Can the Kansas City Chiefs defense carry the offense to the top seed?

Dec 5, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones (95) celebrates after a play against the Denver Broncos during the first half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 5, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones (95) celebrates after a play against the Denver Broncos during the first half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /

The Kansas City Chiefs continued their domination of the Denver Broncos on Sunday night with a pretty comfortable 22-9 victory. The game followed what has become a noticeable trend during the Chiefs current five game winning streak. The defense was great and the offense did just enough for the team to get the win.

That’s a strange thing to say about a team that has built it’s reputation off of a high powered offense led by the likes of Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill, but it’s absolutely true.

If you look back over K.C.’s last five wins, only their 41-14 beatdown of the Las Vegas Raiders breaks the pattern of the defense really carrying the team. Just look at the final scores of the other four games.

The Chiefs may have got their season back on track with five straight wins, but this isn’t the team that we’ve come to know during their back to back Super Bowl appearances. This is a team that is relying on its defense to win right now. Period. Including the Raiders win, the Chiefs have averaged just 23 points per game during their five game win streak. If you take the Raiders game out they have averaged just 18.5 points per game in the other four wins. That’s insanely low for the Patrick Mahomes era Chiefs that we have come to know.

The Kansas City Chiefs need their offense to match the defense’s momentum.

Thankfully, the defense is playing lights out. They have allowed just 11.2 points per game over the current five game winning streak. Even if you go back seven games (which includes their loss to the Tennessee Titans) they have still only allowed 13.7 points per game over that span. That isn’t just a couple of good games. Allowing 13.7 points over a seven game stretch is fantastic for any defense. This isn’t a fluke. The pass rush has improved, the cornerback play has improved, the combination of Nick Bolton and a healthy Willie Gay have brought the linebacker group some juice, and Juan Thornhill starting over Daniel Sorensen (who still deserves credit for his pick six) at safety have all led to a dramatic turnaround for this defense.

I this just who the Chiefs are now? Have they become a defensive team? They now find themselves right in the mix for the AFC’s top seed and the coveted bye that comes with it. Can they do it on the back of their defense if the offense doesn’t improve its current production? Time will tell, I guess, but the good news is that the AFC looks to be wide open with every single team in the running riddled with questions of their own.

If you want to put a silver lining on the drop in offensive production, it might be that K.C.’s offensive issues seem to be more self-inflicted than forced on them by opposing defenses. Now, the fact that K.C.’s offense can’t seem to get out of their own way isn’t a good thing, but it would be even more disheartening if the offense seemed to be doing everything they possibly could and opposing defenses were just too good for them. That’s not the case. The biggest issues K.C. has had on offense all season have been things like drops, drops that turn into interceptions, penalties that stall out promising drives, and timid or confusing play calling.

I don’t have the patience to figure out this percentage for myself, but if you looked at how many of K.C.’s drives this season ended after a drop or penalty slowed their momentum and then added in all the drives that ended in a flukey turnover, you would have a percentage of their drives that is much larger than it was the previous three seasons with Mahomes at quarterback. A lot has been made about the two deep safety looks teams are giving K.C., but their own mental mistakes are costing them more than any defensive alignment at this point.

The hope for Chiefs’ fans going forward is that they can maintain their defensive prowess while the offense works out their issues. The bottom line is that the defensive approach seems to be working. After all, the Chiefs averaged 30.8 points per game through their first five games of the season and were just 2-3 because the defense was a dumpster fire. While the offensive production may be frustrating at times, the formula is working.

I don’t think that the Chiefs can win another Super Bowl if the offense doesn’t clean things up a little bit, but I do think they can compete in the AFC with how they are currently playing. Depending on the outcome of the New England Patriots versus Buffalo Bills game on Monday night, the Chiefs could find themselves tied for the conference’s best record coming out of the week and it’s possible that they’ll be the favorite in every game remaining on their schedule.

Steve Spagnuolo and the defense deserve a ton of credit and praise for the turnaround that they’ve made. They’ve got the Chiefs in the driver’s seat in the AFC West again and right back in the mix for the AFC’s top seed. If the offense can just get out of their own way and score a few more points here and there, this becomes a team that nobody wants to face in the postseason. That is an encouraging thought.

Next. Five lessons learned from Chiefs vs. Broncos. dark