The Kansas City Chiefs beat the New England Patriots 23-16 on Sunday and secured their fourth straight division title, but the West is not enough.
The Kansas City Chiefs finally found a way to do what they couldn’t do last season: beat the New England Patriots. It wasn’t always pretty, but they found a way to get the job done on Sunday as they beat the Patriots 23-16 in Foxboro.
The defense continues to look much improved from last season and the Chiefs have now won three games in a row without their offense really firing on all cylinders. This win, paired with an Oakland Raiders loss, gave the Chiefs their fourth straight AFC West title.
However, as the Chiefs celebrated the win after the game, many players dawned “THE WEST IS NOT ENOUGH” shirts and that is exactly the mindset this team should have.
When Clark Hunt addressed the 2019 Kansas City Chiefs for the first time after they reported to camp this summer he was very clear about the expectations for this team. He didn’t say he wanted a winning season. He didn’t tell them they wanted to win the AFC West for a fourth straight time. He said that the team fell just short of their goal last season but this year their goals start with winning the AFC Championship and that anything less than winning the Super Bowl “is not going to be a success”.
I know the Chiefs have had a ton of injuries, including star quarterback Patrick Mahomes (right now I’m just hoping his hand is going to be fine), but that doesn’t change the ultimate goal of this season. It’s still Super Bowl or bust. That doesn’t mean that winning four straight AFC West division titles isn’t fantastic. It absolutely is, but when a team is one penalty away from a Super Bowl the previous year, a division title is just the first stepping stone to a higher goal.
The Chiefs have now beat the two top seeds in the AFC in the Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens. While the Chiefs are currently the three seed, this win at least allows them to maintain hope for a first round bye. With the Chiefs now owning the tie-breaker over the Patriots, K.C. could leap frog them if they win out and the Pats drop one more game (possibly to the 9-4 Buffalo Bills who have a good enough defense to give the struggling New England offense issues).
Regardless of where they end up in the playoff standings, the Chiefs are in and have now beat the other two top teams in the AFC. That is reason enough to believe they have a chance.
The really scary thing for the rest of the AFC is that the Chiefs still aren’t firing on all cylinders. While the defense continues to look much improved over last season, the offense is still incredibly inconsistent. Before anyone jumps into the comments to tell me how good the Patriots defense is, let me be clear that this is about much more than this one game. While the offense and star quarterback Patrick Mahomes continues to show glimpses of their prolific 2018 selves, they simply haven’t been able to produce consistently. If Mahomes does have any lingering hand issues from this game, it could be yet another reason for continued inconsistency.
It’s more than just the injuries. There have been numerous issues with the offense. The run game simply isn’t what it was last season. Damien Williams gave K.C. fans false hope at the end of last season that the loss of Kareem Hunt wouldn’t be a big deal. We’ve seen this season that it is. When you add in lots of drops in the passing game and star tight ends running back behind the first down marker only to fumble, you’ve got yourself some issues.
As inconsistent as the play on the field is, the play calling can be equally up and down. One minute Andy Reid is dialing up Travis Kelce Wildcat option plays for touchdowns and the next he seems to start playing it safe way too soon and helps the opposing team get back in the game. It’s maddening.
The good news is that we know this team is capable of scoring points. With Reid’s play designs, Mahomes’ ability at quarterback, and All-Pro weapons like Tyreek Hill and Kelce, this team will always be dangerous. The offense just has to find a way to not shoot themselves in the foot and this team can absolutely win the AFC. I feel like the defense has proven in recent weeks that they are good enough to win if the Chiefs can score points. This isn’t the same defense that gave up over 30 points six different times last season. The Chiefs don’t have to score 40 points to win anymore, but they do have to score.
When Steve Spagnuolo was hired this past offseason, the general consensus amongst fans was that he just needed to field a defense that wasn’t terrible. I don’t think average was even the expectation. If the Chiefs could go from one of the worst defenses in all the NFL to simply below average, it might be enough for the Chiefs to win it all. Well lucky for the Chiefs, Spagnuolo has done even better than that. The Chiefs are now giving up just 21.6 points per game. That’s down from 26.3 points per game last season which has K.C. ranked about 14th in the NFL in points allowed.
While the Chiefs may not be on pace to lead the league in sacks like they did last season, they have done a nice job of generating pressure. Last season the Chiefs had a hard time getting Tom Brady out of rhythm. On Sunday the Chiefs sacked Brady three times and thanks to Spagnuolo’s blitz packages, they consistently had Brady off balance. It was a noticeable improvement from their meetings last season.
They’ve also been light years better on third down this season (the Patriots converted just 16 percent of their third downs on Sunday). Last year they had a terrible time getting off the field on third down and it cost them multiple games, including the AFC Championship Game. They ended last year ranked 25th in percentage of third downs converted against them at 42%. This season they are now up to 8th in the NFL in that category at just 35% allowed. That’s a huge improvement and yet another reason to believe that this team can absolutely make a Super Bowl run if they can just consistently produce on offense.
It’s great that the Kansas City Chiefs got a big win in Foxboro against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. It’s even better that they’ve clinched their fourth straight AFC West title and are now a lock to go to the playoffs. The bad news is that the Chiefs still aren’t playing consistently enough to be looked at as a favorite to win the Super Bowl like they were when the season started. The good news is, despite their inconsistencies, they’ve still been able to put themselves in a pretty good position to make a run at something bigger, namely a Super Bowl.
That’s good, because for the 2019 Kansas City Chiefs, the West is not enough.