Chiefs’ Drops: Will Kansas City’s League-Leading Drop Rate Haunt Them in Super Bowl 58?

Could dropped passes doom the Kansas City Chiefs in their quest for a repeat? That flaw has proven fatal at points this season and could again on Sunday.

And then there were two. Two great teams that represent the best the NFL has to offer. Thus, when one team struggles to perform a simple task, we’re left wondering if they can win it all. That has been the case all season for the Kansas City Chiefs when it comes to catching the football.

Will it be their undoing as they look to repeat as champions?

Could the Kansas City Chiefs’ Drops Cost Them Super Bowl 58?

“My husband cannot f—ing throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time.”

Gisele Bündchen offered this Grade A analysis following the New England Patriots’ loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. It will live amongst the best quotes around an event that is jam-packed with headline-grabbing sentences annually.

But she wasn’t wrong. As simple as it sounds, catching the football is good for business.

  • 2020: Super Bowl teams dropped 5.67% of passes
  • 2021: Super Bowl teams dropped 5.17% of passes
  • 2022: Super Bowl teams dropped 4.56% of passes

The Super Bowl-winning team’s drop percentage has declined in each of the last three seasons. If you’ve watched the Chiefs for even 10 minutes this season, you’ve likely been able to identify catching the ball as a concerning weakness.

They’ve dropped 5.68% of their targets, and many of them seem to come either at the worst time possible or when a splash play is missed.

Or both. The Chiefs have dropped 6.67% of their deep targets this season, which could prove to be a fatal flaw on Sunday.

Passer Rating vs. 49ers Deep Downfield

  • Postseason: 88.3
  • Regular season: 72.7

The San Francisco 49ers have underachieved based on expectations in their two playoff games. Part of it has been the few chunk plays they’ve given up (eight completions allowed for 191 yards on balls thrown 15+ yards downfield).

Kansas City is likely to test them vertically when they get the opportunity, especially if they are productive on the ground against this 30th-ranked run defense. Will their playmakers be able to cash in?

Drop Rates on Deep Passes This Season

  • Justin Watson: 10.7%
  • Rashee Rice: 10%
  • Marquez Valdes-Scantling: 3.7%
  • Travis Kelce: 0%

And therein lies the problem. Most of you would have assumed that MVS had more than a single deep drop on his 2023 résumé because we all remember it. He had a chance to put the Chiefs ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles on a 51-yard dime from Patrick Mahomes on Monday Night Football but put it on the ground.

It was the magnitude of the drop (well, that and his track record that dates back to his days with the Green Bay Packers) that sticks out.

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This time of year, especially against an opponent as viable as the 49ers, any play can swing the outcome of the game. Any opportunity that isn’t converted has the potential to be an all-time gaffe.

Of course — in a small sample size that is one 60-minute football game — this flaw may not rear its ugly head. After all, Kansas City had a drop rate north of 5% in four of the past five seasons, and we’re one win away from labeling them as a dynasty.

Could drops prevent a Super Bowl repeat? It’s certainly possible, but with San Francisco’s primary weakness residing on the defensive side of the ball, the Chiefs would rather not bank on their receivers having to make a play with the game on the line.

All of that being said — if Taylor Swift offers up a similar sound bit after a heart-breaking Kansas City defeat, the world as we know it might never be the same.

As the 2023 NFL season comes to a close, the 2024 NFL Draft is on the horizon. Pro Football Network has you covered with everything from team draft needs to the Top 100 prospects available. Plus, fire up PFN’s Mock Draft Simulator to put yourself in the general manager’s seat and make all the calls!

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