KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Frank Clark likes to say he can speak things into existence, but the Kansas City Chiefs defensive end knew he couldn’t talk himself into a big game in Super Bowl LIV. Opposing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers gets rid of the ball too quickly for that.
So Clark settled for making one of the game’s biggest defensive plays instead. His sack of Garoppolo — the Chiefs’ only sack of the game — on fourth down with less than 90 seconds to play gave the Chiefs the ball back. Two plays later they turned a four-point lead into 11 and sealed their first Super Bowl championship in 50 years.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ other significant offseason acquisition last year, safety Tyrann Mathieu, didn’t have a signature play in the Super Bowl but was in on six tackles. The Chiefs, after spotting the 49ers a 20-10 lead, held San Francisco to 59 yards and no points during four fourth-quarter possessions.
The pair provided the defense with the punch it needed for a much different ending than the season before, when the Chiefs lost in the AFC Championship Game. The New England Patriots scored touchdowns on their final two possessions in that game, the last one in overtime.
Many had a role in the Chiefs’ defensive turnaround this season. Kansas City had a new defensive coaching staff, led by coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, and eight players who weren’t with the 2018 Chiefs had a significant hand in the title run.
But none had an impact quite like Mathieu and Clark.
“We’ve got great leadership on this team,” safety Daniel Sorensen said. “Tyrann Mathieu, Frank Clark, those guys have led us and kept talking to us: ‘Believe in ourselves, trust in ourselves, we’re going to get better, we’re getting better.’ You see that process and we continued to get better and better and better. When it came down to it, the defense was able to make some key stops and get the offense the ball back and let them do what they do.”
The Chiefs finished the regular season seventh in scoring defense and 17th in yards allowed, both significant improvements over the 2018 season, when they finished 24th and 31st, respectively. But the Chiefs had more than statistical improvements in mind. They wanted fourth quarters like the one against the 49ers.
“There were great expectations coming into this season, but we believed that we could be in this position, especially defensively,” Mathieu said. “We knew we weren’t that far off and it was going to come down to us making plays on defense. I’m so proud of our guys on defense and our group, especially our coaching staff.
“I think our mindset was just to finish the game. I think our D-coordinator, Spags, that’s all he preaches, to never relax, to never get comfortable really until the game is over. I felt like that’s what we did.”
The Chiefs paid a premium to sign Mathieu as a free agent. They gave him a three-year contract worth $42 million, which at the time made him the NFL’s highest-paid safety.
“Tyrann Mathieu, that’s the landlord right there. He commands the field and rent was due [in the Super Bowl].”
Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones
But he still proved to be a good value. He was Kansas City’s top defensive playmaker, leading the Chiefs in interceptions with four and in passes defensed with 12. He also assumed immediate command of the locker room and became the team’s defensive leader.
“Tyrann Mathieu, that’s the landlord right there,” defensive lineman Chris Jones said. “He commands the field and rent was due [in the Super Bowl]. Everybody had to pay their rent and we did.
“He held everyone accountable since Day 1.”
In April the Chiefs traded with the Seattle Seahawks for Clark, who played through injuries and got off to a slow start. But he had seven sacks in his final eight regular-season games and then five sacks in three postseason games. He became just the eighth player since sacks became an official stat in 1982 to have five sacks in a single postseason.
If Mathieu was the voice of reason for the Chiefs, Clark was the one of inspiration.
“Never,” Clark said when asked if he doubted the Chiefs’ ability to rally when they were behind the 49ers by 10 points in the fourth quarter. “I don’t doubt [anything], man. We were down 24-0 against the Texans [in the divisional round of the playoffs] and in that game, I said we were going to go hit them in the mouth. And what happened? We end up hitting them in the mouth.
“This game … we were down 10 points and it’s 15 minutes to go and then [49ers players] start celebrating football like they were about to win the Super Bowl. I went out there next drive and said, ‘Y’all’s going home too, like the rest of them.'”
The Chiefs finished their season with nine straight wins. Their defense had a huge role in most of those games, starting with a Week 11 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers. Like the 49ers in the Super Bowl, the Chargers went scoreless on four possessions in the fourth quarter.
