The Chiefs got big plays from established stars like Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Chris Jones, and Frank Clark on their way to Sunday’s 23-20 win over the Bengals in the AFC Championship Game, but there were some less heralded names playing big roles as well.
After L'Jarius Sneed was injured early in the first quarter, the Chiefs were left with rookies Trent McDuffie, Jaylen Watson, and Joshua Williams at cornerback. Second-round pick Bryan Cook was also frequently in the game at safety as the Chiefs were left with a very young secondary.
Watson had an interception in the first half and Cook deflected a pass that Williams picked off for another turnover in the fourth quarter of what turned out to be an effective day for the Chiefs defense. On Monday, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said he always hoped that the rookies would be able to perform well but that they still had to prove it in a big spot.
“It’s crazy how those things work, but the kids stepped up,” Reid said, via Charles Goldman of USAToday.com. “They didn’t lose their confidence. I was optimistic, but you don’t know how the journey is going to go. Here we sit and they did a good job.”
The Chiefs will hope to get Sneed back from the concussion protocol in time to face the Eagles, but they’ll be able to feel a bit more confident about the other pieces of their defensive puzzle after Sunday’s outing.