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An offseason spent rebuilding their offensive line has the Kansas City Chiefs in a better position than they’ve been in for years upfront, and the investments made last summer are paying off on a weekly basis.
The inspiring play of rookies Trey Smith and Creed Humphrey has been complemented by other new additions on the left side of the line, with first-year starter Lucas Niang proving to be a legitimate right tackle prospect after missing last season due to COVID-19 opt-out.
Each of the Chiefs’ linemen has grown over the course of the season to better protect MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes and create holes for their running backs to pick up yards. While the ground attack has yet to fully hit its stride in 2021, Mahomes has started to look more comfortable behind his big nasties, playing an excellent game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 16 due in no small part to the time he had in the pocket.
NFL analyst Brian Baldinger noted the obvious chemistry being built between the quarterback and his line in a tweet on Monday, documenting a moment from last weekend’s game where Mahomes pointed out the excellent protection he saw from his linemen on a scoring play.
.@Chiefs @PatrickMahomes immediately after this TD throw to Pringle he immediately points to his offensive line for giving him the needed time Some things you can’t teach. Wish more QB’s would do this in real time. #chiefskingdom #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/HyEPyCHaWg
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) December 27, 2021
A simple finger-point can have a lot of meaning. Here it shows Mahomes sharing the credit for the touchdown with his offensive line after he had all day to find his target.
While it would’ve been unrealistic to expect the kind of payoff from the heavy investments made this offseason, it seems that Kansas City has managed to turn their line from a liability into a major strength of the offense in just 16 games. Between Orlando Brown and Joe Thuney, the left side has kept Mahomes from taking too many unnecessary hits from the blindside. The impressive play of veteran Andrew Wylie, who has started multiple games at right tackle against the NFL’s biggest sack artists has been no small feat either. Add in the admirable performances of the first-year players at the other positions, and the line looks like a complete unit heading into the playoffs.
The Chiefs should be able to rely on the expert play of their offensive line to buoy the offense against even the most elite opponents in the playoffs.