Although Josh Allen did carve up the Kansas City Chiefs secondary for most of the divisional-round game against the Buffalo Bills, Steve Spagnuolo’s back-end was without two of its most important players this season.
Cornerback Rashad Fenton was unable to suit up because of a lingering back injury and safety Tyrann Mathieu exited the contest on Buffalo’s opening drive with a concussion. Heading into a matchup with another explosive passing attack in the Cincinnati Bengals, both defensive backs will be crucial names to watch on this week’s injury list.
On January 25, a report surfaced with some encouraging news.
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Insider Provides Update
KC sports radio host Bob Fescoe was the man with the inside information. He tweeted: “Per a source, the Chiefs are expecting Fenton and Mathieu to be able to go on Sunday.”
In the case of the fan-favorite known as the Honey Badger, Fescoe’s update appears to sync up with Mathieu’s recent tweets. On January 25, the defensive team leader wrote: “Thanks for all the prayers and support! I done shook back like only I can. God is faithful.”
A short time after, Mathieu shared a bible verse from the book of Philippians, chapter four, verse six through seven.
The verse reads: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Later at 10:20 a.m. EST, he added one final thought: “I got this!”
Fenton has not been active on Twitter since the Chiefs victory but he’ll be just as integral during the conference title game. The underrated DB has been one of Kansas City’s top-graded players all season.
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Bengals Could Be Trouble Without Them
After what we saw from Juan Thornhill, Daniel Sorensen and Armani Watts versus Buffalo with Mathieu sidelined, it’s clear that the Chiefs could have their work cut out for them if he’s not able to return against Cincy.
No matter which pairing was back there, KC got burned by wide receiver Gabriel Davis time and time again. The second-year pass-catcher looked like Randy Moss out there with 201 receiving yards off eight catches — four of which were touchdowns.
Ironically, they were able to shut down stars like Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders and Dawson Knox but every time Davis went deep, the backup safeties got exposed.
Sorensen actually finished with the highest overall grade of the three on Pro Football Focus (61.9) but each coverage grade was under 60.0.
- Sorensen: 61.9, coverage of 57.6.
- Thornhill: 53.5, coverage of 53.2.
- Watts: 53.5, coverage of 51.1.
According to PFF, the CBs were poor as well despite the lower totals from Diggs and Sanders. Mike Hughes and L’Jarius Sneed were the worst of the bunch with 11 receptions allowed off 12 targets for 136 yards.
Considering this unit will go up against a top-end receiver trio of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd in the AFC championship — plus Joe Mixon and C.J. Uzomah — Spagnuolo must get his secondary in order with or without Mathieu and Fenton.
When the two teams met in Week 17, this group amounted to 446 yards through the air. Of course, Chase led the way with a record-breaking 266 receiving yards and three touchdowns.