Chiefs rookies step up in AFC Championship Game win over Bengals
The Kansas City Chiefs’ rookie draft class has been asked to play a big part all season long. They did so again in the AFC Championship Game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
The team finished the regular season with one of the highest rookie playing percentages in the NFL, with several players on offense, defense and special teams contributing snaps along the way. Some of those players remained in starting roles for the AFC title game, while others reinforced the team’s depth.
Those snaps proved to be valuable when players like Joshua Williams, Bryan Cook and Skyy Moore were called upon to step up in the face of injury.
“It was crazy tonight to look up and see 35 (CB Jaylen Watson) has an interception, 23 (CB Joshua Williams) has an interception, 6 (S Bryan Cook) has a tip, 24 (WR Skyy Moore) has the punt return, 10 (RB Isiah Pacheco) – he’s been big all year – and (DE) George (Karlaftis) had a sack,” Chiefs GM Brett Veach told reporters following the game. “The whole crew stepped up and that’s what you need to do to win these types of games. It’s a long season, you have to have tremendous depth. These guys were amazing all year and they’ll continue to get better.”
Chiefs' rookies in the AFC title game:
🏈 Isiah Pacheco: 85 yards from scrimmage
🏈 Jaylen Watson: 2 PBUs, an INT
🏈 Joshua Williams: INT
🏈 Trent McDuffie: 2 PBUs
🏈 George Karlaftis: 1 sack
🏈 Bryan Cook: a PBU that created an INT
🏈 Skyy Moore: a 29-yard punt return
— Matt McMullen (@KCChiefs_Matt) January 30, 2023
The team’s reliance on rookies was all part of a calculated and meticulously executed plan by Veach and the front office staff. That said, none of it would have worked without the trust this front office has in the coaching staff and the rookie players buying in.
“I think so,” Veach said. “Maybe it was a necessity because we had a lot of turnover. Again, every time we approach an offseason, whether it be a free agent signing or draft pick, we have full confidence in our staff’s ability to bring talented players in and our coaches to get the most out of them. I think you saw early on – you guys were at the OTAs and the training camps – I think it was pretty clear early on that this would be a special group. They were certainly part of this whole journey here.”
Veach says the Chiefs got the absolute most out of this group of rookie players, in part through necessity. But it was also clear from the jump that they had the ability to be a special group this organization could build around. Now, they’ll be the core of a Super Bowl-bound team that’s looking to make its mark.
4 takeaways from Chiefs' AFC Championship Game win over Bengals