At 4-2, the Kansas City Chiefs are still a game ahead of the second-place Oakland Raiders in the AFC West and in control of their destiny. With plenty of football left to be played, now is a better time to work through the quirks of an NFL season than in December with the playoffs on the line. That said, the Chiefs need to fix their mistakes, and after three weeks of rough play, the two consecutive losses the Chiefs are riding indicates now is the time to send a message.
At the start of the season, the Chiefs were talked about as a walk-in to the AFC Championship, and some even said the Super Bowl. Now, after two home losses, one on Sunday Night Football to a 2-2 Indianapolis Colts team, and the last one to the 3-2 Houston Texans, the Chiefs are not in the same discussions.
Week 7 Thursday Night Football: Opportunity for the Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes has been dealing with a nagging ankle injury, which has impacted his ability to move outside of the pocket. The offensive line has lost a huge piece in Eric Fisher, and the receiving corps has been playing without their top two threats Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins. The offense cannot be expected to perform at the level it’s been hyped up in with those injuries. With a short week, the Chiefs have little time to get right. Fortunately, Watkins is looking more likely to play, and Hill had two touchdowns in his return to action last week. Even with Fisher out, having the top two deep threats back forces defenses to play less aggressive, giving Mahomes more time to pick apart defenses.
Another issue has been the run game, where the Chiefs simply aren’t running the football. When the offense can’t perform, it’s hard to expect a win when the time of possession battle leans so heavily in favor of the Chiefs opponents. We’ll discuss the defense in a moment, but the offense simply needs to hold onto the football longer and not be going for the home run on every single play. The defense needs rest. Otherwise, you’ll continue to have late-game meltdowns because they’re always on the field. It isn’t that LeSean McCoy or either of the Williamses aren’t productive, it’s that they aren’t getting the opportunities. All the pressure is being put on Mahomes, and subsequently his ankle. Normally, Mahomes has shown he can handle that pressure, but that ankle certainly can’t.
Now, let’s talk about that defense. Yikes. I debuted my start to film review making my argument that the defense really isn’t that bad. I still believe that. They held Deshaun Watson back and forced turnovers. That said, they couldn’t get off the field. Chris Jones, arguably the centerpiece of this defense, is injured. Hitchens is out, and Xavier Williams is now on injured reserve. While the Chiefs definitely need to get some new faces in this defense to make it better talent-wise, this is still the same unit that embarrassed Derek Carr in Oakland in Week 2. Bashaud Breeland is looking good, Charvarius Ward is improving, and Juan Thornhill and Tyrann Mathieu are playing good football. That said, the linebackers are struggling against the pass. Darron Lee had a tough game last week, and with Anthony Hitchens “the hit stick” out, the run defense has suffered.
Sure, they inherently have issues. However, they cannot be expected to perform well when they’re on the field for close to 45 minutes a game. That simply isn’t a winning formula. It isn’t with a top-three defense, and it isn’t for a bottom-three defense. Even last year when the offense was literally killing human beings on the football field, the defense still was out on the field too much (the offense would score very quickly, leaving the opposing offense routine opportunities to keep pace) and games were lost because of it. Ball control on the offense’s part would really help. They don’t have to go on nine-minute drives, though I’m sure a gassed cornerback would appreciate it, but they have to control the ball long enough to let the defense catch its breath and make a plan for its next series.
Then there’s special teams. Yikes. Look, special teams coordinator Dave Toub has had a great record as a special teams coach. But at some point, people need to recognize that his unit is really struggling. Penalties on top of penalties are hurting this team. Those aren’t just happening on special teams. However, I don’t think the Chiefs can go a punt without committing a penalty. Remember how we want to help the defense? Putting them in bad field position to start doesn’t do that.
Thursday Night Massacre
The Chiefs have a real opportunity in Denver on Thursday Night Primetime. They’ve had their issues, and not all of them will be fixed, especially on a short week. But with Watkins and Hill back, and Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy agreeing the Chiefs need to run the ball more, what better way to purge the thoughts that the Chiefs aren’t a Super Bowl team than committing a massacre on national television in Denver. This Broncos team is weak. Flacco looks like a bored kid being taken on a shopping trip with their mom that loves shopping. The defense is a shell of its former self. Sure, they have a running back tandem that is a serious concern to the Chiefs defense, and that shouldn’t be overlooked. However, if the offense can get out to a quick and large lead, watch the defense troll Flacco.
A big game for the Chiefs on Thursday Night would change not only fans’, but the national perception about this team. A lot of the issues are injuries, which will heal with time. Some of the issues are a result of young players struggling to catch up to the game. Some issues are one or two big trades away from being fixed. Thursday night can be a moment for the Chiefs to at least show that, when moderately healthy, they can destroy anyone. Remember that 2010 massacre between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins, where Andy Reid hung 59 points on the road on primetime for fun? This can be one of those games. They’ve just got to play to their strengths, control the ball a little more than before, protect Mahomes better, and remind defenses who the MVP is.