Why Chiefs fans shouldn’t worry after close win over Titans

Nov 6, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) runs the ball as Tennessee Titans defensive end Denico Autry (96) defends during the second half of the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 6, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) runs the ball as Tennessee Titans defensive end Denico Autry (96) defends during the second half of the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite the closer-than-expected victory over the Tennessee Titans, KC Chiefs fans shouldn’t worry about their team down the stretch.

In Week 9, the Kansas City Chiefs squeaked by the Tennessee Titans 20-17 in an overtime thriller. This was not expected to be a close game as the Chiefs were two-touchdown favorites, so an overtime game in which they trailed for much of the game was very disappointing to a lot of fans.

Despite the closer-than-comfortable win, Kansas City fans shouldn’t lose any faith in their favorite team as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The team will be fine down the stretch this regular season and come playoff time.

Here are four reasons why the close nature of the Titans-Chiefs game shouldn’t worry fans.

1. The Titans are built to beat the Chiefs

The NFL is a matchup league and this matchup was the epitome of that. In this sport, some teams are well equipped to beat a certain type of team more than others, for various reasons. The Packers have always struggled with the 49ers. The Browns have gotten the best of the Bengals over the past couple of years, despite the emergence of Joe Burrow. The Steelers always give the Ravens a fight. Finally, the Chiefs never have fun when playing the Tennessee Titans.

Why have the Titans always been a thorn in Kansas City’s side? Part of it is because they are well-coached by Mike Vrabel and his staff. Another part is they have an amazing defense with an elite pass rush that can effectively attack with only three or four defensive linemen, a secondary that is seldom overmatched, and a scheme that can adapt based on the opponent.

The Titans did a great job of limiting Mahomes on deep pass attempts as only 5 of his 68 attempts were 20+ yards down the field (7.4%) and he was 2-of-5 for 31 yards with an 83.8 passer rating on those throws. Another thing that Tennessee did effectively was take away Mahomes’ safety valve in Travis Kelce. Normally, when no wide receivers create separation, he would turn to Kelce, but not on Sunday. That forced Mahomes to hold the ball longer, which in turn caused sacks and lower-percentage throws.

Tennessee also has an elite run game led by Derrick Henry. Steve Spagnuolo has done a great job since arriving in Kansas City, but his defense has relied more on creative blitzes and coverages and has never been a great run defense unit. All of that put together is a bad recipe for the Chiefs.

2. The Chiefs’ defense came alive late in the second quarter

After allowing 196 yards on 16 plays plus 14 points in the first 25 minutes of the game, the Chiefs’ defense clamped down and allowed just 8 yards (yes, 8) on the following 32 plays (minus the kneel to end the first half). They did give up a field goal, but only after a turnover by the offense. That dominant stretch included six 3/4-and-outs over nine drives. The Titans failed to earn a first down on all but one of those drives.

Yes, they were playing a rookie quarterback who has struggled to throw the ball, but they also effectively shut down a running attack that had been killing them to begin the game. Allowing only 8 yards on 32 plays is impressive no matter what NFL offense they are playing. That was an objectively dominant performance.

Remember, their defense in 2021 turned it around in a game against the Titans. In Week 7 of last year, after allowing an embarrassing 27 points in the first half, the Chiefs’ defense shut out Tennessee in the second half and were a much better unit for the remainder of the season. Maybe the same thing happens this season.

3. Patrick Mahomes was great down the stretch

Patrick Mahomes was 43-for-68 for 446 yards, 1 passing touchdown, 1 rushing touchdown, 1 interception, and an 80.9 passer rating. Not a fantastic night but not a disappointing one either.

What this means is that almost nothing was going well for Patrick Mahomes and he still found a way to come through when his team needed him most. If he had played at a similar level to his poor stretch in 2021, the offensive performance last week would have looked eerily similar. Instead, he was patient in the pocket, didn’t force a ton of throws, and was more effective overall.

When the Chiefs were down 17-9 with ten minutes left in regulation, they needed a score of any kind to stay in the game. It was 3rd-and-17 and after nobody came open down the field, Mahomes decided to run for the first down and he converted it by just a couple of yards. On a huge 3rd-and-9 with less than three minutes left in the game, he scrambled for a 14-yard touchdown to bring Kansas City within two points. He would also convert the subsequent two-point conversion to tie the game. After rolling out on a 3rd-and-1 at midfield, he targeted tight end Noah Gray 26 yards down the field and he made a juggling catch to give the Chiefs a huge conversion. When Kansas City went for a 4th-and-1 at the Tennessee 13 in overtime, Mahomes targeted JuJu Smith-Schuster and again converted a critical down.

Patrick Mahomes came through for his team when he was needed most. One sign of a truly great quarterback is that he can make magic happen when things aren’t perfect and there’s little margin for error. It wasn’t his best game of the season, but it was arguably his most important because the Chiefs did absolutely nothing on offense unless he made some magic happen which was enough to pull out a much-needed victory.

If Patrick Mahomes is humming, the Kansas City Chiefs will always have a chance to win, no matter the opponent.

4. Any given Sunday

The Chiefs were favored by multiple touchdowns, but that doesn’t mean much in the NFL. The gap between the worst team in the NFL and the best team is not as much as one would think. The Buffalo Bills in 2021, widely considered to be one of the best teams in football last season, lost 9-6 to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the worst team in football last season, despite being 14.5-point favorites. The 2020 Kansas City Chiefs lost their meaningful regular season games that year to a Las Vegas Raiders team that went on to finish 8-8.

There are 17 games in an NFL regular season; no team has won every such game (yet), and no team has played a pretty game every week. Even the best teams in the NFL every year have a stinker or two, evening winning some of them. Two weeks ago, this same Chiefs team beat one of the best teams in the NFC by three touchdowns on the road. A team can’t win every game by multiple touchdowns; that’s not how the NFL works.

Quite frankly, in family-friendly wording, “stuff” happens in life. There’s little margin for error and one or two plays can flip the script in a majority of games. Whether it’s missing an extra point or taking a holding penalty, bad luck can happen to a team that can turn a win into a loss. It doesn’t affect whether a team is a Super Bowl contender or not.

In the bigger picture, it’s highly unlikely that people pick against the Chiefs in a playoff game “because they almost lost to the Malik-Willis Titans in early November”. That’s not a thing. Just like people didn’t pick the Chiefs to lose Super Bowl LIV due to the fact they lost to Jacoby Brissett and the Colts the October before. This is more than likely a blip on the radar for a team that will be competing to appear in their third Super Bowl in four seasons this January and February.

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