It was far from pretty, but a win is a win. The Chiefs’ offense showed some signs of weakness against an elite unit from Los Angeles, but in crunch time they could produce just enough to seal the deal.
The Kansas City Chiefs offense and the Los Angeles Charger defense both look drastically different in 2022 than they did a year ago.
The Chargers loaded up during free agency, signing cornerback JC Jackson and trading for defensive end Khalil Mack, both all-in moves to try to capitalize on Justin Herbert’s rookie contract. These moves were made to create a defensive machine, and it looked the part at times on Thursday night.
The Chiefs chose a more conservative approach following the departure of Tyreek Hill. We saw glimpses of what the new passing game would feature in the week one beat down against Arizona, and this game as well.
While Mahomes is getting a lot of attention for his scorching hot start to the season, the real story has been Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who for the first time in his career resembles the product the Chiefs drafted out of LSU.
Utilizing Edwards-Helaire in the passing game proved successful, especially on the perfectly executed slip screen below. Four receptions for 44 yards from Edwards-Helaire helped Mahomes get the ball out quick and keep him on his feet.
The Chiefs’ run game was typically fine for the most part, no back had more than eight carries, and the team attempted just 18 runs, but they didn’t convert in some key situations, particularly in short-yardage situations.
It was frustrating to see the Chiefs go to the outside zone play to Hardman since they had been gashing the Chargers up the middle early and often on the opening drive. The Chiefs needed a yard, and there was not even a player in the B or C gap.
When the Chiefs go empty, most teams have spread it out and rushed only four to try to get more men in coverage to cover up the Chiefs receivers. Without Tyreek Hill the Chargers showed six on the LOS, rushed five, and it worked well. Blown protection along the right side didn’t help, but Mahomes has to realize that the ball needs to be out of his hands fast. I expect this issue to be cleaned up and Andy Reid to have a counter for it.
The Chiefs have gotten predictable in the short yardage, and Los Angeles capitalized to get off the field. Without Blake Bell to run the tight end sneak it has been mostly zone in the short yardage for KC. They need to come up with a new counter because teams will have guys start pinching down and trying to clog the middle and letting their linebackers make plays.
It was not the cleanest night, but when Mahomes did have time and wide receivers single-covered he made the most of it. Justin Watson ran a terrific route, beating JC Jackson deep, and making a strong catch. Mahomes threw a laser beam on the money.
The Chargers challenged the Chiefs in the trenches, trying their best to be the more physical team. This third down play forced Kansas City off the field and saw the Chargers isolating a quicker player on Creed Humphrey.
The Charger got a little cute, dropping Bosa back into coverage, and bringing pressure off the left. Helaire breaks back inside on the Texas route and runs over Derwin James.
Patrick Mahomes did some Patrick Mahomes things as usual.
The Chiefs failed attempts to score six while on the goal line late in the third quarter seemed like the offense once again went to the well too many times. The Chargers were ready for this one, stuffing Kelce before he could even get going. Stacking the middle in the short yardage worked well for the Chargers, hopefully, the Chiefs counter with some outside looks.
LA did everything that they could to hold the Chiefs’ offense in check, but late in the game, Helaire displayed some speed that we have yet to see for the Chiefs. In a game that turned into a slugfest between two juggernauts, the game was sealed with tremendous reach blocks from Travis Kelce, Trey Smith, and Creed Humphrey sealing a linebacker to the inside. JuJu Smith-Schuster also got in on the action. A game’s worth of frustration was washed away in one play as the Chiefs would kick a field goal to put them up two scores and put away the game.
It wasn’t pretty, and anyone who has studied these teams shouldn’t have expected it to be. The Chargers might have put together the best defense in the NFL. The combination of Mack and Bosa is unrivaled in the NFL right now. They have speed all over the place and have the scheme to dominate anyone.
That said, it wasn’t enough. Even when he struggles Patrick Mahomes still looks incredible and seeing him look to Helaire in the passing game was a breath of fresh air. CEH has had many critics in the past, but early on it looks like he may be silencing them.
The offense needs to diversify in the short yardage, and possibly use some outside zone or any outside run scheme in the future. The line and Mahomes must be in constant communication, this is a new world for them post-Tyreek. Teams may try to blitz a lot more given the tape, and keeping Mahomes on his feet is the number one priority for the franchise.
A win is a win, and the Chiefs offense will certainly take this one.