super Bowl. Bucs general manager Jason Licht did an excellent job selecting young, cheap defensive talent in the draft. Devin White, Jamel Dean, Antoine Winfield all stepped up in a big way for the Bucs during the season and in the big game.
The Chiefs defence is in no way devoid of talent. They have impressive linemen Chris Jones and Frank Clark under contract for a number of years, however, they would be wise to not put too much of the load on the back of their young quarterback.
Reconfigure the skill positions
The Bucs set out the gameplan for everyone to see on how to counter this seemingly unstoppable Chiefs offence: you play 2-high safeties, bracket coverage underneath and take your chances from time to time in man coverage with extremely quick corners.
While executing the gameplan will vary for each team that faces the Chiefs in 2021, the plan is there for all to see. Thus, expect the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes to face a ton of 2-high looks in 2021.
As a counter, the Chiefs would be smart to turn to the run game. While some in the analytics crowd may scoff at the idea, typical 2-high defences leave themselves susceptible to the run. As we saw last night, whenever the Chiefs did run the ball, they gained decent yardage. Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire averaged 7.1 Y/C against the Bucs on 9 carries with a longest sprint of 26 yards.
Due to the circumstances of the game, the Chiefs didn’t run the ball a lot, but when they did there were yards to be gained. Now Brett Veach isn’t going to go trade for Derrick Henry or anything, but possessing that change-of-pace back similar to A.J. Dillon in Green Bay or Jeff Wilson Jr. in San Francisco could come in handy.
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. He is expected to leave Kansas City. The Chiefs have done well in their strategy of drafting pure speed guys at receiver, however, with defences adjusting to bracketing both Hill and Kelce. Maybe the Chiefs should also consider drafting or signing a more refined, deadlier weapon for Mahomes rather than a pure speed guy.