Analysis Necessary Roughness

Necessary Roughness: The Chiefs played the Bills very differently in Week 6. Was that on purpose?

Bills fans and the NFL media claim that this is a different Bills team than the one that got slaughtered by the Chiefs in week six. However, they should be worried about how different the Chiefs will look come Sunday.

It was 2nd & 12 deep in Buffalo territory. Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen dropped back to throw a deep pass intended for receiver Cole Beasley when Chiefs safety Dan Sorensen jumped in front of Beasley to pick off the pass. With a little over a minute to play in the game, the Chiefs would take a knee and walk away with a pretty convincing victory on the road against a tough AFC opponent. The Chiefs won that week 6 matchup 26-17. The Bills’ offense struggled to move the ball down the field and the Chiefs were able to gain 466 yards on offense.

The Chiefs gaining that many yards on offense shouldn’t surprise anyone but the way they did it, however, was very surprising. 245 of those yards came from the running game. Clyde Edwards-Helaire led the attack with 26 carries for 161 rushing yards.

Patrick Mahomes had a good game and was very efficient but only had 225 yards through the air. He threw just as many passes, 26, as Edwards-Helaire had in rush attempts. In fact, Mahomes only had fewer attempts in one other game and that was in a 43-16 blowout against the Broncos where Chad Henne finished the game.

This definitely wasn’t a typical Chiefs game. Sure, Travis Kelce had two touchdowns in the game. It was the only time this year where he had multiple touchdowns in a game, but Kelce averages almost 10 targets a game and he only had seven against the Bills. Plus, the second touchdown to Kelce only happened after a rushing touchdown on the previous play by Edwards-Helaire was called back due to a holding penalty.

It was a good game for Kelce, but like Mahomes, his numbers were lower. Tyreek Hill’s numbers were a lot lower. He only had three catches for 20 yards and zero touchdowns. Three catches aren’t much for a number one receiver but that’s all he was targeted. It is the only time he caught 100% of his targets this year but it was also his least number of targets as well. It was also his least number of yards all season.

It’s not like the Bills are this juggernaut team against the pass. They rank 13th in passing yards, which is only one spot ahead of the Chiefs. Opposing teams certainly can throw on them. The Dolphins, who rank 20th in passing offense, were able to throw for more than 300 yards in both meetings against Buffalo. 49er’s backup quarterback Nick Mullens threw for 316 yards against Buffalo back in week 13.

So, why did Kansas City choose to carry the rock instead of unleashing the usual aerial attack that they do to most teams? Maybe, this is all part of the plan and Andy Reid sensed that he might be seeing this team again down the road. He could’ve decided to roll with a vanilla playbook and save the fireworks for the playoffs. Look at the game against the Saints.

The Saints are the fifth-ranked defense against the pass, but Reid had no issue with throwing the ball. Mahomes threw 47 times against New Orleans and that was while playing with a lead for most of the game. He threw 42 times against Baltimore and they are the sixth-ranked pass defense.

You’re probably thinking, “Well, the Chiefs could’ve played Baltimore in the playoffs. Why didn’t they play them conservative?”

This was the third consecutive year that the Chiefs have played the Ravens. They’ve already experienced the full Kansas City arsenal, so there was no reason to hide it from them.

On the other side of this, there are several teams that have a worse run defense than Buffalo, but the Chiefs ran on them more than any other opponent. They ran the ball 46 times as a team which is more than the Chiefs have ever run on a team since Patrick Mahomes became a starter. Last season, the most rushing attempts the Chiefs had in a game was 29. The year before it was 30.

This season, against the Panthers, the Chiefs ran the ball only 11 times. Carolina has the 20th ranked run defense. Statistically, the Panthers have a better pass defense, but the Chiefs still threw 45 times for 361 yards. They abandoned the run and only gained 36 yards on the ground.

This fits right into the narrative about the Chiefs’ later games this season. They were all won by small margins and to the naked eye, it would appear that the Chiefs are struggling to finish off opponents.

Are they though, or are they just not showing their hand until they have to? The game against Buffalo is the same thing. Why let them see everything you can do when you may need to show them in the AFC Championship game?

Obviously, this is just speculation. I don’t know exactly what’s going on behind closed doors at Arrowhead. Maybe Andy Reid just saw that his running game was going to be a big factor in that game, so he changed up the script. I do have a hard time envisioning an AFC Championship game where Tyreek Hill only gets three targets though. Also, if Patrick Mahomes throws for 300 yards and three touchdowns on his way to a second straight Superbowl appearance, I wouldn’t be shocked.

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