Kansas City, Mo. — Tyrann Mathieu and former Michigan Wolverine Frank Clark were watching the AFC championship game on television a year ago, their teams knocked out of the playoffs, never thinking for a moment what the following 12 months might bring them.
Or more accurately, where it might bring them.
But after the Chiefs watched their defense fold in overtime against the Patriots, costing them a chance to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in nearly five decades, coach Andy Reid embarked on a massive overhaul of the unit.
He replaced longtime coordinator Bob Sutton with Steve Spagnuolo, jettisoned aging and unproductive players, then asked general manager Brett Veach to bring in some legitimate playmakers to better fit their new scheme.
That’s how Mathieu and Clark wound up in Kansas City.
The Chiefs signed the ball-hawking safety to a $42 million, three-year deal to bring his talent and swagger to the back end of their defense.
A month later, they traded a package of draft picks to the Seahawks for Clark, then signed him to a $105.5 million, five-year contract before the bruising pass rusher had even played a down for them.
Now, the pair not only reside in Kansas City, they’re playing for an AFC championship there.
Clark had three sacks of Deshaun Watson in their comeback win over Houston last week, including one in which he whiffed twice and ran about 40 yards before he finally brought down the Texans quarterback from behind.
“He’s relentless. That one sack kind of tells you the whole story,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “He was running around chasing him, missed him twice, got back up and sacked him. That’s how he is wired.”
Veteran referee Bill Vinovich will head the crew for the Super Bowl in Miami.
Vinovich is in his 15th season as an NFL official. He previously worked the 2015 game between New England and Seattle.
... Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly is retiring from the NFL after eight seasons.
Kuechly was selected to seven Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro five times. However, he suffered three concussions during his career, which may have led to his decision.