By MIKE HERNDON
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and expecting a different result, the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive game plan in Sunday’s Super Bowl was crazy as hell.
Surely, they saw Tampa Bay’s Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul combine to sack Aaron Rodgers five times in a 31-26 win over the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. Presumably, they knew both their starting offensive tackles, Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, would be unavailable for their own Super Bowl matchup with the Bucs.
And yet, the Chiefs left backup tackles Mike Remmers and Andrew Wylie on their own to tangle with Barrett and Pierre-Paul for most of the game. According to NextGen Stats, the Chiefs used five-man protection up front for 92 percent of the game, the third-highest rate in any game in the last four years.
If that stat is accurate, and I have no reason to believe it’s not after watching the Bucs camp out in the Chiefs’ backfield all night in Tampa Bay’s 31-9 victory, then it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Remmers had actually held up pretty well in place of Schwartz at right tackle since November, before sliding to left tackle to replace Fisher. Wylie was moved to right tackle from guard.
But the Chiefs had to know this matchup did not favor them. They had to know that the havoc caused in the Green Bay backfield by Barrett and Pierre-Paul was a key to the Packers’ loss. They had to know the likelihood Remmers and Wylie would fare much better was low.
Now, surely they didn’t want to ask Travis Kelce to spend his time blocking and deprive Patrick Mahomes of one of his top weapons. But he’s not the only tight end on the Chiefs’ roster. They could have run 12 personnel. They could have chipped with their running backs more often. They could have done more to give their tackles some help and their quarterback more time (or any time at all) to throw.
They may have thought that Mahomes would simply be able to find the open man, that his elusiveness and ability to extend plays would make up for any deficiencies up front. It was essentially what they’d done all year. Stick with what got you there, the old adage goes.
But when what got you there isn’t working, sticking with it just becomes bull-headedness, more insanity. Tampa Bay’s secondary played lights out. They took away Tyreek Hill, who had blistered them for 269 yards and three scores the last time these teams had played. They took away the screen game. I’m not sure Mecole Hardman, Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson even played at all.
Ultimately, Kelce was the only consistent weapon Mahomes had, catching 10 balls for the quietest 133 yards you’ve ever seen. But even he couldn’t find the end zone, as the Bucs clamped down in the red zone on each of the Chiefs’ trips inside the 20.
Would the outcome have been any different if the Chiefs had gone to max protect? The way the Bucs’ defense played Sunday, it’s difficult to see anything keeping them from hoisting the Lombardi.
But maybe it would have given Mahomes a fighting chance. Maybe we would’ve at least had a ballgame. Maybe the best offense in the NFL could’ve scored at least one measly touchdown. Maybe I would’ve had a reason not to flip over to old Monty Python episodes midway through the fourth quarter.
Maybe I wouldn’t have been so wrong in writing that the Bucs’ defensive line vs. the Chiefs’ offensive line wouldn’t be the only matchup that mattered in the Super Bowl. Because in the end, it’s the only one that did.
Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Say no more.