The Kansas City Chiefs have secured a spot in the Super Bowl for the fourth time in the last five seasons after defeating Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens 17-10 to claim the AFC Championship in Baltimore’s home stadium.
Traditionally, discussions about the Chiefs have revolved around the offensive prowess of Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and the coaching brilliance of Andy Reid.
However, this year’s Chiefs team, while still statistically strong, has deviated from the well-oiled offensive machine we’ve grown accustomed to witnessing. What sets this Chiefs team apart is their formidable, high-level defense, which should instill fear in the rest of the NFL.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, often referred to as Coach Spags, has played a pivotal role in the team’s defensive success.
In terms of Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), the 2023 Ravens and the 2007 Patriots are considered among the top five greatest NFL teams of all time, having both held their opponents to 17 points. Notably, both of these teams suffered defeat at the hands of the Chiefs.
Kansas City finished the season ranking 2nd in points allowed, trailing only the Ravens. They secured the top spot in second-half points allowed and maintained the distinction of being the sole team to prevent any opponent from reaching the 30-point mark this season.
Under Spagnuolo’s guidance, this is the first time the Chiefs have achieved a top-10 defense by DVOA during the Mahomes era, showcasing a significant improvement in their defensive capabilities.
During the AFC Championship game, Lamar Jackson struggled against Spagnuolo’s blitz-heavy gameplan, in stark contrast to his performance against the Houston Texans the previous week.
The Chiefs effectively neutralized Jackson as a runner, limiting his scramble yards and containing the entire Ravens rushing attack. Spagnuolo’s reputation as a coordinator with a knack for big games has been well-established, dating back to his two Super Bowl victories with the New York Giants.
While Chris Jones stands out as the anchor and star player on the Chiefs’ defense, general manager Brett Veach has successfully replenished the defensive talent pool.
Young talents such as Trent McDuffie, George Karlaftis, L’Jarius Sneed, and Nick Bolton have emerged as key contributors on the defensive front, showcasing the Chiefs’ ability to find high-impact players on rookie contracts.
In summary, this Chiefs team may not be considered their best, but it poses a unique threat during this dynastic run.
Patrick Mahomes might not have the same offensive supporting cast as in previous years, but the addition of a formidable defense capable of shutting down top quarterbacks makes them a formidable contender in the upcoming Super Bowl.