The Kansas City Chiefs Offense escaped with a victory over the Tennessee Titans, some things looked really good, but others needed fixing. Here are some positives and negatives of the offensive performance.
Positive: Mahomes to Kelce
When all else fails, the best of the best rise to the top. Mahomes and Kelce both had monster games, and while frustration set in at times, it was the two who kept the Chiefs in the game and delivered late in overtime with one of the best throws and catches of the NFL season.
Mahomes finished with 446 passing yards and a touchdown, while Kelce dominated for 106 yards on ten catches. Throughout the game the Titans had tried to jam Kelce, making his life uncomfortable trying to get free. On the game’s first play he even got into a shoving match with a few Titans defensive backs. A dropped ball by Kelce lead to an interception for Tennessee, and he let the crowd see his frustration. The best always find a positive way to respond, and Kelce kicked it into second gear, all while Mahomes figured out the pocket. The Chiefs two best players found a way to step up in a chippy game, and lead their team to a solid win.
Positive: Mecole Hardman
For the second consecutive game, the Chiefs offense used Mecole Hardman as a red zone threat, as once again they saw his role grow in the Chiefs offense.
The Titans had been running a smothering man defense all game and that was no different in the redone. To counter this the Chiefs put their fasted player in the backfield, on the same side that Travis Kelce was. Kelce drew an instant double team and Justin Watson also drew tight man coverage, although neither tired that hard to fight free.
This was because Hardman was coming hot out of the backfield, catching his swing route, with a Titan defensive back late to the party. Stopping on a dime Hardman then launched himself into the endzone. This was the highlight of a solid game for Hardman that saw him record 79 yards, off of six touchdowns. 33 of his yards did come on the final play of regulation, a “Hill-Marry” type play, but seeing Hardman emerge in the red zone for Kansas City is huge. As the trust between Hardman, Mahomes, and the coaching staff continues to grow so will the chances for him to score.
Negative: Route Running
If you were yelling at your TV, cursing, and chewing out the offensive line for getting Mahomes sacked, well you need to look at the larger picture. The Chiefs have a serious issue, their wide receivers have struggled immensely at beating man coverage downfield. This week the Titans exposed them for it.
The Titans’ defensive backs play a physical brand of football, that the Chiefs wideouts were not equipt to handle. Much like the clip above, Mahomes was forced to hold the ball with no one open downfield, and the pocket collapsed after a certain period of time. The average time per play of the sacks was 3.9, which shows us there were some issues with the pass protection, but this is more of an indicator of both the Chiefs’ route running, but also the routes they are being asked to run. The Chiefs mainly went with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecold Hardman, and Justin Watson.
MVS and Hardman both have struggled immensely with man coverage in the past. Smith-Schuster was able to break free for 88 yards, even if they were labored. Hardman and MVS are field stretchers, but the Chiefs need true man-beaters. They have a couple on their rosters, but they must find ways to use them. Ladarius Toney and Skyy Moore are in Kansas City to beat man coverage, and the Chiefs coaching staff needs to realize that these two will be the most impactful against teams like the Titans in the future.
Moore barely played and recorded no stats. In his first game as a Chiefs Toney recorded a couple of catches for twelve yards. It may not be like Andy Reid to play new players soon and make rookies wait their turn, but if the Chiefs are to go all the way this year, either Toney or Moore will need to see more targets.
Negative: The Run Game
The Chiefs did not run the ball well, and the Chiefs did not try to run the ball. Patrick Mahomes was the games leading rusher, with 63 yards and a touchdown. The usage of the Chiefs’ running backs was dismal, and so was their production.
Clyde Edwards-Helarie, Jerrick McKinnon, and Isiah Pacheco combined for just 12 carries, and just 14 total rushing yards. Abysmal is an understatement. There were some flashes, but penalties and quick-filling defenders made quick work of the Chiefs’ run game. It seemed to be the same story of games past. In one play the offensive line does a good job, but the back misses the hole. The play next to the back hits it with a head of steam but one or two offensive linemen get beat and it goes nowhere.
These inconsistencies have plagued the Chiefs all year but were particularly apparent on Sunday. The Chiefs eventually abandoned the run game, with Patrick Mahomes attempting 68 passes. This is not sustainable, and while Mahomes did put on a display of brilliance, 60+ passes in a game for the Chiefs in the future could spell trouble. If the Chiefs want to go far they must figure out a way to create a successful run game.