How the 2020 Chiefs playoff run is different than 2019

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KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – JANUARY 12: Tyrann Mathieu #32 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates after a defensive stop against the Houston Texans during the AFC Divisional playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 12, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

After their thrilling 51-31 comeback victory over the Houston Texans, Chiefs fans are left wondering if this year is truly set up to be different than last?

If you’ve talked to any number of Kansas City Chiefs’ fans over the last several weeks, one narrative that may strike you as overwhelming is the instinctual response that this year “feels different.”

Yet if you ask any of them why they feel that way, they may struggle to explain that instinct to you. There are some generic and overarching claims: Patrick Mahomes, the defense, the speed, et cetera.. But push them to get deeper than that and many fans may be left struggling to identify exactly what it is about the 2019 Chiefs and these playoffs that truly feels different from the last 50 years of postseason ineptitude.

As the Chiefs prepare to host their second consecutive AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium this weekend, let’s take a deeper dive in an attempt to identify exactly what makes the 2020 Playoffs different for Kansas City.

The defensive line

It cannot be understated how much importance Brett Veach placed on creating depth along the defensive line over the course of the last two years—and how important that has been for the Kansas City Chiefs this season.

Consider the acquisitions over the last two (off)seasons: Khalen Saunders, Frank Clark, Alex Okafor, Xavier Williams, Derrick Nnadi, Mike Pennel, Emmanuel Ogbah, Terrell Suggs.

That is a ton of capital invested and it has paid off in huge dividends for Kansas City. Even with three season ending injuries to major contributors (Okafor, Ogbah and Breeland Speaks), the defensive line has been very good at generating a pass rush and has consistently improved at run blocking over the second half of the season, culminating in an excellent performance in the divisional round game against Houston in which they limited Carlos Hyde to 44 yards (after allowing 116 yards to him in the Chiefs Week Six loss to the Texans).

The defensive line play has allowed the Chiefs to blitz less, which has kept the safeties back preventing many big plays, and has made the job of the secondary overall easy by consistently playing in the backfield.

If you ask me why this year is different for the long starving Chiefs fans of the Kingdom, it all starts up front with what general manager Brett Veach has built along the defensive line.

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