“That’s the best feeling in the world as a defense,” Clark said. “You all wonder why I feel so good about this defense? Because look at us. You put us in these crazy situations, and we don’t bend, we don’t break.”
Ex-Broncos DE Derek Wolfe, Ravens agree to 1-year deal, source says
The addition of Wolfe comes one day after the Ravens were unable to finalize a deal with Michael Brockers. There was an issue with Brockers’ injured ankle, and the sides couldn’t agree on a revised deal, a source said.
Baltimore has made it a priority to reshape its defensive front. The Ravens acquired defensive end Calais Campbell from the Jacksonville Jaguars, traded defensive end Chris Wormley to the Pittsburgh Steelers and watched defensive tackle Michael Pierce sign with the Minnesota Vikings in free agency.
Wolfe should help improve the pass rush for the Ravens. Baltimore’s defensive linemen totaled four sacks in 2019, the fewest by any team.
Wolfe finished his eighth season with the Broncos in 2019 and was one of the longest-tenured players on the team’s defense; only cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and linebacker Von Miller have played on the defense longer.
Coach Vic Fangio’s defensive scheme turned out to be perfect for Wolfe as he had one of his best all-around years in 2019 with 34 tackles and a career-best seven sacks. Wolfe has 33 sacks in his career.
Wolfe’s high-motor play has been a key part of the defensive front, and Miller credits Wolfe for many of his sacks “because of what Wolfe does next to me. He’s a beast.”
That intensity has come at a physical price at times, as Wolfe has battled through some injuries throughout his career, including neck surgery. He has played 16 games three times and went to injured reserve this past season after 12 games with a dislocated left elbow.
Wolfe, who turned 30 in February, was a second-round pick by the Broncos in 2012 — the team had traded out of the first round that year — and he immediately started 16 games as a rookie for a team that won the AFC West. He has started every game he played in for the Broncos — 108 in all — and while he hoped to re-sign with the Broncos at season’s end, he added “it’s a business.”
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley and Jeff Legwold contributed to this report.
Bobby Hebert Sr., father of former Saint and Falcon Bobby Hebert Jr., dies from COVID-19
Hebert Jr., a Southern Louisiana native, still works as an analyst for WWL Radio in New Orleans. He and his wife, Jojo, said in a statement that “our hearts are broken” and that Hebert Sr. was “the reason I made it” to the NFL.
Hebert Jr.’s son T-Bob, who played center at LSU, described his grandfather on Twitter as “the wisest, kindest, and most tactful person I have ever known.”
This is my namesake Bobby Hebert Sr
He is the wisest, kindest, and most tactful person I have ever known
He passed this morning and I love him and I will miss him
He loved LSU to his core and instilled that love in me
“Jolie l’lait d’vivre” pic.twitter.com/g484pHIyYz
— T-Bob Hebert (@TBob53) March 28, 2020
Hebert Jr. broke down crying in a recent appearance on WWL while describing his father’s battle with the virus. He described his father as a “fighter” who survived colon cancer, multiple strokes and a birth defect that required open heart surgery.
But, Hebert Jr. said, “You can be tough and the virus can still overwhelm you,” before insisting that people heed the advice of health officials because “it’s an unseen enemy.”
Hebert Jr. also wrote in his statement about the “magic twinkle” in his father’s eye and his lifelong passion for the LSU Tigers.
“I’m kinda numb and shocked,” Hebert Jr. said in the WWL interview. “You get numb and then sometimes you don’t want to accept reality and what you’re dealing with.”
Chiefs re-signing WR DeMarcus Robinson for one year, source says
The Kansas City Chiefs are re-signing wide receiver DeMarcus Robinson to a one-year contract, a source confirmed to ESPN.
Robinson’s production increased each season after cracking the Chiefs’ receiving rotation, going from 21 catches and 212 yards in 2017 to 32 and 449 in 2019. He started 23 games over three seasons, mostly when the Chiefs opened in three- or four-receiver formations.
Robinson, who turns 26 in September, was a fourth-round draft pick in 2016 and played mostly on special teams as a rookie.
His big game with the Chiefs came in Week 2 of last season. With Tyreek Hill out with an injury, Robinson made the most of the opportunity with six catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Raiders.
NFL Network first reported that Robinson was returning to the Chiefs.
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