About 96 million people all agreed that the Chiefs either had to fix a major problem immediately or risk wasting some of Patrick Mahomes’ best years.
The entire audience at Super Bowl 2021 watched Mahomes run for his life with an injury-depleted offensive line in the Buccaneers’ siege two years ago. So, that makes the seemingly overnight rebuild all the more impressive when GM Brettwich couldn’t hide his dismay at the prospect of taking advantage since then.
“Brett kind of built his own project after that Super Bowl and did a good job of bringing in new guys,” head coach Andy Reid said. “They have fitted in well and performed well.”
With injured starting tackles Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher unavailable against a defensive line that included Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett, the Chiefs turned to Mike Reimers and Andrew Wylie. Stephen Wizniewski, Nick Allegretti and Austin Reiter formed an interior trio on a line that allowed three sacks, nine quarterback hurries and forced Mahomes to pass for 497 yards in a 31-9 loss. .
“Everybody likes to point to that offensive line because of how beaten it was,” tight end Travis Kelce said, “but there were a lot of things that kept us from winning that game.”
Even if the Chiefs are still sensitive to the accusation, actions speak louder than words. Instead of chalking up the disaster to injury, the Chiefs moved on from four linemen who are no longer in the league (including cutting Pro Bowl stalwarts Schwartz and Fisher), while Allegretti and Reimers (now with the Jets) managed just three. . From then on the return to backup roles begins. Wiley, who shifted to right tackle, is the lone holdover starter as the Chiefs prepare to take on the vaunted Eagles pass rush in Super Bowl 2023.
“Ultimately, I was brought here to win a Super Bowl,” said left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who is among the prizewinners. “You don’t get many opportunities like this.”
In the first three months after the Super Bowl loss, Veach spent big on Patriots free-agent left guard Joe Thuney (five years, $80 million), trading a late first-round pick for Brown while only getting 27 places had to be abandoned. As part of a larger package and stole center Creed Humphrey and right guard Trey Smith in the second and sixth rounds of the draft, respectively. Mahomes wasn’t going to be on the Colts’ vulnerable Andrew Luck plan.
“These are all high-IQ guys who understand football to another level,” Kelis said.
The immediate problem-solving includes a willingness to inherit some risk, such as Brown wanting to move from right tackle to left tackle and a massive contract extension that has yet to come through. He played in the final year of his junior rookie contract in 2021, on the franchise tag in 2022 and is scheduled to test free agency until re-tagged. Smith, a consensus top-100 prospect, slipped because teams were concerned about a history of blood clots that caused him to miss games in college.
“It’s been pretty easy for us. [to mesh] Just because everybody wants to be the best they can be and everybody wants to play together,” Humphrey said. “It’s been really nice of this coaching staff to trust me.”
Three of the four additions — Brown, Humphrey and Thoney — were named Pro Bowlers in 2022. But the rebuilt line’s biggest test so far will come with extra eyeballs watching because the Eagles have 78 sacks in the regular season plus the playoffs, which are approaching. NFL record (82).
“I think I’m going to see different types of rushers, everybody. I’m going to have my hands full,” Brown said. “The numbers and production speak for themselves. They do a really good job of producing each other.”
While Mahomes is nursing an ankle injury and is set to fumble less than usual in the AFC Championship Game, his safety in the pocket is one of the biggest X-factors in the Super Bowl.
“It’s a unique challenge because of the depth and the number of playmakers the Eagles have,” Humphrey said. “They’re able to rotate guys and still be effective, but you play the game because you want those challenges.”
The Chiefs were ranked the No. 4 offensive line in the NFL by Pro Football Focus, which called Humphrey the “new gold standard” for run-blocking centers.
“Their front five doesn’t get enough credit, but everybody in the locker room gives them all the credit they deserve,” said Jerick McKinnon, another 2021 addition. “Nothing goes without them.”
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