KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs don’t plan to let Sunday’s loss in Super Bowl LV define them.
While the previous two teams to lose the Super Bowl didn’t reach the playoffs the following season, the Chiefs seem poised to break that streak in 2021, even after their stunning 31-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Chiefs are the early betting favorites to win Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles at 11-2, according to Caesars Sportsbook, and they had won 25 of 27 games entering Super Bowl LV, with a Lombardi Trophy last season.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t have work to do this offseason, and avoiding the hangover experienced by some recent Super Bowl-losing teams could depend on what moves they make and how they respond to missing out on back-to-back rings.
“Obviously, it hurts right now,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “It hurts a lot. But we’re going to continue to get better. We have a young group of guys that had a lot of success and we learned from that, but we’ve had a few failures and we have to learn from that.
“We can’t let this define us. We have to continue to get better going into next year and prepare ourselves to hopefully be in this game again. We knew it wasn’t always going to be successful and we weren’t going to be able to win 1,000 championships in a row. We knew we were going to go through times like this and adversity. I think the best thing about it is the guys we have have the leadership ability to be even better next year.”
The Chiefs have a collection of good, young players, with many signed for the long term. Mahomes won’t turn 26 until September. Tyreek Hill is 26, Chris Jones 26, Tyrann Mathieu 28, L’Jarius Sneed 24, Clyde Edwards-Helaire 21. All except Mathieu are under contract at least through 2022. Mathieu has one more season remaining on his contract.
But that guarantees the Chiefs nothing. The loss to the Bucs is evidence of that.
“It’s a tough thing even to get back to this game,” coach Andy Reid said. “But that’s what this is all about, and it just shows you the heart of these guys and what they’ve done to put ourselves in a position to at least have an opportunity to do this. We’ve got to play better. We’ve got to use it as motivation to help get ourselves back again.”
The Chiefs have a long list of potential unrestricted free agents. The group is headed by wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson, center Austin Reiter, defensive ends Tanoh Kpassagnon and Alex Okafor, cornerback Bashaud Breeland and safety Daniel Sorensen.
All have been productive for the Chiefs, at least at times. But they may have to live without any of them because of a tight salary-cap situation.
The Chiefs have more than $200 million in salary-cap commitments for 2021. The league limit has not been set, but the Chiefs will almost certainly have to trim to get below that amount. General manager Brett Veach recently said the Chiefs would be in good shape if the salary cap is set at $185 million, but it could come in below that number.
“We always have a couple of different road maps to get us where we want to be, and we’ll certainly have some tough decisions to make in regards to trying to keep as many players on this team intact,” Veach said.
The Chiefs haven’t invested much in terms of money or high draft picks in their offensive line since Veach became general manager in 2017. They have drafted just three offensive linemen in that time but only one above the sixth round.
In their absence, the Chiefs’ offensive line was overwhelmed by the Bucs. Mahomes was pressured on 52% of his dropbacks Sunday.
The Bucs blitzed only six times. They instead inflicted most of their damage with just four players.
Mahomes was 8-of-24 for 95 yards and an interception when under pressure. He was 1-of-12 for 4 yards and an interception when flushed from the pocket.