Although they came into their Super Bowl matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers motivated and prepared, the Kansas City Chiefs certainly didn't show it on Sunday.
Some stats paint the picture of a good game — yards per play and total yards were close, in slight favor of the visiting team — but a closer look shows just how one-sided it was. The Chiefs were called for 11 penalties totaling 120 yards, while the Buccaneers were only flagged four times for 39 yards. Neither team was magnificent offensively, but Tampa Bay capitalized when necessary and played relatively mistake-free football.
It seemed like every time the Chiefs had a chance to get back in the game, and untimely flag impeded their progress. Dropped passes, poor offensive line play and an overall lack of discipline also helped dig their grave against a very good Buccaneers team. Despite that, defensive tackle Chris Jones feels that he and his teammates aren't going anywhere.
"I think we can be back next year," Jones said after the game. "You look at the team we have, we have a lot of young guys. A lot of key pieces, we have them under contract. We missed a few key pieces today that could've helped us out in this game but I think we've got the talent and potential to get back next year."
With a championship-level core of players returning in 2021-22, there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful about and confident in the direction of the Chiefs as a team. Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Tyrann Mathieu, Frank Clark and Jones are all coming back, as well as Andy Reid and his coaching staff. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Offensive lineman Lucas Niang opted out of this season. First-round running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire should become even better next year. Cornerback L'Jarius Sneed has emerged as a very good player with a ton of versatility. Jones' message to them and other youngsters is simple: learn and be even better moving forward.
"Let this be a positive to motivate you for this offseason and going into OTAs and training camp," Jones said. "We can learn a lot from this game. We take it in: You're never as good as you think and you're never as bad as you think. We're a better team than the score. We were off in a few areas, but it'll be okay. We can learn a lot from this."
It's difficult to have this many deep playoff runs in a row, but the Chiefs are well-coached and as talented as any unit in the NFL. If any squad can continue to do it, it's them. With that said, they have plenty of work to do in order to make it back to the Super Bowl. The leaders of the team know that, and that sentiment will echo throughout the rest of the locker room as the offseason begins.