Super Bowl 58: Joe Thuney's likely absence could prove pivotal against 49ers

2WA6J70 Kansas City Chiefs guard Joe Thuney runs onto the field before an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes have been fixtures of recent Super Bowls, but forgotten is one player who has been an even more consistent participant.

If Kansas City Chiefs guard Joe Thuney plays in Super Bowl 58 — a big question mark due to a pectoral injury — he will overtake Brady for the most Super Bowl snaps over the past eight seasons. It's unlikely he will play at this point, with head coach Andy Reid noting that the chances are slim, but let's dive into what Thuney brings to the table as an All-Pro left guard and a Super Bowl savant.

Thuney won two Lombardi Trophies and lost one Super Bowl across his first three seasons with the New England Patriots. He signed a big-money free-agent deal with the Chiefs in 2021 and returned to the Super Bowl last season. He has played 300 snaps in Super Bowls since the onset of his NFL career, ranking second to only Brady’s 313 over that span. He is also 96 snaps ahead of anyone on the Chiefs, with quarterback Patrick Mahomes being the closest to him.

The NC State alumnus has been among the better guards in the NFL throughout his career despite being just a third-round pick in 2016. He brought his game to a new level in Kansas City, serving as the gold standard in pass protection. Thuney has three of the six best single-season pass-blocking performances of the past three seasons. The highest pass-blocking grade earned by any guard over that stretch was Thuney’s 90.5 in 2021, and the second-best score also belongs to him (88.9 in 2022). Finally, his 2023 pass-blocking grade of 84.5 — which led all guards — is the sixth-highest mark over the past three seasons.

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Nick Allegretti is expected to take the injured Thuney's place in Super Bowl 58, barring an unexpected return. Allegretti gave up four pressures, including a sack, against the Ravens two weeks ago, while Thuney surrendered just two sacks all season. Whereas Thuney has allowed pressure on 3.6% of pass plays over the past two seasons, his backup is at a 6.5% clip — a significant difference.

The San Francisco 49ers have one of the best interior pass-rushing duos in the NFL in Arik Armstead and Javon Hargrave. Armstead ranked sixth among interior defensive linemen in pass-rushing grade during the regular season (85.6), and Hargrave, in his first season with the 49ers, ranked fifth (86.8).

While the storyline of whether Thuney plays on Sunday is flying under the radar, against this pass rush his game status is something that can easily decide who will win Super Bowl 58.


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