They say it's not about how you start its about how you finish. The Kansas City Chiefs' defense is close to finishing something special and somehow the unit is still not getting the recognition it deserves.
It's easy to see why a team with Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce gets the reputation as an offensive story but the 2023 Chiefs Super Bowl run is a defensive-centric tale. With a strong finish in the Super Bowl, the Chiefs defense should become one for the ages.
The Chiefs' defense has been great all year, which isn't super notable historically speaking. Every year the NFL has a top defense in yards and points allowed, but it's how the Chiefs' defense reached this level that counts.
The Chiefs defense ranked 2nd in points allowed and yards allowed in a season where they faced the 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 7th ranked offenses in the league. They overcame attrition with injuries to linebacker Nick Bolton and safety Bryan Cook, not to mention the six-game suspension of Charles Omenihu to start the season.
Additionally, the Chiefs' defense was constantly relied upon to win games as the offense struggled and turned the ball over at the 7th highest rate in the league.
Despite playing in the modern NFL which is increasingly offensive, the Chiefs' defense allowed fewer points than the 2015 Broncos defense and only allowed 27 more yards than the vaunted Legion of Boom defense of the Seattle Seahawks back in 2012.
The Chiefs' defense has also continued its dominance where it matters most; in the postseason. Historic defenses are typically defined by their postseason performances against the best offenses and quarterbacks. The Chiefs' defense has shined here too. They've faced the 2nd (MIA), 4th (BAL), and 6th (BUF) ranked offense in the playoffs with the 3rd ranked 49ers offense up next. They will have faced 3 of the NFL's top MVP candidates including the likely winner in Lamar Jackson. Add in the fact that they've faced most of these offenses on the road or neutral field and it's even more impressive.
Why doesn't the Chiefs' defense get the praise of some of the other historic defenses? Despite being 2nd in points and yards the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens defenses have been more celebrated for most of the regular season—partly because they don't have the offensive reputation that the Chiefs do and partly because of the players.
The average NFL fan doesn't know who L'Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie are, but they know the names of Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, Roquan Smith, Marlon Humphrey, and Justin Madabuike. The Chiefs' defense lacks star recognition outside of Chris Jones. They've also not been incredibly dynamic with takeaways which makes their performance in points/yards even more impressive.
The Chiefs' defense is based upon an incredible scheme by one of the greatest defensive minds in the game, depth, and game-centric gameplans. While none of that is as flashy or sexy as a team with a cool nickname or numerous all-pros it's helped propel the Chiefs to a Super Bowl in a year where they've underachieved by their standards. However, none of this matters if they go out and give up 30 points to Brock Purdy.
Super Bowls are curious games because they are a stand-alone contest. Oftentimes the two teams don't face each other in the regular season because of conference play, weather is rarely a factor, and the bye week allows for hyper-specific game plans. There have been lots of good defenses that get exploited in Super Bowls because of these factors.
If the Chiefs defense can finish strong and hold down a talented 49ers team, they need to be discussed as one of the best of the decade. They are on the verge of greatness.