It’s no secret that Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is more of an offensive mind, and this has become more of an offensive franchise under his tenure because of that fact.
Having said that, it’s very important that Reid has an experienced counterpart handling the defensive side and D-coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has been the man that he’s entrusted with that integral role for the past four seasons. Since taking over for Bob Sutton in 2019, Spags has become a polarizing figure within the fanbase.
Some have credited him for doing a lot with fewer resources spent on the defensive side of the ball while others have criticized him for coming up short in big games or taking too many risks and getting burned. After the AFC Championship win over the Cincinnati Bengals, however, former KC starting right tackle Mitchell Schwartz went viral for praising Spagnuolo as a sort of unsung hero versus Cincy.
“Hey Chiefs Kingdom how you feeling about Spags this morning?” Schwartz asked sarcastically. “Don’t see anyone calling for his firing on this beautiful Monday morning.”
The tweet — even if somewhat accusatory — appeared to be well-received by most fans with over 3K likes and counting, as well as over 100K views.
Steve Spagnuolo’s Young Chiefs Defense Stepped Up vs Bengals
When you hold Joe Burrow’s Bengals to just 20 points, and you stop them from scoring multiple times in the fourth quarter with the game on the line with key players missing, you deserve your roses and good on Schwartz for showing Spagnuolo some love.
It’s been an up-and-down year for the Chiefs DC — ranking 16th in points allowed and 11th in yardage — but considering the amount of youth and experience he’s had to rely on, the coaching has been admirable on the defensive side.
Against the Bengals, Spags’ unit really shined its brightest on the biggest stage of the season. Here were some of the numbers they held Cincinnati to:
- 70.2 passer rating for Burrow, two interceptions, one touchdown.
- Five sacks against Burrow for negative 32 yards.
- 71 total rushing yards allowed, and only 41 rush yards for running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine combined.
- No 100-yard performances for wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and/or Tyler Boyd — one touchdown between the three.
Spags was able to accomplish all of that with three rookie cornerbacks after the L’Jarius Sneed injury, a rookie safety in Bryan Cook logging key second-half snaps, a rookie defensive end in George Karlaftis, and a backup linebacker in Darius Harris after Willie Gay Jr. left the game.
Unsung Heroes Lead the Way for Chiefs vs Bengals
Schwartz’s tweet kind of highlights the theme of this playoff victory — unsung heroes stepping up and leading the Chiefs to a win behind a bruised and battered roster. Sure, Patrick Mahomes II was fantastic playing on an injured ankle, but he needed massive contributions from guys like RB Isiah Pacheco or WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling to get the job done.
He also needed his offensive line, which kept him clean for the majority of the game (three sacks for 11 yards lost — most of which were coverage sacks).
Don’t forget Skyy Moore and Harrison Butker on special teams, two players that had rough seasons at their ST positions. Moore’s punt return in the clutch to help set up Butker’s game-winning field goal was something straight out of a movie.
Finally, there were the defensive performances we mentioned before. Trent McDuffie, Jaylen Watson, Joshua Williams, Justin Reid and Cook combined for seven passes defended. Mike Danna had five total tackles and Karlaftis a sack.
Of course, bigger names like Chris Jones and Frank Clark did their part too, but KC’s depth was what outlasted the Bengals at the end of the day. That, and Mahomes, who ESPN’s Louis Riddick praised after the game.
“Chiefs lost 3 WR’s, their best corner, and a starting LB during the game, on top of their QB playing on 1 good ankle, and their TE not knowing the day of the game if he was even going to be able to run, let alone play TE in a playoff game. And he still threw for 326yds and 2TD’s,” he tweeted about Mahomes and the overall adversity that KC overcame.