the Chiefs’ 38-24 AFC championship win, a performance in which Kansas City’s swarming defense was every bit as clutch as its explosive offense.
So when Clark was asked afterward whether he had a message for Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, whom the Chiefs will face Feb. 7 in the Super Bowl, Clark allowed himself a deep breath while he considered.
“Nah,” he concluded, his shoulders relaxing as he exhaled beneath a fur coat draped atop a Chiefs championship T-shirt. “I don’t got nothing to say to him. I’ll see his ass on Sunday in the Super Bowl.”
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The Chiefs defense, if Sunday’s championship games were any indication, is ready.
No doubt, Brady’s ridiculous 10th Super Bowl berth in 20 seasons is impressive. The latest hat in his conference championship collection is even more impressive as it arrives during his first season with a new team, new coach and new system. Brady began Sunday’s NFC championship performance sharp, and his Bucs never trailed at Green Bay. But he danced dangerously close to forfeiting his lead when he threw an interception on each of three straight second-half possessions.
Such lax ball security could undo the Bucs against the Chiefs.
Kansas City’s defense didn’t hold back against Allen, hits raining down from defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs. In all, Allen took hits 10 hits, four sacks and had seven pass deflections as the Chiefs steadily erased the Bills’ nine-point lead to lead by as many as 23 points in the fourth quarter. Buffalo converted just 5-of-14 third down attempts and scored touchdowns on 2-of-5 trips to the red zone. Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s unit was stingy – and, perhaps fortunately for the Chiefs, he has coordinated a Super Bowl-winning defense against Brady before.
“It’s all about our team, all about our coaches,” Chiefs All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu said when asked why he’s confident the Chiefs can handle Brady. “It’s all about the information you’re able to take in and then take to the field. It’s all about understanding and believing in your coaches, all about believing in their plan and their gameplay. Then from there it’s about us going out there and executing the game plan.
“Sometimes you’re not always in the best position, and sometimes we’ve got to go above the X’s and O’s to make a play.”
That’s a challenge the Chiefs defense has met in two postseason games. The Bills’ only touchdown in the first 56 minutes of game play came off a muffed punt return recovered at the 3-yard line. In their divisional win, Kansas City held the Cleveland Browns to 17 points.
Brady’s line must protect him from defensive-line forces in Clark and two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Chris Jones, while his throwing lanes lay at risk of disruption from Mathieu and his secondary. In their Week 12 head-to-head, Kansas City outlasted the Bucs 27-24 as the Chiefs hit Brady eight times and intercepted him twice. With their defense of the Super Bowl title on the line, the Chiefs will aim to create chaos for Brady a second time. Head coach Andy Reid sees room for improvement.
“Listen, we’ve got room to get better,” Reid said. “We had a couple things that went a little hay-wacky today but we stayed on course and did … more good things than bad things.
“This job is a little bit like being a farmer. The work’s never done.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein