Spagnuolo On Playoff Comebacks: "We Have Patrick Mahomes"

The Chiefs defense hung tough against double-digit deficits in the playoffs; having Mahomes at quarterback was a big part of that

Zach Gelb
February 10, 2020 - 8:22 am
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Earlier this month, the Kansas City Chiefs won their first Super Bowl in 50 years. Fifty years.

They did so in historic fashion, overcoming a double-digit deficit in all three of their playoff games.

How does that happen?

“That all begins with the fact that we have Patrick Mahomes at quarterback,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said on The Zach Gelb Show. “I think our defensive guys feed off of that. We know everything’s not going to be perfect. I’ve said this about the game on Sunday: it wasn’t pretty defensively, but it was very gritty. When you get behind a little bit and you know that you have Patrick Mahomes on the other side of the ball, there’s always a chance you can come back, and that’s what we did. I think our guys believed that. We weren’t sure whether it was going to happen, especially in that fourth quarter. But there was always a belief that it could happen if we just kept grinding, finding ways to stop them and get the ball back to our offense we had a chance.”

The Chiefs were sitting on 10 points more than halfway through the fourth quarter. Then they exploded for three touchdowns in just over five minutes. It all started with a 1-yard touchdown catch by Travis Kelce, which capped a 10-play, 83-yard drive.

“The minute it got to 20-17, I think everybody had a feeling we were going to get that done,” Spagnuolo said. “We knew it was just a matter of going out and stopping them at least one more time, get the ball back to Patrick and the offense and see what they can do. That did happen. The assistant coaches on defense were terrific and every adjustment that they made – and the players embracing it and going out and executing it – I’m really proud of that whole crew.”

Even at 2017, the 49ers had a chance to get a score or at least milk the clock. Instead, they went three-and-out, as Jimmy Garoppolo threw back-to-back incompletions on second and third down. Kyle Shanahan was criticized for not sticking with the run in that situation, especially since Spagnuolo was prepared for the pass.

“We just felt that the best thing to do was not give up a big pass play, so we did go with dime personnel,” Spagnuolo said. “It was huge that Chris [Jones] knocked that ball down on 2nd-and-5. That was huge to get them to punt the ball there. At that point, the clock’s running and all you want to do is get the ball back to Patrick Mahomes.”