Winners of their last six games, I hope you weren’t a part of the group that turned your head on Andy Reid’s unit when they sat 2-3 through five games. Fast forward two months later, where the reigning two-time AFC champions have found themselves firing on all cylinders, and Kansas City has begun to silence the critics who have since withered back into the woodwork.
A group that each of the other 31 franchises circle on their calendar, a 27-3 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 7 saw the Chiefs endure mirror economics. A glance at themselves under one of the brightest spotlights in football was necessary, and has, in turn, seen a complete flip of the script in all facets of Kansas City’s ability to win football games.
It starts, as always, on the offensive side of the ball for the Chiefs, where the relationship of offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and All-Pro gunslinger Patrick Mahomes has become an unstoppable tandem to stop. While injuries have lingered in the backfield throughout the season with do-it-all back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, he’s now healthy and the offensive train to paydirt has quickly found itself back on track the last month and half of the campaign.
With two 40-plus point outings the last four games, including a 48-9 drubbing of their divisional foe Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, Mahomes and his ever-growing deep pool of weapons have become beyond a nightmare to prepare for as an opposing defensive coordinator. If I told you Kansas City scored nearly 50, you’d expect the common names to enjoy big games. You know, the usual cast of Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, the names go on and on. But, it was Edwards-Helaire, Mecole Hardman, and first-year back Derrick Gore who shouldered the offensive load against the Raiders.
A team usually known for its elite aerial prowess from the shoulder of Mahomes, where 40-plus passing attempts are usual forthcomings, it was the beef up front that led the way for Kansas City, totaling three rushing touchdowns on the day, two from the UDFA in Gore. Mahomes, on the other hand, enjoyed a “day off,” amassing just 24 attempts through the air (completing 20) for 258 yards and two scores.
It’s a tribute to Bieniemy’s constant evolution of his offense. While teams are forced to rush four and hope they get home in an attempt to cover the vertical speed of Hill and Hardman, while at the same time linebackers are tasked with keeping tabs on Kelce, Mahomes has stopped playing hero ball and instead has kept it simple, handing the ball off to the trio of high-impact ball-carriers he has at his disposal. And while 30-point blowouts and gaudy score totals look good on the jumbotron, the Chiefs, and, more importantly, Mahomes, have quickly learned to win in whichever way defenses align. It’s a simple case of picking your poison.
But, where Kansas City has made its most progression, and why it now finds itself tied with Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots atop the AFC, is its resurgence on defense. Usually known as a unit that revolves around a “bend but don’t break” mantra, they’ve failed to allow double-digit points in three consecutive contests, making life all that easier for their high-octane offense. Led up front by the likes of Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi, and Jarran Reed, Jones has consistently flown under the radar as one of the league’s top interior presences, with 6.5 sacks, and as many passes deflected as Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu, a ball-hawking secondary defender.
Similar to Kansas City’s improvement in their Super Bowl-winning season of 2019, where following a Week 12 bye they allowed 20 or more points just once in the final five weeks of the season, Reid’s group has once again placed itself in the conversation to reign supreme in the AFC. While its offense will remain one of the league’s best as long as No. 15 suits up under center, the progress shown on the defensive side of the ball has Kansas City playing as a unit with no glaring holes.
Did we ever think it’d be any different?