Chiefs’ younger secondary reminds Ronnie Lott of 1981 champ 49ers

Ronnie Lott has seen this earlier than. Likewise, Eric Wright and Dwight Hicks.

All had been members of a secondary that included 4 rookies through the San Francisco 49ers’ run to their first Super Bowl title to finish the 1981 season.

So, none query the power of a rookie-rich Kansas City Chiefs secondary that can attempt to neutralize the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium.

“You have to have people that are committed,” stated Lott, a Hall of Fame security who was a rookie cornerback for the Super Bowl champions for the 1981 season. “As a rookie you are committed because you want to make the team, so you already have got the hunger of just wanting to belong.”

Though his group is 4 a long time faraway from the ‘80s, Chiefs coach Andy Reid referenced the 49ers’ Super Bowl-champion secondary to his workers after the Chiefs chosen 5 defensive backs within the 2022 NFL draft.

The Chiefs took cornerback Trent McDuffie within the first spherical, security Bryan Cook within the second, cornerback Joshua Williams within the fourth, and cornerback Jaylen Watson and security Nazeeh Johnson within the seventh.

In the AFC championship recreation in opposition to the Cincinnati Bengals, McDuffie and Watson began, and Williams and Cook additionally performed key roles for a protection that misplaced veteran cornerback L’Jarius Sneed due to a concussion on the fourth play.

Watson intercepted a go, and Williams intercepted a go that was tipped by Cook in a 23-20 victory that put the Chiefs within the Super Bowl for the third time in 4 seasons.

“These guys are very gifted athletes, very talented to start with,” Reid stated this week, including, “These kids have been willing to listen and gain knowledge. … They work hard, they want to be good, and every week they’ve gotten a little bit better.”

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That development resonates with the previous 49ers’ expertise.

Even as a rookie, security Ronnie Lott at all times led the 49ers’ secondary.

(JOHN GAPS III / Associated Press)

Lott was chosen within the first spherical of the 1981 draft, Wright the second, security Carlton Williamson within the third and cornerback Lynn Thomas within the fifth.

Hicks, a third-year professional, supplied management and a veteran presence for a gaggle coached by George Seifert and Ray Rhodes.

“We were taught to be physical, to be a pain in the ass on the receivers and knock the [crap] out of them,” Wright stated. “And when they caught the ball, we wanted to let them know that was going to happen every snap.

“That’s what we were coached to do, and the game plan we had implemented.”

Hicks stated he knew throughout coaching camp that his rookie teammates can be wonderful. His primary job was to verify they had been within the appropriate alignments. The gamers had been so gifted, Hicks stated he advised them they need to negotiate future contracts collectively, not as people.

“They looked at me like I was nuts,” stated Hicks, who had 9 interceptions that season. “In 1984, we all made the Pro Bowl. I knew they were going to be good. I knew they would compete.”

In their 26-21 Super Bowl XVI victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, Hicks and Wright intercepted passes. Wright additionally compelled a fumble. Lott was in on the ultimate cease of a legendary goal-line stand.

On Sunday, the Chiefs will likely be relying on their younger defensive backs to make performs in opposition to Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts and a receiving corps that features A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith.

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Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes stated the potential of the rookie defensive backs was apparent from their first exercises.

“McDuffie seemed like he was a vet the moment he stepped on the football field and so I knew he was going to be a great player,” Mahomes stated. “And then you could see the talent, especially out of Watson, Williams and Cook, those guys were super talented from the day they got there, and you just knew they had to refine the technique. …

“They took coaching well, worked their tails off and now they’re on this stage.”

Dave Merritt, the Chiefs’ defensive backs coach, stated the rookies got here in “so green” however got “simple tools” to construct upon. He in contrast the method to coaching toddlers, and he indicated he doesn’t need his prices to overthink the second.

“All of sudden they’re rookies and they’re here at the Super Bowl — it’s like ‘how did we get here?’ ” Merritt stated, chuckling. “ ’Don’t worry about it. Stay asleep, stay asleep until the end of the game. After the game, we’ll talk about it.’

Chiefs safety Nazeeh Johnson (13) and cornerback Trent McDuffie (21) celebrate their playoff win over the Jaguars.

Chiefs safety Nazeeh Johnson (13) and cornerback Trent McDuffie (21) celebrate their playoff win over the Jaguars. Both were drafted before this season.

(Reed Hoffmann / Associated Press)

“We have them hypnotized, man. So, we’re fooling them. We’re tricking them all. Right now, it’s just been beautiful to see them grow.”

Watson, 24, is within the Super Bowl three years after pondering his future whereas working at a Wendy’s restaurant in Augusta, Ga.

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After enjoying two seasons at Ventura College, Watson’s plan to switch to USC went awry due to tutorial necessities. He spent the autumn of 2019 working alongside his mom and took on-line lessons so he may switch to Washington State.

“It was a great learning experience,” he stated.

When the rookie defensive backs confirmed up for minicamp, Watson stated he knew it was a particular group.

“It was good having four other people that you could communicate with and, if you’re struggling with the playbook, we’re all there struggling together, getting it together,” he stated. “So, it helped out a lot.”

Said Cook: “Everybody was just, ‘How do we do this?’ And leaning on our brothers next to us. It was a phenomenal thing, and it still is.”

In September in opposition to the Chargers, Watson returned an interception 99 yards for a landing. McDuffie got here again from an early season hamstring damage and developed right into a lock-down defender.

“We know we’re rookies,” McDuffie stated. “We know, yeah, we’re new to this. But at the end of the day our confidence and knowing the defense takes over.”

The former 49ers stated the Chiefs rookies might want to settle in and never be overwhelmed by the joy and spectacle of the Super Bowl.

“They’ve got to be patient in this game,” Lott stated. “They’ve got to know that they don’t have to make every play. You can’t miss a tackle. You just got to do all the things you’ve done all year long.”

Watson stated he was assured he and his teammates would rise to the event.

“We feel like this is what we were made for,” he stated. “We knew drafting five rookies, that was historic, and we still want to reach the ultimate goal and that’s here.

“One more game and get the job done.”