The Chiefs filled the egg carton against the Broncos, and are now a force to be reckoned with on defense?
Chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus Charles Robinson @CRob5769
Well…that was something. The Kansas City Chiefs reeled off their fifth consecutive win of the season, and 12th consecutive win against the Denver Broncos last night, routing the Donkeys 22-9 in a game that should have ended up much, much worse on the scoreboard. The Kansas City defense was stifling to say the least, repeatedly frustrating the Broncos particularly in the second quarter when Denver came away with a goose egg after a 20 play drive that ate up over 11 minutes of clock. While the defense looked dominant, the offense again had some struggles. Not taking anything away from Denver here – the Broncos have a very, very good defensive unit – but the Chiefs shot themselves in the foot in some of the (unfortunately) same familiar ways they have all season. Dropped passes, those dropped (or deflected) passes leading to turnovers, and some confusing play calling and scheming. Let’s take a look at the good and bad from both sides of the ball, as well as special teams, and evaluate where the chips fell after Sunday night.
The Chiefs again opened the game with a long, methodical scoring drive against a defense that has been very good in 2021. The opening 12 play, 72 yard drive was nearly perfectly balanced, with 7 pass attempts and 5 rushes, including Patrick Mahomes 10 yard touchdown run to cap the 6 minute and 3 second drive. From there, the play calling got a little wonky to say the least. The Chiefs regularly opened each drive in the first half running the football, gaining at minimum 4 yards per carry outside of the possession immediately following the Broncos 20 play 0-fer drive where we started deep in our own territory. The issue wasn’t how the team started drives, it was how we transitioned from the run game to the passing game. Too many times on Sunday the Chiefs would pound the ball up the middle with Clyde Edwards-Helaire (14 rushes for 54 yards) and Darrell Williams (5 rushes for 20 yards), and then immediately try to pass the ball out of a bunch formation. Tight shotgun formations have done a lot for the Chiefs offensive versatility in the past few years, allowing for a lot of the jet motion running play, touch passes, and tight end motion action we’ve become used to watching Andy Reid put opposing defenses into mental pretzels with. What we haven’t had success with, though, is trying to utilize those formations to find receivers over the middle when the box has been stuffed with 8 defenders to stop the run we previously established. It’s an easy fix – go to the boundaries or utilize the motion to move linebackers out of position – but the Chiefs coaching staff didn’t seem to want to address it last night.
Penalties and drops were again a thorn in the side of this offensive unit last night. In the first 4 drives of last night’s game, the Chiefs had 6 dropped passes, two each by Byron Pringle and Tyreek Hill. One of Hill’s popped into the air (something we’ve seen far too often this year) and resulted in an interception for Patrick Surtain II, stalling out another Chiefs drive. Cris Collinsworth made mention of this on the broadcast, but one thing I had noted in watching these drops was that some of the issue lies in the delivery angle from Mahomes. He’s been going to a sidearm release when he doesn’t need to, but again we can point the cause for this back to the playcalling – don’t put him in a positions where he has to throw around the defensive line and multiple linebackers to gain 8-10 yards and you won’t see this happen. The Chiefs only had 4 offensive penalties last night for a total of 35 yards, but they came at inopportune times. Trey Smith had two more holding penalties, to go along with 2 in the Cowboys game. The Chiefs need to clean up some of the little things like that in order to grow offensively, and I have faith that Andy Heck will get that right with the group. Overall, the pass protection and run blocking looked fantastic last night for this unit. Notice you haven’t heard Orlando Brown’s name a lot the last 5 weeks – that’s a good thing. He is rounding into the franchise left tackle we traded for.
Speaking of trades, has there been a better trade in the NFL this year than the Chiefs dealing for Melvin Ingram at the trade deadline? We talked about this last night on the Chiefs Focus 1st and 10 Show, but the addition to this absolute animal to the defensive line has been a key in turning the defense from a unit that ranked in the bottom 5 in the NFL in yards and point allowed per game in weeks 1-7, to a team that is second in both of those categories in the league in weeks 8-13. Quite the turnaround. He had half a sack to go along with 3 tackles last night, but if you’re looking for big numbers on the stat sheet to blow you away with number 24, you’re not watching him the right way. The strength, leverage, and attitude he plays with are the best we’ve seen in Kansas City since Justin Houston, and his play has allowed Frank Clark and Chris Jones to really unleash have some massive games with Ingram anchoring the other side. Rotation wise, we saw a lot more of Mike Danna (31 snaps), Alex Okafor (34 snaps), and Tershawn Wharton (34 snaps) last night – this is good, because down the stretch we’re going to need depth on the defensive front, and we have leaned heavily on the Clark-Jones-Reed-Nnadi-Ingram combination the last 4 weeks. Seeing very little to no drop off from the 3 mentioned previously is a great sign for the defensive line as we enter the stretch run of 2021.
Some fans seem a little concerned about the amount of snaps Nick Bolton saw last night. Only 22 snaps last night (29% of the defensive snaps overall) for the rookie who lead the Chiefs in tackles before the bye, where Anthony Hitchens and Ben Niemann saw 41 and 29 respectively. I’m going to air on the side of positivity in saying that this was likely because we recognized early on that Teddy Bridgewater (who was having an instant meme-worthy night) was not going to rally the troops and put enough points on us to win and Spags wanted to get the other guys some valuable live-action reps. There is, however, a negative voice whispering in my ear that this could be a regression in personnel decisions by Spags, but it’s not screaming yet. Let’s see how we come out against the Raiders this week, and reserve judgement for trends, not exceptions.
The secondary was again incredible, and to top it off we got a pick 6 for former public enemy number 1 Daniel Sorensen. I have been as vocal as anyone about how poorly Sorensen played early on, but as Calab mentioned on the 1st and 10 show last night, it wasn’t necessarily the player we needed to be angry at, it was the position he was put in. LaJarius Sneed continues to prove he’s a top tier corner in this league, and while Charvarius Ward had a couple questionable plays on the 20 play ghost drive (dropped pick, busted coverage on 4th and 7), he only allowed 2 catches all night on 7 targets and has allowed the lowest completion percentage in the entire league for a corner with a minimum of 40 snaps this season (40%). I guess that’s not too bad.
Only a few observations here :
- I tweeted last night about a déjà vu moment I had after Byron Pringle’s second drop of the AFC Championship against Buffalo last year where Mecole Hardman fumbled a punt, then redeemed himself with a touchdown later in the game. Pringle didn’t score, but he did force a fumble on punt coverage that ended with 3 more points for the Chiefs. Not saying I’m a psychic or anything, but I mean…
- Harrison Butker thrives on high degree of difficulty kicks. The wind in KC last night was insane, and he made 40 and 50 yarders look basic
- Tommy Townsend is an incredible punter and probably the coolest guy on the planet. We’ll never forget Dustin Colquitt, but Tommy has been the best rebound punter we could have possibly asked for.
All in all, good win, but still some things to address. We’ve got the Raiders coming to town this week off of a loss to the Washington Football Team in heartbreaking fashion. A win would put the Chiefs 3 games ahead of Vegas with 4 to play, and barring any epic collapse/resurrection combination of events, we can essentially put the final nail in their AFC West championship hopes if we take care of business. It would certainly be an embarrassing thing for Derek Carr to make his mascara run on national television, but at this point the Chiefs have done it so many times that they’re numb to it. Happy Victory Monday to all, and let’s have a hell of a Raiders Week!