The Kansas City Chiefs got off to a sluggish start on Sunday and it looked like their recent offensive funk might continue. Thankfully, the offense eventually woke up, and the Chiefs defeated the Las Vegas Raiders 31-17. It was the most points that the Chiefs had scored in the past month and their 17 second-half points were not only the most they've scored all season, but they were the only second-half points they had scored in the last month as well.
It isn't a coincidence that those things happened in the same game that the Chiefs finally made getting Rashee Rice the ball a focal point of their offense.
Just one week ago, leading up to their Monday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles, I wrote that it was time for the Chiefs to make Rice a priority on offense. If you didn't see that piece, you can go back and read it—all the justifications still hold up. Unfortunately, they didn't do it in that game and the offense fizzled out and couldn't find consistent production once again. Thankfully, this time around Rice had a career high in targets, receptions, and receiving yards. He also scored his fifth touchdown of the season. The result was 31 points and a win.
I tweeted the following late in the game and I firmly believe it to be true.
Is Rice an elite route runner? No. Does he still have issues with drops? Yes. However, the Chiefs simply don't have better options at wide receiver this season so they need to utilize his talent on a regular basis going forward. He is simply too talented with the ball in his hands for them to not utilize him on a regular basis, especially when the offense is looking for a spark. Their other receivers just don't have the same upside that he has.
Case in point, last week the Chiefs gave Justin Watson 11 targets and he turned that into 5 receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown. In this game vs the Raiders, Rice turned his 10 targets into 8 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. He has proven throughout the season (despite his lack of consistent touches) that he makes things happen when he gets the ball. No other wideout on the roster warrants touches on a consistent basis. In fact, the only other time this entire season that someone not named Travis Kelce received more than 6 targets in a game was when Rice got 7 targets in KC's 41-10 beatdown of the Chicago Bears in Week 3.
Over the rest of the season, the Chiefs have been trying to implement a "spread the ball around" approach with everyone who isn't Travis Kelce getting a few inconsistent touches here and there. Simply put, that plan hasn't worked well. On Sunday against the Raiders, the Chiefs funneled the ball to Rice, Kelce, and Isiah Pacheco and the results were much better. That trio combined for 22 of Patrick Mahomes' 32 targets with the other wide receivers only totaling a combined 7 targets. The results speak for themselves.
It will be tempting for Andy Reid to want to go back to the spread attack when Kadarius Toney (and possibly Mecole Hardman) are back from their current injuries, but he needs to continue to feed Rice going forward. Rice, Kelce, and Pacheco are clearly the three best weapons that K.C. has to work with, and making all three a priority every game is essential for this offense to find consistent production.
Both Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes are taking note of this, too, as can be seen in their post-game comments.
If the Chiefs can continue to make Rice a trusted focal point of the offense (along with Kelce and Pacheco), they have a chance to find some rhythm and consistency on offense. It will also allow guys like Skyy Moore, Justin Watson, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Kadarius Toney to play complimentary roles that fits their skill sets (like in this game against the Raiders).
The combination of Andy Reid's offense, quarterbacked by Patrick Mahomes, and featuring three key weapons in Kelce, Rice, and Pacheco is enough to contend for a Super Bowl if the defense continues to play at a high level. While the defense faltered a little to start the game on Sunday, they rebounded after going down 14-0 and only allowed a field goal the rest of the game.
It may not be fair to put so much of the weight of the offense on a rookie wide receiver, but at this point, I don't see another path to the Chiefs being consistently productive on offense. Is Rice still going to make his fair share of rookie mistakes? Sure and K.C. fans need to be patient when those mistakes happen, but fear of those mistakes shouldn't keep Kansas City from featuring one of the few players on their roster capable of making a real difference from week to week.
Here's to hoping that Andy Reid has Rashee Rice as a central part of the game plan for the remainder of the season and hopefully all the way through another Super Bowl run.