By now, everyone is familiar with the story of how Kansas City Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen began the 2021 season as the team's second starting safety alongside All-Pro Tyrann Mathieu. The decision by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and head coach Andy Reid confused many, as Juan Thornhill was a younger, more athletic and likely better option at the time. For over a month, Sorensen received hefty snaps before finally being benched in favor of Thornhill heading into the Chiefs' Week 6 game against the Washington Football Team.
Since that point, the Chiefs' defense has made significant improvements. Of course, it's totally unfair to narrow a singular reason down to that aforementioned switch in personnel. Was it a part of the equation? Absolutely. Was Sorensen the only player struggling? Absolutely not. On Sunday against the Denver Broncos, another huge win for the Chiefs, Sorensen played 39 snaps — the most he'd logged since Week 5. He also had an interception return for a touchdown, letting out a great deal of emotion at the end of the play. After the game, Reid explained why he knew his veteran safety would eventually snap out of the funk he was in.
“He’s wired that way," Reid said. "That’s why the guys went crazy for him. They know. They know what he went through. You just knew he’d power through it, and you always hope they come out on the other end. So, we trusted that.”
Reid wasn't the only one who talked about Sorensen in postgame media availability. Mathieu, who has emerged as the heart and soul of the Chiefs' defense over the past few years, is known for his belief in and camaraderie with Sorensen. He's well aware of the harsh criticism that has gone his teammate's way this season, and he reiterated just how much Sorensen believes in the team helping him through a tough time on the field.
"He took a lot of heat, man," Mathieu said. "It was good to see him make big plays like I know, like our team knows. We rely on him to do a lot. In our eyes he is a special player, a very smart player, a player who can do a lot of different things. It is good to see him have a lot of success under the bright lights. Dan is a team player, he is all about team. If you can focus on team you can get through some of the rough patches, which we all go through as players. He is the ultimate professional. Nothing has changed about him. He still does the same thing each and every day as far as routine. He is somebody to really count on.”
While Sorensen isn't a very athletic player, he's smart. While he can't keep up with the game's best, he works well when the play is in front of him. While he doesn't always have the best production on a per-snap basis, his big plays are as important as those of anyone else on the Chiefs. He's a key piece to the team's puzzle, and the trio of Spagnuolo, Reid and Mathieu knows it. Sorensen, despite all of the vitriol and unfair blame that's been thrown his way this season, is only focused on those he spends virtually every day around.
“I’ll be frank, absolutely zero," Sorensen said when asked how much attention he paid to outside noise during his slump. "I didn’t read a single article. I won’t read an article from tonight, either – what people say, good or bad. I don’t get on social media, I don’t read articles. I don’t care, frankly. The only people that I care about are the people in that locker room – coaches and players. We’re a family, we stick together, and we have each other’s backs. Good or bad, I could care less. I’m more focused on the next task."