Kansas City Chiefs are undergoing a (winning) identity shift

Much to the chagrin of Chiefs Kingdom, it may be time to accept that the 2023 version of this team wins with complementary football and not with the offensive fireworks they're used to.
Miami Dolphins v Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins v Kansas City Chiefs / Alex Grimm/GettyImages

Following a 21-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs are headed into the bye week with a record 7-2 while positioned as the top seed in the conference with marquee wins over two of the AFC's superpowers. I'm confident most fans would've accepted that had you shown them this script back in August. They're in prime position to again have the AFC postseason tournament on their stick when January rolls around.

That said, you can't help but be concerned about the health of the offense at this point. The struggles returned in Frankfurt on Sunday, as the offense could only manage 14 first-half points. They were then held scoreless for the rest of regulation. The Chiefs compounded the problem by going just 3-for-12 on third downs, committing penalties along the offensive line, and turning the ball over with a two-score lead in the third quarter. Life is good, but the Chiefs did little to assuage the long-term concerns about the trajectory of this team.

Fans have every right to be apprehensive about this team's offensive ceiling, but it's also fair to note that Kansas City is still a work in progress. During the bye week, head coach Andy Reid and company will have an opportunity to self-scout and try to find the right offensive mix. There's still a lot of football left to play, so no one should stick a fork in this offense one week into November.

It may be time to accept that the 2023 version of this Chiefs team wins with complementary football.

However, it might also be time to shift our perceptions about the identity of this Chiefs team. It very well may be that this team wins with complementary football and not the offensive fireworks we've come to expect from them. Think about the golden era of football for the New England Patriots. Some of those teams were offensive juggernauts; others were marked by defensive superiority.

Kansas City came into this Week 9 matchup as the league's No. 2-ranked scoring defense. They punctuated that by only surrendering two touchdowns in Sunday's tilt with the Dolphins. If that brand of defensive football continues, perhaps the Chiefs don't need to be the "Legion of Zoom" of yesteryear.

Last week, I highlighted two key questions the offense needed to answer the remainder of the regular season. One such requirement for that unit is to play clean and take care of the football. They did a better job of that this week, but Mahomes did put the Chiefs in a precarious position being stripped-sacked in the third quarter. The Chiefs were even in the turnover battle. If they can keep that going, they'll be a tough out for any team in the NFL because of this suffocating defense.

The fact this Chiefs team is different from those we're used to might not be the worst thing. Past Chiefs teams relied heavily on offensive perfection to compensate for defensive ineptitude. As the team is presently constructed, that might be an unreasonable expectation. The team's core talent offensively is largely young, inexperienced, and unproven. Having a defense that can keep games close might be the best way to support this offensive bunch. It's my hope that the bye week provides some answers that make life easier in the back half of the regular season, but it may not be fair to expect this team to recapture the offensive magic of the past.

Kansas City could certainly do itself a favor and find more offensive balance. Early in the game on Sunday, the Chiefs ran the football with enough success to stay ahead of the sticks. Managing late-down situations may require them to run the ball when the matchups are favorable. That's another departure from the offense we've come to love from Kansas City, but in fairness, this team is 16-1 when Pacheco has 15 or more carries. He can help this team avoid third-and-long situations and open up the play-action passing game.

You aren't getting an infusion of talent at this stage in the season. All you can hope for are minor modifications to maximize offensive efficiency. That may be all that's required for this football team to repeat as Super Bowl champions. This defense is a bonafide Top 5 unit and they will have a hand in writing the ultimate story of Kansas City's 2023 season.