Fresh off their second consecutive AFC Championship win on Sunday night over the Buffalo Bills, the Kansas City Chiefs are headed back to the Super Bowl on February 7. However, the reigning champs will be down a key starter when they take on the NFC champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in two weeks.
Early Monday morning, NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport confirmed that starting LT Eric Fisher suffered a torn Achilles injury late in the 38-24 victory.
Head coach Andy Reid had hinted at as much during his postgame press conference on Sunday.
“We think so,” Reid admitted when asked if Fisher was expected to have torn the ligament, via ESPN’s Adam Teicher. “They haven’t gotten that far with it, but it doesn’t look good.”
Dr. Matt Provencher, FOX Sports’ athlete injury and performance analyst, also speculated that Fisher would miss Super Bowl LV and likely return to football activities toward the end of training camp later this summer. With a typical recovery timetable of six to seven months, that puts the former No. 1 overall pick on track for a comeback around August.
Reid also noted that defensive backs L’Jarius Sneed and Armani Watts suffered head injuries during Sunday’s win, though he added that “I think those guys will be okay.” Sneed is officially in the NFL’s concussion protocol.
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Patrick Mahomes Commends Battle-Tested Offensive Line
Upon Fisher’s exit on Sunday, ninth-year veteran Mike Remmers swapped from right tackle to left tackle, which kicked Andrew Wylie inside from right tackle to right guard. Stefen Wisniewski, a Super Bowl starter from a year ago who rejoined Kansas City’s practice squad in late November, then slid in at right guard.
The newfound rotation in front of quarterback Patrick Mahomes left only center Austin Reiter as the lone Week 1 starter standing with one game to play this season.
“Those guys have just been battling,” Mahomes said of his offensive line during his postgame press conference. “They’ve been battling, they’ve accepted the challenge. When they play the way they’ve played these last two games we’re a hard team to beat. … We go as they go. As they play with that attitude and that mentality to finish and do their job, you see that our offense does special things.”
While “offensive tackle wins” are not of much relevance in terms of football statistics, over the past two seasons, Kansas City is 27-1 with Fisher in the lineup compared to 4-5 when the eighth-year starter didn’t play, per Chiefs Digest’s Matt Derrick.
Unfortunately, Fisher’s injury comes at an inopportune time, with Buccaneers pass rushers Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul next on the docket. The defensive end duo combined for 5.0 sacks of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Sunday and 17.5 quarterback takedowns during the regular season.
Chiefs Have Already Navigated Loss of 3 Starting Linemen
A humble Super Bowl effort will certainly be required for a Kansas City frontline that now features a pair of seventh-round picks and an undrafted free agent guard playing out of position.
This season, the Chiefs lost starting RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and promising rookie OT Lucas Niang as COVID-19 opt-outs before losing All-Pro LG Kelechi Osemele for the year after tearing tendons in both knees in Week 5. One week later against the Bills, All-Pro RT Mitchell Schwartz — who had started all 134 career games going into Week 6 — was forced out of the game with a back issue which has sidelined him ever since. While the 31-year-old is technically still on injured reserve and eligible to return, that scenario remains unlikely.
Instead, the Chiefs could turn to depth pieces in Martinas Rankin and rookie Yasir Durant in a pinch. The club also hosted former Seattle Seahawks starting center Justin Britt for a visit last week. Alternatively, veteran journeyman Patrick Omameh and Bryan Witzmann are joined by ex-Philadelphia Eagles rookie Prince Tega Wanogho on the practice squad.
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Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!