The Arrowhead Autopsy: Top 10 takeaways from Broncos vs KC Chiefs
By Adam Best
The Arrowhead Autopsy reflects upon the top 10 takeaways from the Kansas City Chiefs’ too-close-for-comfort victory over the Denver Broncos.
1. On a day when veteran wideouts JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling struggled, young bucks Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore picked up the slack. The duo was outrageously effective despite limited snaps. Many of you Addicts will know by now that I am fond of the yards-per-route-run metric to gauge WR efficiency. Toney posted a 4.73 Y/RR and Moore was also impressive at 3.0 Y/RR. For reference, Mike Evans went for over 200 yards Sunday and had 4.93 Y/RR. We all know how potent Joka can be on screens, but what stood out vs. the Broncos was his downfield prowess. The way he went up and snatched the ball on a 38-yard reception showcased that he has the goods to become a complete receiver. On the season, Toney now leads all Kansas City Chiefs WRs in Y/RR at 1.99. He shares that efficiency number with Washington Commanders star Terry McLaurin. Not too shabby.
2. Sunday was far from Chris Jones’ greatest overall performance, but once again he delivered when called upon to save the game. His Derrick Thomas-esque ability to take over in the fourth quarter makes him the most valuable KC defender since DT himself. Jones essentially ended the game with a fantastic lunging run stop, followed by a clutch sack of Russell Wilson on the next down. It’s fair to say that the Red and Gold would have two or three extra Ls in the loss column without his standout play. Stone Cold is a closer. His football IQ should be mentioned here as well. Part of Jones’ late-game dominance is the byproduct of his probing to find an advantageous matchup, then exploiting it during crunch time. Get out your pen, Veach. Pay that man his money.
3. The clock radio. The seaplane. The smartphone. L’Jarius Sneed. Some of humankind’s most significant discoveries can accomplish multiple tasks. No. 38 is no different. In Week 17, he had a savvy interception where he baited Wilson into a bad throw. Sneed is playing like an All-Pro; it simply goes unnoticed by the national media because he shares the field with several superstars. His versatility deserves more praise. Since 1999, Sneed is only the fifth NFL player to have at least 100 tackles, three forced fumbles, three interceptions and three sacks. Actually, Veach, keep your pen out. Can’t let this jack of all trades, master of many get away either.
4. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has formed his own SWAT team. Pretty wild that two Chiefs’ edges, Carlos Dunlap and George Karlaftis, are now tied for the lead league in batted passes. These two Chiefs newcomers are getting their Dikembe Mutombo on and have seven swatted balls apiece. Some of this MUST be coaching. Yes, Dunlap is a skyscraper, and Karlaftis played water polo growing up. But Chris Jones mentioned after the game that the defensive coaching staff instructs the line to get their mitts in passing lanes whenever they can’t win a rep.
5. Get on your knees and pray to whatever deity or force you worship, and humbly ask it to look after star guard Joe Thuney’s health. Thuney was once again putting on a pass-blocking master class – and also had a nice downfield block on an 18-yard Skyy Moore rumble – before aggravating his ankle injury. Hell, take my ankle, Joe. I don’t need it. It’s been severely sprained a few times but will do in a pinch. Thuney is PFF’s fifth-rated pass-blocker on the season, so the Chiefs desperately need him back for the playoffs. Apparently, he left the locker room without crutches or a walking boot, so that’s positive news. Overall, the line performed well, allowing zero sacks on a day when Patrick Mahomes threw 42 times. Every single member of the unit rocked it, including Thuney’s backup, Nick Allegretti.
6. The secondary was super up and down. Safety Justin Reid and corner Trent McDuffie both looked like key parts of the franchise’s future. The highlight from those two new additions was McDuffie’s gorgeous strip-sack of Wilson. The Broncos signal caller, for at least another game anyway, never saw it coming. It’s encouraging that the rook forced a turnover for a defense that desperately needs to create more of ’em. McDuffie looks like a star in the slot, which has allowed Sneed more freedom to move around. That’s the good. The bad? Two other new additions, rookie corners Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams, had rough outings. Especially Williams, who got flagged a few times. Both are inexperienced later-round picks who have flashed more good than bad. So we’ll be patient with their development. Don’t get me started with veteran safety Juan Thornhill, who’s so lost out there he needs Google Maps installed in his helmet.
7. Kicker Harrison Butker and punter/holder Tommy Townsend might need to see a sports therapist together. Yes, this sounds like the plot for a wacky buddy comedy movie, and it’s one I’d pay money to see. The goodie two shoes and his surfer dude sidekick. But for real, get it together, fellas. Kansas City should kick less frequently and trust its No. 1 offense to convert on fourth and reasonably close, but a time will come when the team needs a field goal. That gives me some serious heartburn. Where’s the Butker we could trust to come up clutch? Miss that guy.
8. As a passing-game zealot, I’m here to defend Andy Reid’s decision to pass at an IDGAF rate. Passing is simply more effective than running the ball, especially when the most talented passer alive is slinging the pigskin for you. The Chiefs’ offense is first in DVOA, EPA, points per game, and percentage of drives that result in first downs/field goals/touchdowns. *Maximus from Gladiator voice* Are you not entertained? Seriously, what is with Chiefs Kingdom’s obsession with establishing the run? Let me slap on my tinfoil hat and tell you my pet theory. Chiefs fans spent decades watching star running backs but haven’t seen a franchise QB since Lenny the Cool. Until now. The Kingdom has been conditioned to think Martyball is the way, but it’s a passing league. How many Super Bowls have star running backs Aaron Jones, Alvin Kamara, Austin Ekeler, Christian McCaffery, Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor, Nick Chubb and Saquon Barkley appeared in? Zip. Zilch. Zero. Keep airing it out, Andy. You’re embracing the optimal path and have been ahead of the curve here.
9. Stop. Fielding. Questionable. Punts. If a Chiefs returner thinks there is even a remote possibility that a punt return could get dicey, just fair catch it. You have the greatest offense in the world at your disposal. This isn’t the Broncos or Steelers desperately attempting to manufacture points. It doesn’t matter if Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Co. get the ball at the two or the 25. They can score regardless. Knock off the self-inflicted special-teams wounds. PLEASE. It’s waaaaaaay too late in the season for this nonsense.
10. As mentioned above, I’m generally in the “running backs don’t matter” camp, but the lone exception is electric receiving backs with juice who slice and dice defenses in space. Jerick McKinnon fits the mold, and unlike, say, Run CMC or Kamara, he doesn’t bankrupt the old salary cap. So why would you ever splurge on a first-round back or huge RB signing when dudes like this are sitting out there waiting for work? Mr. Winter – seriously, what gets into McKinnon once cold weather hits? – again was one of the most underrated signings of the year. Just think of him more as a homeless man’s Jamaal Charles than the second coming of Priest Holmes. And, yes, screens and dump-offs are basically a de facto running game and create the same sort of balance. They just don’t feel as gritty as running it up the gut.