It had to be cathartic in many ways for Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling to be the man who secured the catch that punched his team’s ticket to Super Bowl LVIII. Never mind the magnitude of the play in and of itself.
Valdes-Scantling has come under fire over the years for letting on-target passes slip through his fingers. Never was that more the case this season, when Chiefs wide receivers dropped the most passes since, if memory serves, one of those Browns teams that went 1-31 over the course of two seasons. In Week 11’s edition of Monday Night Football, MVS made the ultimate blunder on a would-be game-winning TD throw.
For somebody who signed a three-year, $30 million contract because of his long speed and explosiveness, that’s a ball Valdes-Scantling has to come up with. He knows that. Everyone knows that. It’s unfortunate, and in the heat of the moment, unfortunately some people don’t have the proper perspective and can’t keep their cool. Doing so in the privacy of one’s home or something is one thing. To literally threaten the life of the guy who dropped the ball? That’s beyond crossing the line.
“I was told to kill myself…that they were going to kill me. And I got voice memos about how someone was going to shoot me, or how I lost them all this money and they’re going to come find me. Everything that you could possibly think of, it was said.”
Merrill’s piece also covers Valdes-Scantling’s parents, and while their son seems to somehow take everything in stride with grace, class and humility, you can’t blame them for being more than a little anxious about how some people are. This quote from MVS’ father was particularly effective in capturing the human side of sports that’s so easy to lose sight of, especially nowadays.
“I think people forget that … these guys on this field are somebody’s child out there…that’s running around, doing what they love. They just see him as a commodity. I love the fact that he plays football and he’s doing what he wants to do, but I don’t give a darn about that. I mean, that’s my son.
I would rather be going out to car shows with him, going hunting. I mean, when you’ve got your baby out there, when you’re a man out there and they’re struggling, it sucks. It hurts real bad.”
Valdes-Scantling’s mother was even dialed by multiple dismayed fans in the aftermath of MVS’ infamous drop. One of them told her to “watch her back.” How awful is that?
It’s no secret that NFL players are compensated handsomely for the risk they assume on the field and to deal with all the noise off of it, which has become unavoidable in the age of social media. While I’m certainly guilty of criticizing MVS and how his hands have betrayed him in the past, the more you dig into the guy, the more you can’t help but root for him. Just look at how he handled himself in the face of literal death threats:
I’m grateful, I’ll be better. And I appreciate the criticism and the support. God put this on me because he knew I could handle it. Gratitude for everything that comes with it.
The ESPN feature covers MVS’ journey from high school on and has a lot of good stuff about that as well. Putting aside his early prep level struggles, though, MVS was behind the 8-ball entering the leauge as a relatively obscure fifth-round pick. Then, he dealt with the intense expectations in Green Bay with the legendary Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback. Not the easiest thing in the world.
Thought it was interesting that Marquez Valdes-Scantling credited Mahomes, and not the scheme, for the freedom Chiefs pass catchers enjoy when it comes to route running. His point of comparison is the four years he spent with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, of course. https://t.co/h1ZkQrouyCpic.twitter.com/uV4Qvg0ae9
Rodgers forced his way to the Jets from the Packers, in essence, because he didn’t want to break in a whole batch of inexperienced pass-catchers.
You have to tip your hat to how MVS has overcome adversity at every turn — self-imposed and otherwise. For whatever his faults are as a player, you can’t really find anyone who has a bad word to say about him.
Andy Reid on the re-emergence of Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the postseason:
“I’m proud of him… This year, he had a couple drops in big situations. He didn’t hang his head, didn’t lose confidence, kept battling, and kept working with Pat.”
It’s awesome how Patrick Mahomes didn’t throw any of his receivers under the bus at any point during the season. Would’ve been so easy to. He never took the bait. The Chiefs rode their super-underrated, elite defense to most of their regular-season success, while Mahomes patiently waited for his supporting cast to develop. That’s resulted in Kansas City playing their best ball on offense at the most important time, the emergence of stud rookie receiver Rashee Rice, and it’s led to MVS coming up huge in the clutch, too.
For all the noise generated by Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift, Super Bowl LVIII may very well come down to how the Chiefs’ non-Kelce offensive weapons fare against a San Francisco 49ers defense that has been more vulnerable than the two-point spread in favor of the Niners and the NFL’s cultural memory of this season would have you believe.
are we overvaluing the 49ers defense?
punts forced per drive by defenses since week 10:
41.7% – Chiefs (#8) 29.7% – 49ers (#29)
% of drives allowed to reach goal-to-go by defenses since week 10: