It was an offensive explosion for the Chiefs Sunday night in Tampa Bay, and everyone got involved. We saw a rookie gain more confidence, a return of the deep ball, and Patrick Mahomes gain confidence with another new face.
Putting up 41 points on one of the best defenses in football should publically put to bed the notion that the Kansas City Chiefs offense could be due for regression without Tyreek Hill. As a matter of fact, the Chiefs are averaging 32.3 points per game through their first four games of the season which is good for second in the NFL, just behind as we all guessed… the Detroit Lions at 35 even.
While Mahomes and Travis Kelce are both off to fast starts, and the new-look run game is dominating the trenches as described in an article posted earlier this week, the Chiefs’ new crew of wide receivers has come along slowly but steadily and put up their best game of the season so far.
The name of the game for the Chiefs will be to get your athletes in space, and they did so below with a fantastic design from the Chiefs coaching staff. JuJu Smith-Schuster looks to be the main target on a screen, but watching Valdes-Scantling off the snap shows something else is coming.
After making a minor impact through the Chiefs’ first three games of the year, Scantling put up 63 yards off of three catches and was put in many different roles by the Chiefs’ play calling. For the first time all season, we saw Mahomes connect with Scantlign on a deep 36-yard laser beam pass right up the seam. They caught the Bucs in deep cover two and with a linebacker trying to cover scantling. Using his 6’4″ frame and large catch radius Scantling was able to beat the cover backer and Mahomes split the safeties with the pass.
Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy vowed to get Skyy Moore additional snaps after tallying just eight total offensive reps in a tough loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Moore had a costly fumbled punt that would ultimately prove to be the deciding play in the game. The rookie was in need of a confidence booster, and his performance on Sunday should have done the trick.
Two catches for 31 yards is far from flashy, but in what little action we did see from Moore he displayed his skillset to the best of his abilities. On the RPO above Mahomes fires a ball that you can see the smoke coming off of even from the wide view of the film. Moore effortlessly hauls it in, flashing surefire hands, and great awareness of where he needed to get to on his route for Mahomes to be able to find him on time. The play to set up the offense in the red zone showed off the football IQ, and budding chemistry he has with Mahomes.
Moore knows Kelce is getting all the attention that close to the endzone, and that Tampa would likely have a man watching the flat closely in case of a scramble attempt from Mahomes. He makes a high IQ play getting behind the man covering the flat and heading to the sideline with Mahomes who delivers a ball that allows him to get upfield for a nice gain.
As we have seen since Andy Reid took over as head coach in 2013, and Patrick Mahomes as the starter in 2018, trust is key in the Chiefs organization, particularly so on the offensive side of the ball. It’s become quite clear through the first four games that JuJu Smith-Schuster has entered the fold as not only the number two option in the Chiefs’ offense but also a player that Reid and Mahomes both trust in key spots.
A modest five catches for just 46 yards in the stat book did now show the full impact that JuJu made during the game. Both passes caught above came on crucial third downs. One was a great call to set up Tampa by the Chiefs’ offensive staff, but Mahomes staying on his feet and overpowering the pass rusher tossed it to Smith-Schuster who kept running his route and it resulted in a big gain. Had Mahomes not trusted that Smith-Schuster would catch the ball he might have just taken the sack and lived to fight another down. It extended the Chiefs’ drive and helped them jump all over the Bucs early.
It’s still a work in progress, but it seems like steady improvement has been made week to week by the receiving core. I didn’t touch much on Mecole Hardman who has been battling a lower leg injury, or Justin Watson who has not had a catch in two games, but both of them could also emerge to play larger roles, especially once the trio of Valdes-Scantling, Smith-Schuster, and Moore start to put out more film on the field together.
A year ago the Chiefs put five new pieces in place to create what now looks like one of the most dominant offensive lines in the NFL. This year we are seeing a rebuild all over again, but with a quarterback like Patrick Mahomes throwing the ball around this seems like his talent alone could and might already have accelerated this from a positional rebuild to a positional reload.