The Kansas City Chiefs are back on the big stage once again, and looking to become the first repeat Super Bowl champion since the 2003-04 New England Patriots. There was a lot of talk about the lack of explosive plays in Kansas City’s offense and if Patrick Mahomes could win on the road in the playoffs, but here we are again. The Chiefs are in the Super Bowl.
You’re familiar with Kansas City’s stars, such as Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Chris Jones and the emerging Rashee Rice and George Karlaftis. But are there other Chiefs players who could decide what happens on Feb. 11? Below we will break down five under-the-radar players who could make the difference vs. the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII.
Bolton is a cerebral linebacker who predicted the fake punt in the divisional round against the Buffalo Bills, and noticeably called out a screen vs. the Baltimore Ravens. A wrist injury cost him several games in 2023, but Bolton’s 352 tackles since entering the league lead the Chiefs. The 180 combined tackles he recorded last season set a Chiefs franchise record.
Bolton is not only responsible for calling the shots on defense, but patrolling that all-important second level as well. His linebacking unit can’t allow Christian McCaffrey to break loose into the third level, and they have to account for George Kittle and limit his YAC as well. Keep in mind that Bolton had a monster Super Bowl last year, as he recorded nine combined tackles and a fumble recovery he took back for a 36-yard touchdown.
Kansas City’s right tackle will be in charge of containing Nick Bosa. Neutralizing one of the most feared pass rushers in the league is a key to victory, but so is playing disciplined football. Taylor led the league with 20 accepted penalties in 2023. Lining up correctly, not holding and not jumping early is important for every offensive lineman in any game, but especially in the biggest game of the year.
McDuffie was named a First Team All-Pro slot cornerback this season, as he recorded 80 combined tackles, seven passes defended and a whopping five forced fumbles in 16 games played. He had nine QB hits this season, which are the most recorded by any cornerback in any season since the stat was first tracked in 2006, recorded the most pressures among cornerbacks (16) and tied for the most sacks among corners with three. Brock Purdy’s passing game works on timing, and a McDuffie blitz can throw that timing off. McDuffie also has some big assignments in the passing game containing Deebo Samuel and the other 49ers weapons. He could be an X factor in a Chiefs win.
Danna had his best season in 2023 with 50 combined tackles, 6.5 sacks, 13 QB hits and three passes defended. With Charles Omenihu out due to a torn ACL, more pressure is on Danna. I’m not expecting him to be Von Miller, but getting off blocks to stop the run will be important. So is containing Purdy as a runner. Against the Detroit Lions, the second-year signal-caller found success getting outside the pocket, rushing for 48 yards on a career-high 9.6 yards per rush attempt. If Purdy wants to try that against this vaunted Chiefs defense, Danna has to keep contain and make him pay.
Kickers are always overlooked, but they can decide Super Bowls. This season, Butker went 38-for-38 on extra points, and converted on 33 of 35 field goals. This postseason, he’s hit every extra point and every field goal attempt. Last Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles, Butker hit all five extra points and was 1 of 2 on field goal attempts. But he made the important one — a 27-yard game-winner with eight seconds remaining.
In a game where points could come at a premium, it’s Butker who could decide the game — again.