After 16 weeks of hard fought football, most of the Kansas City Chiefs starters went on to take week 17 off. Nine different offensive starters took time off per head coach Andy Reid’s decision – no matter, the Denver Broncos had to be beat. The quarterback who would undertake that task was rookie Patrick Mahomes. As the Chiefs marched into Denver, nothing looked familiar, save Kareem Hunt’s one run for 35-yards to take the NFL rushing crown. The depth chart was on full display on Sunday – all of it’s brevity, woes, and adherence to passionate play. The stats were completely non-traditional and unpredictable, reminiscent of pure experimentation and pushing the depth as far as they could go. In the end, Mahomes brought in his first win, and a defeat of the Broncos which should instill tremendous confidence a week away from the playoff matchup against the Tennessee Titans. For all intents and purposes, the Kansas City Chiefs week 17 stats are nominal on the season, but show the intensity the coaching staff has instilled in players one through 53.
Kansas City Chiefs Week 17 Stats and Charts – Data On The Depth Chart
(At this point in the season, it might be a good time to revisit the concept of chaos theory. In week one, the mathematical debauchery was explained as essentially a fractal graph that assigned value to outcomes in a game, defining which team had more momentum or chaos control.)
The Chiefs started out on offense, converse to their plan the past few weeks. They had a plan for Mahomes and Hunt to score, only those plans did not pan out as expected. After Mahomes threw two incomplete passes, he launched a dart to tight end Demetrius Harris, whom turned the pass into a 51-yard completion. Two plays later, Hunt netted his first and only carry in a 35-yard electric dash to the endzone.
The Broncos first drive was duller than an unsharpened pencil. C.J. Anderson ran two highly predictable plays, and Paxton Lynch attempted a very predictable and incomplete pass. However, the next drive the Broncos defense capitalized on Mahomes’ weaker points and intercepted a high pass over the middle. Chaos was centralized, and due to the vastly different Chiefs roster set, anything could happen.
The Broncos limped their via limited, short passes to a 12-play field goal drive to bring the score to 7-3. The mathematical model would stick that way for the next three drives featuring exchanged punts. When the Broncos scored their first touchdown with five-minutes left in the half, things began to get interesting. The drive was largely defunct, less three explosive plays from the Broncos.
Carefully studying the pre-season and training camp revealed an interesting note; Mahomes was exquisite, even magical, when the two-minute drill came into action. He and Albert Wilson connected on several quick passes that turned into explosive plays, and Anthony Sherman finished off the work with a one-yard touchdown. Mahomes’ guidance and forceful focus down the stretch of the drive ought to be noted.
After a four-minute drive, the Chiefs had given the Broncos only a minute in the half to score. Converse to Mahomes, Lynch turned erratic under the two-minute drive. The impact showed when Terrance Smith intercepted a forced pass and took momentum into the second half for the Chiefs.
Mahomes would also show he has the Kansas City Field Goal patterned on his heart as well. The Chiefs first drive of the second half was a nine-minute, 90-yard drive of confusing, poignant, and resilient moments ending in an ironical field goal. The Chiefs had total control of the clock on their side, the defense just needed to epitomize the offensive effort.
Epitomize they did, when linebacker Ramik Wilson returned an 11-yard fumble for a touchdown. Save the math, which was in the Chiefs favor upward of 65 percent, the Chiefs sideline looked alive. Only, that joy was too early had.
With six minutes left, Mahomes would leave the game, and Tyler Bray entered to fumble, and let Zaire Anderson recover the fumble for six. The Broncos were taking momentum back and shockingly knotted the score at 24-24 score. The last Chiefs drive was effectively, the most noteworthy drive of the game.
A sack started off the Chiefs comeback, and swung chaos into the Broncos hands for the first time since kickoff. Yet, between Sherman, Mahomes, and Wilson and Demarcus Robinson at wide receiver, the Chiefs managed a patent field goal for the win. In short, Mahomes had austerely taken a crew of misfits on one week of practice, lead them to taking chaos, then lead them back from a disastrous five minutes in the fourth. His first game may not have mattered for standing, but Mahomes overcame the pure math of the situation, and that counts for something.
Mahomes, Sherman, and Wilson
Nothing about the Chiefs win on Sunday was traditional on the season. The game had an essence of the Chiefs pulling themselves together and scrapping together what they could; which, when playing the depth of the roster, should be no surprise. The three players to take the show and lead the Chiefs to victory were Mahomes, Anthony Sherman, and Albert Wilson.
