Sometimes investors get too caught up in the daily volatility to realize where the long term trend is headed. It’s like walking up a mountain while playing with a yo-yo ... if you’re focused on the yo-yo, you are missing the fact that you’re walking up a mountain. There is plenty of talk today about the Chiefs struggles, not only in the game against the Raiders on Thursday night, but over the course of the season. They have struggled with inconsistent QB play, injuries, turnovers, penalties, and an under performing running game (both offense and defense). Yet here they are at 10-3, atop the AFCW and in line for a first round bye. If you’re worried about the struggles, you’re missing the point.
This is a myth-busting team. No longer can we say they can’t win from behind, or win a shootout, or beat good teams, or good QBs. They’ve won on the road over playoff contenders in a variety of ways, and with a variety of lineups. This is a deep team that doesn’t quit, and they now know they can beat anyone. They are trending in the right direction, and still have opportunities to improve.
Who was that guy? Five tackles and some big pass breakups from the recent addition to the Chiefs secondary. Mitchell has passed Phillip Gaines, DJ White and Kenneth Acker on the depth chart and was a positive difference maker in a huge primetime game. We should be cautious before anointing him the new shut down No. 2 CB because we’ve seen this before. For now, though, Mitchell appears to be a great find for Chiefs GM John Dorsey. Allowed three catches for 14 yards on seven targets, and had the game-sealing pass defended.
Despite the ugly interception, Smith put together one of his better games of the season. In the first half, Alex was connecting on deep passes with Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, even Chris Conley. The ideal Alex Smith stat line is similar to this week’s 17/26, 264 yards and a TD. Ten yards per attempt is a dramatic improvement over prior games, and indicates Smith was pushing the ball down the field to his playmakers.
He’s on this list again, not JUST because of his fourth straight 100 yard game, but also because of his trash-talking dance after Tyreek’s return TD. Kelce is being featured in the intermediate and deep passing game, just as we’ve always wanted to see. He’s playing with a lot of confidence and passion, and opening things up for the entire offense.
Hill’s touchdown in front of a national audience and an Arrowhead crowd chanting his name was magical. Perhaps more impressive and encouraging was the 36-yard touchdown on a post route from Alex Smith. The DB gave him nearly 10 yards of cushion ... and it wasn’t enough. Hill ate up the cushion and blew past his man, showing legit WR skills. We’re witnessing a star in the making, and it’s been very fun to watch.
The defensive game plan was on point again this week. The mad scientist has former MVP candidate Derek Carr’s number. Carr was flustered and terrible all night, and ended with a historically bad stat line 17/41 for 117 yards. Often, the Chiefs rushed only 2-4 guys and sent everyone else in coverage. Carr had no answers, Sutton seemed to have them all. The defense struggled after DJ’s injury, but adjusted enough to get the win. Given all the injuries this year, and the struggles on offense, Sutton and his coaches have done an amazing job with this defense.
Others trending upward: Justin Houston, the Chiefs playoff chances, Chris Jones, Ramik Wilson, Dave Toub
There are a lot of factors that go into the Chiefs inability to run the football. When you look at the final result and see that Ware only gained 56 yards on 20 carries, that’s not great. Early in the season, Ware was the spark plug that helped the Chiefs get on a roll. He was making big plays in the passing game, and punishing tacklers on the ground. Ware is still running hard, but not finding the real estate at this point. He needs to get it going again for the Chiefs to continue winning in December, much less January.
The Chiefs run defense:
The ability to stop the run may be the Achilles heel of this Chiefs team. (too soon?) DJ is a future Chiefs HOF player, and it’s awesome that he’s going to coach the rest of the season while he rehabs. But, the ability to stop the run will be critical this week against the Titans. The Raiders ran for 135 yards and 4.4 YPC, which isn’t great, but the Titans can easily top that. We’ll see what Bob Sutton is able to do in order to keep the run defense respectable.
Once a promising cover corner who couldn’t stay healthy, Gaines is having another frustrating season. When healthy, he’s been beaten too much, and now has apparently lost his spot on the depth chart to Terrance Mitchell. One has to wonder if he’s going to get it back at all. UPDATE: Gaines is still struggling with knee injury, not practicing Wednesday.
Others who are struggling: Dontari Poe, Charcandrick West
Conley had two catches for 70 yards, FINALLY getting the deep targets and converting. He’s still just not as involved in the offense as we thought he would be at this point. Perhaps this is all he’ll be ... a role player that can get a big catch here and there?
No game-changing plays this week, but his presence is felt across the defense, and his leadership is going to be needed now more than ever. Heading into the playoff run without Derrick Johnson is going to require Berry and others to step up, both on and off the field.
Others who are what we thought they were: the Chiefs OL, De’Anthony Thomas, Marcus Peters