The Chiefs stumbled their way through the first half against the Washington Football Team. The second half brought hope back to the Super Bowl favorites.
The Kansas City Chiefs have had a weird year. In a year that the Chiefs could have started the season 1-4 or 4-1, in Week 6, they found themselves in yet another nail-biter—in the first half.
The Chiefs entered the game in Washington reeling from a brutal loss to the Buffalo Bills. In a game that was perhaps the worst regular season game of Andy Reid’s career in K.C., Buffalo thoroughly annihilated the Chiefs. While Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City offense stalled and consistently hit road blocks, the defense was atrocious and allowed Josh Allen and the Bills to gain 436 yards from scrimmage. After an embarrassing loss at home, the Chiefs knew that they had to make some changes or the season would permanently derail.
As the Chiefs coaches took questions in their weekly press conference before the Washington game, several journalists noted the tension in the room. It was obvious that the pressure was on. Andy Reid and Steve Spagnuolo needed to have a heart-to-heart and a good look in the mirror. To the relief of hundreds of Chiefs fans, there were formidable changes made to both sides of the ball.
Most notable of the changes was that Daniel Sorensen, who was known for being somewhat of an end-of-the-game hero and being clutch when the defense needed a big play, was benched. It had been a long time coming after Sorensen led the team in missed tackles and had been out of position in coverage time and time again. While no one is sure why Sorensen has taken such a massive step back, it was a relief to see Juan Thornhill take 100% of the defensive snaps on Sunday.
While Thornhill was not particularly flashy, he did have a couple of moments of brilliance. On a critical third down, he made a stop against Adam Humphries in the backfield. Additionally, he held up well in coverage and was not beaten down the field the way that Sorensen had been in consecutive weeks.
Another decision made by the Kansas City Chiefs coaching staff was to start Mike Remmers at right tackle instead of Lucas Niang. While there is a narrative that Niang had a minor injury, it could have been that Remmers was simply holding up better in pass protection. While the offensive line had a difficult first half, Mahomes was not touched by many defenders in the second. Remmers had a hand in that second half production that took Mahomes to 397 passing yards as the offense found its feet in the second half.
The Chiefs came out and immediately held the Washington Football team to a three and out. Kansas City had rarely stopped anyone all season so the optimism for the game went through the roof before the offense even took the field. When the offense entered the game, they did what was expected. Mahomes and company marched down the field and scored. After a brilliant catch by Jody Fortson over the top of Landon Collins for 27 yards, Darrel Williams ran into the end zone ultimately resulting in the Chiefs taking the lead, 7-0.
Washington responded with a drive of their own. While they couldn’t complete a deep pass to Dyami Brown in the end zone due to great coverage from Rashad Fenton, they were able to secure three points on a 50-yard field goal from Dustin Hopkins.
The Chiefs responded on a big time play to Mecole Hardman down the sideline. While it seemed as though Kansas City was about to unleash on Washington, all of the energy was completely sucked out of the offense when Tyreek Hill, for the second week in a row, let a pass slip through his fingers and into the hands of a defender. While the Football Team came up empty, the Chiefs marched downfield again this time resulting in a Harrison Butker field goal. Then Washington drove down and added three more to their points column. The Chiefs had a chance to drive the field and score before halftime.
Mahomes made a great scramble on this drive for about 17 yards. It appeared that all was well, until it didn’t look so good. The Chiefs ultimately punted around midfield. It was about this moment when fans began to wonder what was wrong with their beloved Super Bowl contending Chiefs and whether it was about time to call it a season. All of a sudden, Mike Danna forced a fumble and hopes were high again as L’Jarius Sneed came out of the pile with the football. Then, the bottom fell out again.
On an end around to Mecole Hardman, the Chiefs turned the ball over on a fumble. Once again, the life was sucked out of the offense. Taylor Heineke and the Washington Football Team scored more points on blown coverage from Ben Niemann. Tyrann Mathieu went on to go ballistic on the sidelines shouting at his teammates. It appeared as though the season might be in jeopardy. But it only got worse before the half: Patrick Mahomes threw the worst interception of his career just as the team began to march down the field. On an ugly play, Mahomes threw the ball stright up in the air as it floated into a defender’s hands.
The Chiefs entered halftime down 13-10 and looking like they might be done.
Whatever happened at halftime could have changed the trajectory of the entire season as the Chiefs went on to steamroll the Washington Football team. From that point on, the Chiefs defense held Washington scoreless and Mahomes threw two touchdowns and Williams added another on the ground. It was as an instance of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. But the turnaround might have had a seismic impact on the Chiefs season.
I don’t believe it is time to overreact. We were slow to declare the Chiefs defense as an awful mess and we should be slow to say that the Chiefs have fixed all of their woes. Although the second half was about as encouraging as the season has been thus far, the Chiefs have only gone one game this season without turning the ball over and that came in week one against the Browns. Other than that, Kansas City has been awful at taking care of the football as they gave the ball up three times against Washington, four times to Buffalo and Los Angeles, and twice to the Ravens.
On top of that, the Chiefs defense has allowed over 30 points in all but one game and that was this week against the Washington Football Team. The defense, even after this week’s valiant effort, will likely remain at the bottom of the league.
With all of that in mind, it cannot be understated what confidence can do for a football team, especially at the NFL level. When the players start believing that they are capable and can correct their mistakes, they can become a very dangerous team, especially when they have as much talent as the Kansas City Chiefs.
Andy Reid stated in his presser after the game: “We’ll get this thing turned around.” I want to believe that he is correct and I want to believe that the halftime adjustment made against Washington will lead the Chiefs on a deep playoff run that we all expected in the first place. Only time will tell.