The Chiefs appear to be catching their stride as other AFC contenders have stumbled recently.
Two weeks ago, coming off of a win against the New York Giants where the Chiefs had flashes of excellence on both sides, but was not nearly enough for local and national pundits to manage their emotions and not overreact to a slow stretch of football. Feel free to go read the whole article here, but my wrap up from that game reaction piece is directly below :
While we all would have liked to see a dominant performance last night on both sides of the ball, I believe the improvement we saw on defense is more encouraging than the questions that might arise from the offense’s performance. Like I said, we’re one explosive game away from the offense completely having their swagger back, and for this group confidence is key. We don’t need to worry about past mistakes. They are in the past. Move forward, play our game, and continue to stack wins on top of one another.
A lot of things can happen in two weeks. In the last two weeks the leave in my yard have gone from being extremely manageable to essentially overtaking my entire lawn, driveway – everything. Two weeks ago the Chiefs were coming off of a brutal stretch of schedule, with a new offensive line, trying to figure out who exactly they were offensively. Many of you called for coaches to be fired, for players to be bench, and questioned the validity of a franchise quarterback who has taken us to back to back Super Bowls and is (checks notes) 26 years old. Many of you were more worried about what a couple of our defenders were saying in social media comments than you were about the product that the Chiefs were putting on the field. When tough times arise, the difference in devoted observers and folks new to the party becomes very clear. This is not a hit piece or me attempting to football prosecute some of our readers, but we all know what the narrative was. And what a difference two weeks has made. We now sit here following week 10 with the Chiefs back in a very familiar situation – first place in the AFC West, with an offense that looks like it could carve anyone, a defense that is getting exceptional pressure on opposing quarterbacks and creating turnovers, and 2 games back of Tennessee (who is missing their best player for the remainder of 2021), and a half game back of Buffalo and Baltimore who have recent losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins.
Things are looking up. Things are looking very up. Last night proved numerous things that we have been peddling on this blog for the past month :
- Trust the offensive line
- Establish the run game
- Continue to generate pressure on defense
Let’s start with the game, and we’ll get to what the next few weeks bring.
Wow. First of all, I want to give a personal huge shoutout to Chiefs Kingdom. I was in Vegas over the weekend for my best friend’s bachelor party, and when I say there was a lot of red in that city, I mean there was a LOT of red. That much was obvious if you watched the telecast on NBC, or just listened for that matter, but walking the strip, hanging out for the day in Old Downtown Vegas, anywhere you went the Chiefs fans outnumbered the Raiders fans 2 to 1. I understand locals probably don’t embrace the tourist areas of their city, but the showing was noticeable and the comradery leading up to, during, and after the game was nothing short of what you’d expect to find in Lot F at Arrowhead Stadium. I probably gave out about 1,500 fist bumps last night after the game walking around MGM, New York, NY, and Excalibur. I’m sure the rest of the strip was lit up with red and gold as well. The fans traveled well, and they got a damn show.
Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes is the best football player in the NFL. And, as I said after the win against the Giants, Patrick Mahomes just needs for things to go right in one game to be back. And Patrick Mahomes is back. Carrying over the momentum from the game sealing throw against Green Bay, there was never any doubt about how this game was going to turn out last night from an offensive perspective. The Chiefs came out again with two masterful opening drives, and did not take their foot off of the gas until Chad Henne came in when we had crushed the Raiders to the point where it warranted garbage time. The running game got off to an exceptional start with Darrell Williams and Derrick Gore regularly slashing a Raiders defense that appeared to be moving backwards all night. Mahomes took exactly what the Vegas defense gave him all night – slashing them underneath with dimes to Kelce, Williams, and Hill – then taking advantage of the fact that we drew the defense up with the run game and short passing game and was able to take shots down field as well. The offensive line protected brilliantly, and there was one very noticeable, yet intangible difference in the performance. Mahomes is very clearly gelling with this offensive line. And for good reason. Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith are the two best offensive rookies in the NFL, unfortunately they play the two least sexy offensive positions. Orlando Brown has really come into his own as a left tackle, the only critique I would have of his performance last night would be his hesitancy to the punch, allowing a tipped ball in the third quarter, but the very next snap he punched the Raider defender squarely in the chest and didn’t let that happen again. Joe Thuney I think is a robot, and the right tackle carousel was good enough last night. But Mahomes is not looking at pressure like he was in weeks past, he’s feeling it. Sensing actually may be the better term. He’s not evacuating clean pockets. He has a presence, he’s stepping up, and he’s throwing darts. This version of the KC offense is not a fluke, coming in the Raiders were 11th in the league defensively in takeaways, and were a top 10 pass defending unit. The Chiefs will have another strong test next week, as it appears Dan Quinn has the Dallas defense about as sharp as anyone in the league.
Defensively, the new guys in the front 4 are really starting to jive with the elder statesmen, and Derek Carr felt that in a very real way last night. It’s hilariously predictable that Derek Carr and the Raiders every year will start out with 4-5 wins early, look explosive, Carr will get into the way-too-early-MVP conversations, and then it all falls apart on them. The Raider offense certainly appeared to miss Henry Ruggs, particularly when his supposed replacement decided to for whatever reason run sideways and fumble instead of walking into the endzone, but they could have had Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin on the field last night and it would not have mattered.
Jarran Reed, Derrick Nnadi, Chris Jones, Frank Clark, and Melvin Ingram totaled 11 pressures and 2 sacks last night and made Carr’s life a living hell last night, undoubtedly the biggest impact point of our defensive performance in this game. There are still some situational personnel decisions that I do not understand (Niemann and Sorensen in games on 3rd down, Hitchens and Niemann both having more snaps than Nick Bolton), but all in all I would say this is our best defensive performance of the season. We took the ball away, generated pressure, and tackled in space. Lajarius Sneed is absolutely automatic while blitzing and while in the open field, and is shaping into arguably the best member of our secondary.
Special teams shined again, as I’m pretty confident that Dave Toub just felt like he was forgotten and had to remind us how good his units are. Butker miss aside, Tommy Townsend was electric for the second week in a row, and if it wasn’t for a Mike Hughes bonehead fumble the special teams would get a 10 out of 10 for their performance last night.
Are there scenarios that would be more advantageous for the Chiefs after 10 games in 2021? Well, yeah. It’d be great to have played every game like this and be 10-0 right now. But here we are, in first place in the AFC West, in the thick of the hunt for homefield in the AFC, and suddenly one of the most feared teams in the NFL. Turns out all that talk about the Chiefs demise might have been a little premature. This week’s test against Dallas will be a big one, but getting Clyde back brings another fold of versatility to the offense. The name of the game will be keeping Dallas’ high powered offense off of the field and not turning the ball over. If we continue to do what we’ve done the last two weeks, and the defense is able to continue their momentum, we should go into the bye in an even better spot. The late bye doesn’t seem so bad right now.
We’ll be back tomorrow to take a look at how the weekly picks panned out, and a little offensive line specific breakdown to show some love to the big boys – including a full on review of Creed’s masterful acting job from last night. Big man flop hard. Happy victory Monday, Chiefs Kingdom.
Chiefs Focus @Chiefs Focus Charles Robinson @CRob5769