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5 questions with Arrowhead Pride: It’s been the best Chiefs defense during the Patrick Mahomes era

Will it be enough?

SPORTS-FBN-GREGORIAN-COLUMN-MI Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Tom Childs of Arrowhead Pride answered five questions for us ahead of Super Bowl LVIII.

1. Here we are again. It’s a rematch of 2019’s Super Bowl and both of these teams have a lot of the same infrastructure still intact, but are of course vastly different as well. What has been the biggest change for Kansas City from SB 54?

The obvious change for the Chiefs is the absence of Tyreek Hill. — which I imagine you guys are very happy about. Do you still have nightmares about Wasp?

But in reality there has been a change in philosophy for the Chiefs. Back in 2019, it was a case of the offense in the leading role, with the defense playing very much a supporting role.

That couldn’t be any further from the truth these days.

The 2023 Chiefs are a defense-led team. Steve Spagunolo, Chris Jones, L’Jarius Sneed are the superstars. For this one season only, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Andy Reid are there to make sure the offense doesn’t get in the defense’s way.

2. A lot has been made about the Chiefs’ lack of explosiveness and overall inconsistency from the receiver room. How has Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City offense found ways, especially in the playoffs, to get the most out of the passing game without relying on the same downfield threats they deployed in the recent past?

The receiver room has been a problem since week 1. The Chiefs’ offense tried force-feeding the ball to Kadarius Toney and Marquez Valdes-scantling (MVS) in the early stages of the season, but the drops were all too frequent.

Andy Reid and Matt Nagy have had to work hard and almost change the system mid-season, which has seen the Chiefs offense rely more on the run game and obviously, Travis Kelce in a bid to keep the chains moving.

The emergence of Rashee Rice has been a pleasant surprise. The rookie seized his opportunity early on and has built up a chemistry with Mahomes, which was very much needed heading into the playoffs.

The cunning use of 2 or 3 tight end sets has also been necessary for the Chiefs to navigate their way through each game. It’s not been high powered but it’s at least masked the receiving issues, which in turn has seen more screens being used. It’s almost like Andy Reid dusted off the Alex Smith playbook and ran with it.

A word of advice, if i may ... don’t count out “Playoff MVS” he came good against the Bills and the Ravens in the playoffs when the Chiefs needed him most.

3. This version of the KC defense is maybe the best in Andy Reid’s tenure, and DC Steve Spagnuolo has developed a system that kept Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson in check during their AFC postseason run. What is it about Spagnuolo’s scheme that makes it so difficult for opposing QBs against the Chiefs?

Without disrespecting some of the Great Chiefs defenses of yesteryear, the 2023 Chiefs are absolutely one of the best defenses we’ve seen from this franchise.

Chiefs’ GM, Brett Veach, has worked wonders with the Draft picks he received from the Tyreek Hill trade, selecting some of the brightest young talent around, all with high football IQ.

Spags has injected youth, speed, and intelligence into his scheme, meaning that each player is utilized in a way that plays to their own individual strengths.

The defense is mostly governed by Chris Jones on the defensive line, L’Jarius Sneed in the secondary, and Nick Bolton calling the shots at linebacker. Normally defenses run on this simple approach where you have one or two “generals” organising the players around them. The Chiefs, however, have a lot more generals providing their own input. Justin Reid, Trent McDuffie, and Willie Gay all contribute to the decision-making. It’s the footballing IQ I mentioned earlier that really benefits this Chiefs defense.

It’s going to be a real test for this Chiefs defense because the 49ers have some serious talent on offense, and this time, it won’t be about getting to the star quarterback.

I don’t want to sound disrespectful here, but it’s safe to say Brock Purdy is not on the same level as Lamar Jackson or Josh Allen, whereby Spags would do everything he could to get to them in the earlier rounds of the playoffs by blitzing heavily.

Purdy has an exceptional supporting cast around him, which means he’s been excellent against the blitz due to the fact he’s been able to get the ball out quickly to the skill players.

I feel like Spags might sit the defense in coverage to suppress Deebo and Aiyuk and load the box for most of the game to try to prevent Kittle and the CMC juggernaut. Spags will want to see if Purdy can take the fight to the Chiefs.

4. What do you believe is the most pressing concern for the Chiefs in preparing for this version of the 49ers?

The biggest concern for the Chiefs will be Christian McCaffrey; the guy is a juggernaut and will no doubt win Offensive Player of the Year. CMC on his own will be tough enough, but throw into the mix the exceptional blocking style of George Kittle, and it means double trouble for the Chiefs’ defense.

I’m confident in the Chiefs’ secondary, and I believe Aiyuk and Deebo will be another scalp in a very large collection of great wide receivers that have been shutdown this season by Sneed and McDuffie.

Shanahan surely won’t abandon the run this time ... right?

5. The 49ers are the “road” favorites, as DraftKing Sportsbook has the line set at San Francisco -2. Obviously, both fan bases are confident, but how do you see the game shaking out and its implications on the betting market?

It’s clear the 49ers have a lot more weapons on offense, and I think that’s what’s tipping the betting in their favor.

Both teams are riding a wave right now, but I also feel there’s more pressure resting on the shoulders of the 49ers, not only to get revenge on the Chiefs for the devastating defeat in Super Bowl 54, but it feels like every other fanbase is putting huge amounts of pressure on the 49ers to end the Chiefs villainous streak.

The Chiefs have become the new evil empire, and this game will be viewed as a battle between good and evil.

I can see Super Bowl 58 being a nerve-wracking year, but I also feel this season has been another destiny year for the Chiefs. I think they’ll edge it in a closely fought contest that will end with a pick-six by Justin Reid.

Many have written the Chiefs off at every stage of the playoffs, but like every villain in every movie ever made, they just keep coming! Hopefully, this time, we get a movie where the bad guys win.