Let’s get one thing out of the way: Thursday night’s game against Oakland at Arrowhead is absolutely huge, and I have no idea how it’ll turn out. The Chiefs dominated the Raiders in Oakland, but one game doesn’t necessarily predict the next.
There. I said it. Now let’s talk about what the Chiefs have accomplished over the last two weeks.
First, the Chiefs traveled to Denver to play one of the absolute best 2-3 defenses in the NFL. The engaged in what could only accurately be described as a slug-it-out hit-fest in which both teams stood and traded shots that I didn’t think were allowed in the NFL anymore. They then proceeded to go down eight with three minutes to go, but said screw it and pulled out a win anyway.
The very next week, The Chiefs shifted gears by traveling to Atlanta, where the top-scoring offense in the league awaited them. This time, the Chiefs didn’t need comeback magic, but “put them away” magic with four minutes to go. Once again, the team found itself up to the challenge.
Most important offensive play of the game. NEEDED a 1st down to keep ATL off the field. Smith and Kelce both deliver, great route and throw pic.twitter.com/GXBGq1W2AE— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) December 5, 2016
A couple of plays later, Smith found Albert Wilson (who played probably his best game as a Chief) on a quick slant to put the game away, and the Chiefs walked out of another incredibly tough place to win on top (once again without Jeremy Maclin, who was missed on a couple of key plays against the Falcons).
So to sum up, the Chiefs played on the road back-to-back weeks against teams that are considered two of the toughest in the NFL, and walked out on top. Even more impressively, they faced WILDLY different styles in Denver and Atlanta. That’s what sticks with me. The Broncos and Falcons couldn’t be more different in the matchup problems they present. The Falcons are a bad defense with an incredibly efficient offense. The Broncos are a nightmare on defense but have an offense that isn’t sniffing average most days.
The fact that the Chiefs were able to beat both “styles” of team says a great deal. It says they can adjust to their opponent and win in whatever way they have to. A phenomenal special teams group and a defense that absolutely crushes mistakes by opposing quarterbacks are a big part of this. The Chiefs feast on mistakes and rarely make any of their own. That’s a style of football, as you can see, that can win against any type of team.
The great thing about the Chiefs defense is that, even on rough days, you can count on it to come around and eventually make some plays. They never have a day where they need the offense to win a shootout. At worst, they just need the offense to step up for brief periods of time while Bob Sutton and company catch their breath.
Last week, the defense was getting knocked on its tail by Trevor Siemian, of all people. They needed the offense to step up in the form of a last-minute touchdown drive, and the offense delivered.
This week, the defense got absolutely destroyed on the first drive by Julio Jones and company, and needed the offense to answer quickly in order to prevent an awful tone from being set. I have to say, given what we’ve seen from the offense so far this year, I was less than optimistic we’d see a emphatic enough answer.
Of course, the offense responded with a 4-play, 72-yard touchdown drive that was probably the best we’ve seen the offense look all year. This included a pair of 20+ yard pass plays to Travis Kelce, who FINALLY looks like the centerpiece of the offensive gameplan.
Chiefs responding to ATL's 1st TD drive with a TD drive of their own (including this beauty to Kelce) was huge. Changed feel of the game. pic.twitter.com/3oBeJ0nsTO— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) December 5, 2016
The defense was able to tighten up (a bit) after that first Atlanta drive and at least held them to field goals on a pair of drives (around a strip/sack of Alex Smith). The offense then drove down the field again to tie everything up at 13-apiece, and every Chiefs fan was able to exhale a bit.
Football is a game of momentum (or, as Geoff Schwartz phrases it, confidence). I very much believe in the mental/emotional side of the game. Had the offense gone three-and-out after the defense got demolished on the first drive, that game could have gotten out of hand quickly.
And as I said earlier, the Chiefs defense never stays down for long. They will absolutely eventually make some plays, and no one encapsulates that more than Eric Berry right now.
Eric Berry is, like, a 75% chance to score a touchdown any time he gets a pick. pic.twitter.com/xXBRBFQOUT— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) December 5, 2016
This play on the ball was just flat-out exceptional, and Berry continues to show an absolutely ridiculous ability to find the end zone when he gets the ball in his hands. I know it’ll never happen and the Chiefs already have good returners, but I’ve often wondered how Berry would look returning kicks/punts. He just has a nose for the open field and refuses to go down.
The Chiefs defense may not be as dominant as I’d like to see when it comes to slowing teams down, but they are tough to score on in the red zone and make quarterbacks (and skill players) pay for anything resembling a poor decision the majority of the time. They’re incredibly dangerous, and should only improve as Sutton begins to figure out how to use the sudden plethora of pass rushers available to him and injured players (hopefully) get healthy.
What I’ve really appreciated about these last two weeks is the fact that both sides of the ball have contributed. The Chiefs don’t have the best defense in the league, and they don’t have even CLOSE to the best offense in the league. But for two straight weeks against teams many people talk about as Super Bowl contenders, the offense and the defense have stepped up when the other unit has faltered. And again, this doesn’t appear to be the peak of what either group can do when you take into account injured players they should be getting back over the next few weeks.
Again, I have no clue how Thursday Night Football will go against the Raiders. Those games are always weird, as are divisional games. The last time the Chiefs were coming off a huge win against a good team to play the Raiders on TNF they dropped a crushing loss (granted, that was on the road, but still). Additionally, the Chiefs need to figure out how to stop shooting themselves in the foot in key spots on offense (they moved the ball extremely well vs. Atlanta, but couldn’t finish due to untimely errors/penalties).
That said, the Chiefs have shown over the last two weeks that they really can beat anyone. Other team has a great defense? No problem. Other team has a fantastic offense? Ptsshhhh, whatever. Turns out being at least somewhat balanced (at least lately), good on special teams, opportunistic and good at avoiding mistakes is enough to give you a puncher’s chance. And the Chiefs don’t look like they’re done punching yet.
It’s freaking Raider Week, ya’ll. And for the first time in years, that’s a big deal not just to Chiefs and Raiders fans but to the NFL as a whole. I wouldn’t have it any other way.