Super Bowl LV: How the Kansas City Chiefs made it to the big game

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Mark Schofield
·6 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Super Bowl week is upon us, and here at Touchdown Wire we are doing everything we can to prepare you for the big game. All week long we will have our usual array of film breakdowns, news pieces, features and more. But to kick things off we take a look back.

Here is how the Kansas City Chiefs made it to the big game.

How they were built

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

It might just be that simple. The Kansas City Chiefs were built the day they decided to draft a lightning-rod of a quarterback prospect out of Texas Tech. back in the 2017 draft the Chiefs made the bold move to trade up in the first round, giving them a shot to draft Patrick Mahomes. While it was questioned at the time, it has turned out to be perhaps the best move the franchise has ever made. Of course, Mahomes is not the only critical component of the Chiefs' roster, and not even on the offensive side of the football. Kansas City hit on a number of draft picks over the past eight years, including tight end Travis Kelce in the third round of the 2013 draft, wide receiver Mecole Hardman in the second round of the 2019 draft, and wide receiver Tyreek Hill in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. On defense, Chris Jones is the standout up front, who the Chiefs added in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft. But they also have key pieces that were acquired through free agency, such as Tyrann Mathieu and Bashaud Breeland. They also acquired Frank Clark in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks to bolster their pass rush prior to the 2019 season.

Key off-season additions

(Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Even with that talent in place, it takes some key additions to return to a Super Bowl after winning the big game a season before. That is certainly the case with this year's Chiefs squad. Kansas City added a pair of offensive linemen in free agency in guard Kelechi Osemele and tackle Mike Remmers, and both players filled critical roles for them during the season. While Kansas City lost Osemele to injury earlier this year, Remmers could be in the starting lineup for Super Bowl LV. The Chiefs also made a splash in October when they added running back Le'Veon Bell, who had been released by the New York Jets. Bell has made a minimal contribution this year, scoring two touchdowns in the regular season, but Super Bowls have a way of creating unexpected heroes... Then there are the additions made through the draft. Many expected their most important contributor to be running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire out of LSU, who the Chiefs drafted at the end of the first round. But perhaps the most important cog out of their rookie class has been defensive back L'Jarius Sneed, drafted by the Chiefs in the fourth round at pick 138.

Lowest moment of the season

(Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

When you enter the Super Bowl with 16 wins and just two losses - one of which came with the starters resting in Week 17 - it is fairly obvious what the "lowest moment of the season" was. That came back in Week 5, when the 4-0 Chiefs lost at home to Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders. In that game, Mahomes threw an interception at the end of the contest to seal Kansas City's fate, but the concerns were on the defensive side of the football. Carr threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns, and wide receiver Henry Ruggs III had perhaps his breakout game of the season, catching a pair of passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. This video breakdown dives into the Chiefs' struggles that afternoon: https://youtu.be/uZ2wtlQDHBM

Turning point

(Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)

Perhaps the biggest factor in Kansas City's success this season, at least on the defensive side of the football, has been the emergence of L'Jarius Sneed as a weapon for Steve Spagnuolo in the secondary. Spagnuolo had high praise for Sneed when the Chiefs drafted him: “L’Jarius Sneed, I was very impressed with his tape with regards to all of the things that he did,” Spagnuolo said of his rookie back in May. “He played corner and he’s a big corner, he played some nickel, he covered the slot receivers and they actually played him at safety. I thought he did really good at all of them. We see him as a corner right now and we’ll see where that progresses to. I think anybody that can come in with that kind of flexibility is a good thing.” And that praise was rewarded out of the gate this season: https://twitter.com/NFL_DougFarrar/status/1308419159475326978 Sneed missed time with a broken clavicle, but when he returned to the lineup the improvement to the Kansas City defense was almost immediate. As Doug Farrar noted a few weeks ago:

On/Off reports are always tricky to extrapolate because football is a team game, but there’s little question that Kansas City’s secondary is better when Sneed is a part of it. Per Sports Info Solutions, he’s been on the field for 240 of Kansas City’s defensive snaps against the pass, and off the field for 368. When he’s on the field, the Chiefs allow a completion rate of 65.5, as opposed to 60.6% when he’s part of the defense. That’s not just on Sneed — his return and adaptation to slot defender allowed Tyrann Mathieu to play far more free safety and moveable chess piece, which is always a good thing.

The emergence of Sneed in the Kansas City defense has allowed Mathieu to do what he does best, which is be perhaps the best safety at reading the eyes of a quarterback since Ed Reed. But as Mathieu sees it, the entire unit is the reason for his success, including one of his newest teammates: https://twitter.com/Mathieu_Era/status/1355275142553870336

Notable injuries heading into Super Bowl LV

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The most notable injury suffered in the AFC Championship game was to tackle Eric Fisher, who tore his Achilles in the game and will miss the Super Bowl. In addition, in the final bye week injury report the following players were designated as Questionable: Le'Veon Bell with a knee injury, Rashad Fenton with a foot injury, L'Jarius Sneed with a concussion, and Sammy Watkins with a calf injury. Willie Gay, the rookie linebacker, is out with an ankle injury. Oh, and Patrick Mahomes is still dealing with turf toe, which is worth monitoring.