San Francisco Chronicle
New receivers helped Chiefs get to the Super Bowl
The Kansas City Chiefs lost one of the NFL’s most dynamic receivers when Tyreek Hill was traded to the Miami Dolphins.
The loss did nothing to slow them down.
Kansas City revamped its receiving group in the offseason and the new players quickly meshed with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, riding a highscoring wave all the way to the Super Bowl.
“I’m proud of our guys for the job that they’ve done,” Kansas City head coach Andy Reid said Tuesday. “We had a lot of new faces in there.”
Kansas City’s receiving crew was one of its biggest question marks heading into Sunday’s Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Chiefs placed Mecole Hardman on injured reserve Monday after he reinjured his pelvis in the AFC Championship Game against Cincinnati. Kansas City also faced the possibility of not having two others after JuJu Smith-Schuster left the AFC title game with knee inflammation and Kadarius Toney sprained his ankle.
The good news: Both were back at practice this week.
“They look good,” Reid said. “We’ll see how it goes the rest of the week.”
It went well most of the season.
All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce is still Mahomes’ go-to target, catching 100 passes for 1,338 yards and 12 touchdowns.
With Hill in Miami having an All-Pro season, the Chiefs’ new receivers — Hardman was the only returnee — have spread the field in an offense that led the NFL in scoring and total yards.
Smith-Schuster was Kansas City’s big offseason pickup, signing with the Chiefs after five prolific seasons in Pittsburgh. The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder is a strong possession receiver who isn’t afraid of catching passes over the middle. He has 78 catches for 933 yards and three touchdowns.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who spent his first four seasons with Green Bay, has fieldstretching speed and led the NFL in yards per catch two years ago. Toney has given the Chiefs added depth since being traded from the Giants in October, catching 14 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns in seven games.
Rookie Skyy Moore had problems with fumbles as a punt returner early in the season, but has been a versatile addition to the offense. He has filled the role Hill had on jet sweeps and had the key punt return to set up Kansas City’s winning field goal in the AFC Championship Game.
“We lost an all-time great receiver in Tyreek Hill, someone that did a lot of great things for us, but we’ve got a lot of great receivers as well,” Mahomes said. “And coach (Eric) Bieniemy and coach Reid, they went in there and learned what their strengths were, and we maximized that this year.”
It was good enough to get the Chiefs back to the Super Bowl for the third time in four seasons. Chiefs’ injury report: Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed cleared concussion protocol after he was injured against the Bengals, giving Kansas City some needed experience in a young secondary. The third-year cornerback was Kansas City’s second-leading tackler with 108 this season, had 3.5 sacks and three interceptions.
Mahomes also is progressing from a high ankle sprain suffered against Jacksonville in the divisional round, though he still isn’t 100%.
Briefly: Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel has shaken up his coaching staff, including promoting Tim Kelly to offensive coordinator from passing-game coordinator, replacing the fired Todd Downing. Among other moves, the Titans hired the franchise’s first full-time female coaching assistant, adding Lori Locust as defensive quality-control coach from Tampa Bay . ... Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr, who apparently is not in the Raiders’ plans, reportedly will visit New Orleans on Wednesday. Saints head coach Dennis Allen was the Oakland Raiders’ head coach when the club selected Carr in the second round of the 2014 draft out of Fresno State. Allen coached Carr for only four games before he was fired that year.