After the Kansas City Chiefs 26-7 Wild Card blowout of the Miami Dolphins, cornerback Trent McDuffie lamented his mistake on Tyreek Hill’s long touchdown. Entering the home playoff game, the defensive mindset was to pitch a shutout against the NFL’s top-rated offense.
I was convinced the Kansas City Chiefs could handle the elements better than the Miami Dolphins because of the arctic weather circling Arrowhead Stadium Saturday night. Yet, all I could think about was how difficult it would be to defeat a non-divisional opponent twice in the same season.
Thanks to the Chiefs Defense, in two games against the Dolphins, they gave up 21 points. All season, even when they didn’t play their best, the Dolphins had the highest-scoring offense with the most yards and points. Against the Chiefs, they were driven into mediocrity by a relentless group of men who have carried this team from week one.
With seven NFL head coaching jobs open, Kansas City Chiefs’ Defensive Coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, hasn’t been mentioned in the leading man category. The job he’s done retooling a defense that began to sprout wings a year ago has played 18 games this season, and they’ve stolen the narrative on this football team.
Until Mahomes found success against the Cincinnati Bengals, clinching their eighth consecutive AFC West title, and again on Saturday night in the frigid grounds of Arrowhead, they rediscovered their mojo. That should scare the rest of the AFC.
Yet, as great as the offense was against the Bengals and Dolphins, the Defense continues to be the story. Because, entering the playoffs, I felt that if the Defense plays at an elite level, like it did much of the regular season, despite the offensive woes this year, Kansas City could repeat as Super Bowl champion.
I’ve heard Defense wins Championships for decades, but until this season, I never believed it. We’ve only seen two eras of Chiefs football in Kansas City that wielded a mighty defense: the 1960s under Hank Stram and the 1990s under Marty Schottenheimer. Stram had a well-balanced offense for a decade, but Marty never had a solid offense until Joe Montana arrived, and that was just one season.
In 2023, Mahomes was supposed to be this team’s focal point, but instead, the Defense came to his rescue because, without them, Kansas City isn’t even in the playoffs.
Even during the bad losses this team endured in the regular season, the Defense shut down every offense outside their road game at Denver. Sometimes, that wasn’t good enough, but they never put their head down or laid blame on the offense while they worked through their self-inflicted wounds.
Instead, they took the blame for not being better in some of those losses. On Saturday, they pinned their ears back and ensured the offense had plenty of chances to have the ball in their hands.
Thanks to the Chief’s Defense, the Dolphins didn’t convert a third or fourth down attempt until the 5:58 mark of the third quarter. For the game, they were 1-for-12 on third down and 3-for-6 on fourth down attempts.
If you had asked me before the season, the Chiefs defense would be the story; I’d have said you were crazy. Well, I’m not crazy now; they are the best unit in the AFC and will be able to prove how good they are if they knock out both the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens in the next two weeks.
Even a month ago, winning back-to-back Super Bowl games felt like an improbable outcome, but I’m not thinking that anymore.
Because of the job Spags has done creating a culture of dominance and pushing his players to achieve new heights defensively, they’ve all bought into his teachings, and now they are two games away from going back to the Super Bowl.
Defeating the Dolphins, despite their success on offense, wasn’t unexpected. However, in looking at the remaining AFC teams, they don’t have the athletes and playmakers on the Dolphins roster.
That tells me this Defense can handle any situation, and I suspect that next weekend, we will be talking about the Defense once again as the Chiefs advance to the AFC Championship game for the sixth straight season.