The Kansas City Chiefs won an incredibly ugly game for the second time in two weeks on Sunday as they held on to beat the Green Bay Packers 13-7. For the second week in a row, it was the defense that had to carry the load because the offense continued its struggles. There weren’t any turnovers this time, but the Chiefs simply couldn’t extend drives, get in a rhythm, or put many points on the board. Thankfully, the Packers struggled just as much on offense and had a miserable day on special teams and that was enough for the Chiefs to escape with a win.
The bad news is that the Chiefs’ offense just doesn’t look right. Patrick Mahomes has been the best quarterback in the universe for the past three seasons, but he just is in a slump right now. He looks uncomfortable, frustrated, and he simply isn’t the fun-loving and play-making star that we’ve become accustomed to. It’s certainly not all on him as guys are dropping passes, including several that led to interceptions in previous weeks. The K.C. passing game that has terrorized the entire NFL for the last several years is now the one thing the team most needs to improve.
The good news is that everything else seems to be aligning for the Chiefs right now. The defense has been much better the past two weeks (with the exception of Daniel Sorensen). The pass rush is improving by the week and the addition of Melvin Ingram already looks like it could be a good one. With the pass rush improving, Willie Gay and Nick Bolton bringing some juice to the linebacking group, and Tyrann Mathieu, Juan Thornhill, L’Jarius Sneed, Charvarius Ward, and Rashad Fenton giving the Chiefs a solid group of defensive backs, there is now some hope for the defense.
The Chiefs offense has to find its rhythm with the AFC so open.
The run game is also showing signs of life over the last couple of games. The Chiefs’ new interior line can actually create holes and generate some push and while their tackles aren’t elite pass blockers they do offer some power in the run game as well. While the combination of Darrel Williams, Derrick Gore, and Jerick McKinnon isn’t elite, they have shown that they can get the job done if Andy Reid will just commit to putting the ball in their hands. So with the defense and rushing attack showing signs of life, the Chiefs just need their passing attack to get back to their elite ways. After all, this team wasn’t built to have an elite defense and running game, just “good enough” to go with an amazing passing game.
The division and the AFC as a whole are still right there for the taking as well. The Las Vegas Raiders blew a great chance to keep their lead in the AFC West by dropping a game to the New York Giants. That means that all four AFC West teams now have 5 wins. The Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers have one less loss, but with so many games to go the division is wide open and the other teams have wasted a slow start from the Chiefs.
Then there is the AFC as a whole. The Buffalo Bills, who many consider the best team in the AFC, dropped a game to the pitiful Jacksonville Jaguars and now sit at just 5-3. That leaves the Baltimore Ravens as the current frontrunners in the conference, but they needed overtime to beat the Minnesota Vikings and were recently blown out at home by the Cincinnati Bengals (who were blown out themselves by the Cleveland Browns on Sunday). The other team still in the mix at the top of the conference is the Tennessee Titans, but the recent injury to Derrick Henry makes them seem like less of a threat in the long run.
Everything is coming together for the Chiefs despite their frustrating start if the offense can just get back on track. I don’t know for sure what the answer is. I know that I still believe in Patrick Mahomes. I still think he has two elite weapons in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. I still think Andy Reid, despite his flaws, is a top ten offensive mind in all of football. They just have to work through this. They have to adjust to how defenses are playing them now. They have to have a smart plan on how to attack defenses when they take away the big plays, and they have to execute.
I believe they need to make teams pay for playing two deep safeties. Punch them in the mouth with the run game. Design more pass plays that involve quick routes to Hill and Kelce. If you pound the ball up the middle and pick them apart over the middle of the field, they will eventually creep those safeties up to help stop it, and THEN the Chiefs can attack them vertically again.
Mahomes can’t force throws that aren’t there. He has to see the field and hit the open easy throws. Kelce and Hill have to catch the ball when it’s there for them to help their quarterback get out of this funk. They can’t press. They can’t try to force their way out of this. They have to be calm and patient and just take what the defense is giving them and execute well. Obviously, they have to not turn the ball over as well. That was better against the Packers, but that has to continue going forward as well.
I’ve been thinking that the offense is going to go off and get back to their old productive ways ever since the game against the Washington Football Team and instead we’ve had three consecutive games with the most frustrating offense of the Patrick Mahomes era. I still think they will get right eventually, but I’ll admit that I’m starting to get more concerned. The third down conversion to ice the game away was a promising sign. It was vintage Mahomes and the type of play that has been lacking during their recent struggles. Will that play prove to be a turning point? I don’t know, but I sure hope so.
The Chiefs have been given a golden opportunity to escape their poor start of the season and next week is a key chance for them to take advantage of that. The Chiefs play at the Raiders on Sunday Night Football and a win would mean that they officially move ahead of the Raiders in the division. Yes, they’ll still have the Chargers to deal with, but a win next Sunday would be huge. While the Raiders struggled against the Giants they have played well enough overall this season that the Chiefs are going to need their offense to be productive to win. Will that happen? Can the Chiefs passing attack get back their mojo in time to salvage this season despite the rough start? I sure hope so, but only time will tell.