Before week 12, let’s take a look back at some of the winners and losers from the last game in Vegas. It seems like a lot of Chiefs Kingdom was in panic mode, as last Sunday wasn’t their best performance, but there is always good and bad to take away. I like to deliver the bad news first, so we will start with the losers.
- Chiefs pass rush – Yes, the entire pass rush lands here atop the list. It has been kinda quiet on this front, but the Chiefs pass rush has been pretty quiet for about a month now, specifically outside of Chris Jones and somewhat Frank Clark. Clark looked really explosive this Sunday off the snap. The problem is he’s been only speed rushing the edge and trying to run the arc lately, which he can do, but he is at his best in the past is when he’s using his hands and being physical as more of a power rusher and using the finesse game as a change-up. The literal only pressure that I saw on film this Sunday outside of Jones and Clark was by Wharton, and that’s pretty unacceptable moving forward to where they’re trying to go, and I’m sure they know that. The pass rush needs to take a leap and even work better together as a unit and limiting escape lanes of quarterbacks. I think all eyes will be on them this Sunday.
- Juan Thornhill – This isn’t performance-based at all. Juan Thornhill was limited to only reps out of the Dime package this week. Andy Reid was quoted as saying “he’s a situational guy”. I for one, am still really scratching my head at this. Not too long ago we were talking about Mathieu and Thornhill being one of the best safety duos in the NFL, top 5 at minimum. I don’t think Thornhill has been the exact same player this year as during his rookie season before the torn ACL per se, which is expected unless you’re 2012 Adrian Peterson, but he’s certainly still our best option as a single high safety and a versatile guy in coverage, allowing Mathieu to fly around and make plays. This is definitely something to watch moving forward as well. Thornhill’s replacement, Dan Sorensen, really struggled last week outside of a YOLO ball by Derek Carr, who had 28 seconds left and 1 timeout and essentially gave up, but I digress. If it is matchup based, seeing the Bucs this week and their weapons in the passing game, I’d assume he would be back to getting a lot of snaps, if Sorensen is still carrying the load, he’s probably in the doghouse for some unknown reason.
- Byron Pringle – Byron Pringle was placed on IR with an ankle injury. A guy who has truly taken advantage of every opportunity he has gotten when he sees the field. Phenomenal Special Teams guy as a gunner and kick returner, but also a guy who I personally thought was deserving of an opportunity as the WR3 in the offense moving forward when Watkins returns from his injury. Runs good routes, elite speed, reliable hands and plays very physically whether it’s after the catch or in the run game, let’s hope he’ll be able to return to form with time.
- Tyrann Mathieu – Let me be clear, I don’t think Badger played a horrible game, but I do think all things considered, it was one of, if not his least good game as a Chief. First, if Thornhill isn’t starting, his role is going to be altered and he wasn’t getting many Nickel reps this past week, which is where he was an All-pro last year and in the discussion for defensive player of the year. Obviously, Mathieu can play deep in coverage but I definitely think he is the most comfortable closer towards the line of scrimmage and being allowed to fly around. He even tweeted on draft night “Pick a safety and really let me roam.” Second, he missed tackles and was not playing as physically as he normally does and little things such as having bad eyes on the receivers out of breaks and allowing separation for catches. I fully expect this to get fixed and be an isolated performance and for Mathieu, the leader of this unit, to get back to playing elite level ball.
- L’Jarius Sneed – In Sneed’s first game back from his collarbone injury in week 3, he’s already been slotted back in at the Nickel position. Sneed, in limited reps, has already proven to have the most ball skills at our cornerback position and definitely the most speed. His versatility allows him to play a lot of different positions in the secondary and he’s also a pretty good tackler. I’m interested to see if he stays at the nickel or if he is just getting eased back in and makes his way back to being an outside corner, either way his presence is needed in our secondary.
- Travis Kelce – 8 catches, 127 yards, and 1 TD. It should come as no surprise, consistent as ever, the best TE in the NFL continues to show out. Very well on his way to a fifth straight 1,000-yard seasons, which will extend his current record. Kelce continues to put up numbers in bunches and is Mahomes favorite target. Route running, toe-drag sideline catches, holding onto blocks to seal the edge, getting open during the scramble drill, scoring go-ahead touchdowns, and even looking good throwing a shovel pass (that should have been a TD). The man can do it all and could possibly be in the running for Offensive Player of the Year if he keeps it up this season.
- Tyreek Hill – 11 catches, 102 yards, and 1 TD. Hill growing as a WR constantly since his first day as a Chief is a pretty cool progression. No longer just a deep threat, but can really run the whole route tree and can give you problems on all levels of the field, which is imperative considering how teams try to play two-deep and take away the deep passing game and make us drive down the field. Such a unique threat and continuing to show that he’s a Tier 1 WR in the NFL.
- Patrick Mahomes – Another day at the office for Patrick Mahomes, another extraordinary performance, and it’s just so expected. With greatness, comes expectations and he shows up time and time again. 348 yards passing, 2 TD’s and 1 INT, which wasn’t his fault, Demarcus Robinson broke off of his route on a timing pattern and didn’t come back down the stem of the route. With 1:43 left, Mahomes completed a 2-minute drill to perfection and made it look entirely too easy. The man is on another level right now, whether it be pre-snap or post-snap, watching him be able to call out plays and coverages at the LOS and hear it clearly with no fans is simply amazing and his name should definitely be atop the MVP discussion moving forward, I have no doubt about it.