Mahomes finished 22 for 25 with 284 yards, a singular interception, and two sacks. He also ran seven times for 10 yards. As noted in the takeaways piece, this was the first win by a quarterback the Chiefs drafted since 1987. Mahomes also had to lead a comeback to win – the fourth quarterback in NFL history to do so without throwing a touchdown pass in their first start. (T.J. Yates, Rex Grossman, Joe Flacco).
Fortunately, not throwing a touchdown pass is of little concern. 93 quarterbacks have not thrown a touchdown in their first start, including the likes of Troy Aikman. Yet, Mahomes became only the 13th quarterback to win while doing so.
The running game for the Chiefs was also a misnomer of mystification. Sherman took the onus after Hunt rested once he had the NFL rushing title in hand with a singular run. Akeem Hunt even had four runs for 25 yards, but left the game with an ankle injury. Sherman finished with 14 runs for 40-yards.
If there was any doubt who was the sole starter on the offense, the running game tactics erased that. Mitchell Schwartz started at right tackle, and saw a heavy emphasis in the run game with the Chiefs running left only three times, two of which were sweep plays to the outside. However, there was a semblance of tradition, and adherence to Sherman’s power style, as he saw nine runs for 28-yards through the middle of the line of scrimmage.
Wilson, finishing with 10 receptions for 147 yards, had an anomaly of a game for a Chiefs wide receiver not named Tyreek Hill. The last time a Chiefs receiver, not named Hill, had a 10-reception game was Jeremy Maclin in 2015. Both Hill and Travis Kelce (tight end) had 10 reception games last season. In fact, this was the first time a Chiefs wide receiver, again not named Hill, had a 100-yard receiving game since Maclin’s same 2015 game.
To finish off the notes on Mahomes, he did possess a bit of the classic Alex Smith efficiency on the deep ball. However, put on the tape, and his power did impress; akin to a new pitcher coming out of the bull pen for the first time and highlighting with a 100 mile per hour fastball. Mahomes attempted six deep passes, completing three beautiful strikes.
In the short range, Mahomes was less proficient. Granted, this is where the lowlights are evident. Jehu Chesson caught only one of his three targets and Demarcus Robinson caught only four of his 10 targets. From slight misfires, to drops, both Chesson and Robinson are young receivers who would have benefitted from an efficient, much less a good game. Neither impressed.
Turning the attention to Kareem Hunt’s season overall, he is the ninth running back to gain over 1,000 yards and 50 receptions as a rookie; the first to do so since Matt Forte and Steve Slaton both did in 2008. 139 running backs have hit this margin in NFL history, with Le’Veon Bell, LeSean McCoy, Melvin Gordon, Mark Ingram, and Todd Gurley accomplishing this in 2017. He hit 1,300 rushing yards in only 272 attempts, just behind Jordan Howard (252 attempts) and Adrian Peterson (238 attempts) as rookies.
One of the most confounding aspects of the game the game was Lynch getting sacked five times, yet the Broncos ability to control the clock 30:57 compared to 29:03. Although the Chiefs converted merely four of their 11 third downs, the Broncos converted a similarly mediocre five of their 12 third downs. Everything about this game was a quandary of curiosity, and the defense was no exception.
Despite the Chiefs playing their own bevy of backups, the Broncos were playing their starters on offense – and looked wholly bereft of purpose doing so. The only way they got back into the game was by the Chiefs own mismanaged mistakes.
Lynch, in retrospect, did not perform as bad as the score output might show. He completed 21 of 31 attempts for 254 yards. By some standards, this was Lynch’s best game of his young career, completing a high of 67.74 percent of passes while throwing for 8.19 yards per pass. The killer was five sacks and two interceptions, all of which built upon the toxic stats the Broncos have attributed to themselves over the season.
The Chiefs defense was able to take depth into perspective and build a formidable system. Lynch’s deep passing fell to a two completion on seven attempts. In the first half, the Broncos netted only three passing and one explosive running play. In the second half they allowed two passes and one explosive run plays.
Focusing on singular players who had impressive games, linebacker Ramik Wilson was the foremost. He recovered a fumble for a touchdown, maybe the most important play of the game, while also finishing with seven tackles. Terrance Smith played decent on the outside, and did jump a poorly thrown pass. The other Terrance, Terrance Mitchell, netted the other interception.
Two rookies on the defensive line showed a lot of promise and pressure throughout the afternoon. Tanoh Kpassagnon finished with four tackles and two sacks, supporting what has been a strong special teams season. Ukeme Eligwe is a more complete package of a defensive end who can support on the inside run and bring the pass rush. Eligwe finished with three tackles and one sack.