By Kierstin Lindkvist
PHOENIX – The Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive line were preparing for all on-field possibilities against the Philadelphia Eagles at Super Bowl LVII, especially dealing with Patrick Mahomes’ ankle injury.
Mahomes was still coming off a high ankle sprain suffered in the divisional round of the playoffs, was not putting full pressure on his back leg and was having a harder time getting out of the pocket. With full rest, a high ankle sprain injury can take weeks to heal, according to the Mayo Clinic, and that’s if the player doesn’t require surgery — Mahomes came back in that game against the Jaguars after getting X-rays.
“He’s one of those types of individuals that doesn’t want to let anyone down,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said before Sunday’s game. “If anything, we have to protect him from himself. He’s not going to allow anything or anyone to keep him from accomplishing the goal that we’ve been striving for all year.”
“Pat is always going to find a way to get across the finish line regardless of what’s going on,” he continued. “We would love to say Pat is 100%, but Pat is Pat. He’s going to go out there and play as hard as he can and do whatever he can to help us to accomplish the goal.”
This game will be won and lost in the trenches with the rest of the Kansas City offensive line needing to step up and protect their QB, giving him ample time in the pocket to throw, according to Bieniemy. Additionally, the Eagles have sacked the quarterback on 11.5% of plays — the highest percentage of any team in the league in decades.
“Everything starts up front, so our line understands that: They’ve got to do a great job of keeping the quarterback clean,” Bieniemy said. “Our route time, we’ve got to make sure that we’re on time, not allowing those guys to disrupt us. We just have to go out and execute.”
“The Eagles have a nice combination of size and speed, and they’re a really smart defense,” Kansas City guard Joe Thuney added. “It’s an 11-man operation on offense, so everyone’s got to be on the same page and take it one play at a time.”
Bienemey said another key is having Travis Kelce create positional flexibility on the field and find ways for Mahomes to get the ball into Kelce’s hands.
Whether it’s filling his usual tight end role or switching up the play in an X receiver in a three-by-one formation, Kelce said he focuses on “the play after the play,” which helps him create positional flexibility and opportunities for Mahomes to pass him the ball.
“We’re pretty locked in on the task at hand,” Kelce said. “They got some dogs up front, and even if they get Pat once or twice, we got to find a way to move the ball downfield and have success.
“That defensive line is arguably the best in the game this year and a big reason why they’re here in the Super Bowl,” he continued. “Everybody that’s in the run game and pass game in terms of having to deal with the front and protecting Pat.”
Kelce said it helps when your quarterback knows how to read the field and scramble.
“His ability to instinctually just go out there: He’s playing a step ahead,” he said. “He’s almost playing chess out there.”
Coach Andy Reid credits the strong relationship between the quarterback and the tight end to create those open spaces — and ultimately what is going to help them score on Sunday night.
“Those two are on the same page and see the defenses the same way,” he said.
The ultimate way the Chiefs will come out on top, according to Bieniemy: stay steady and consistent for 60 consecutive minutes.
“Last time we were in the Super Bowl, we left with a bitter taste,” he said. “It’s been damn near 707 days. We’ve got some guys up front who are up to the challenge. I like our chances.”
Kierstin Lindkvist is a Medill graduate student in the sports media specialization. Follow her on Twitter @KLindkvistNews or Instagram @kelindkvist, and connect with her on LinkedIn.