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Steve Spagnuolo is the MVP of the Chiefs Defense

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As Sunday gets closer, the Kansas City Chiefs will be on the road in the playoffs for the first time in the Patrick Mahomes era. They have a daunting task facing Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills’ high-powered offense, but if there is one man who can prevent that from happening, it’s Steve Spagnuolo.

The biggest surprise of the 2023 has been the struggles of the Chiefs offense. Patrick Mahomes hasn’t played his best football, nor have the cast around him. Yet, he’s made it to his sixth consecutive divisional round playoff game, and he’s one win away from playing in his sixth straight AFC Championship game.

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Yet, as the team gets set to play the Bills in Buffalo on Sunday, Mahomes success will be critical, but the game outcome will fall squarely on the Chief’s defense. If indeed they are going to shut down Allen and company, Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will need to dial up some unique looks that can create obstacles for Allen.

In its simplest form, Spags understands how Allen plays football. His off-script runs, throws, and rabbit-out-of-the-hat trickery he sees daily in practice against Patrick Mahomes. So, nothing that Allen can do with the football will shock him or his defense.

Spags, with two Super Bowl rings in hand with the Chiefs, has done a terrific job using the talent on his roster, with an aggressive swagger that has yielded repetitive success for 18 games now. Nobody knew this defense would rise and carry this team to heights we’ve not seen since the Derrick Thomas era.

Led by Chris Jones, George Karlaftis, Mike Danna, Charles Omenihu, Nick Bolton, Drew Tranquill, L’Jarius Sneed, Trent McDuffie, and Mike Edwards, KC’s defense will be ready for whatever the Bills throw at them.

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Their game in December, where the Chiefs lost 20-17, was the first game under new offensive coordinator Joe Brady. The Bills had two weeks to prepare for that game and made the most of it. It took Spags until the second half to adjust and slow down the Bills offense. They held them to a pair of field goals, but that was enough to get the win.

In the return match on Sunday, the defense has plenty of film to see what the Bills have been doing to win their last six games. During that span, the Bills’ offense was controlled by lesser teams, but in the end, Allen has made the miracle plays late in games a habit. When the game is on the line, Allen generally delivers.

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The key to stopping Allen will be to contain him in the pocket and prevent him from running up and down the field. He’s dangerous enough with his arm, but he’s far more dangerous with the ball tucked under his arm, bulldozing his body through anyone in his path.

One of the reasons the Chiefs succeeded in the second half at Arrowhead in December was they kept Allen in the pocket and made it difficult for James Cook to get yards. To me, he’s the key player. You stop Cook; then the offense becomes very predictable to defend.

Allen makes mistakes. Throughout the win streak, he’s thrown interceptions, turned the ball over, and been careless in taking chances in the red zone. If that trend continues this Sunday, the Chief’s score advantage will be significant.

Still, as big as the game is to Allen and the Bills, it’s just as significant for Spagnuolo to give Mahomes as many chances as possible to score points against the Bills’ injury-riddled defense. That means he’ll have to pressure the Bill’s receivers and dial-up blitz packages that force Allen into making errors with the football.

Throughout his career, Spags has defeated all the greats, including Allen, twice in the postseason. He understands when and how to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. However, until this season, he’s not had a defense this talented to coach in Kansas City.

This game isn’t about Mahomes versus Allen; Spagnuolo against Allen will decide the winner of the divisional matchup.

Allen is a thoroughbred on the football field, and Spags is the mad scientist tasked with shutting him down. It’s a 50/50 proposition, to be honest, and this game could go either way on a single play.

For my money, I’ll take Spags to dial up that one play that prevents Allen from crossing the finish line as the victor.

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