I’m still recovering from the Chiefs loss to the Raiders. That one hurt. An unimaginable ending to a back and forth game. That makes two consecutive losses, each could have easily been a win if the Chiefs had been able to make ONE additional play. The team is going through their process of healing physically, correcting what they saw on film, and moving on to the Broncos game. Before we as fans completely move on, let’s take one more look back at Chiefs trending after Raiders week.
Tyreek Hill: Six catches, 125 yards and a TD. QB Alex Smith has finally realized that If he’s even, he’s leavin’ and the deep passing game has been much improved. Hill is having a very strong season as the Chiefs No. 1 WR and he still only played 65 percent of the snaps this week. It feels like Hill still has room to be even more involved and productive.
Alex Smith: Speaking of Alex Smith, it was just another week, another 300 yard, 3 TD performance for No. 11. He hasn’t been perfect, but he’s been damn good. (I just notice that Sam Mellinger used this same line in Mellinger Minutes, but I stand by it) Remarkably, Alex Smith is leading the league in many statistical categories including completion percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating according to NFL Research.
Harrison Butker: Buttkicker.com was perfect again this week, hitting all six kicks (three FG, three XP) including a booming 53 yard field goal. Watch kick returners against this guy, they stand on the very back of the end zone, and look up as the ball sails over their heads. Seriously, Butker has been a tremendous signing for Dave Toub and Brett Veach.
Demarcus Robinson: Five catches this week for 69 yards, and he looked much more comfortable than the prior week. He showed the ability to get open with speed and quickness, and the awareness to be an outlet when plays break down. His arrow is clearly pointed upward.
Albert Wilson: Wilson makes this list not only because he made the type of deflected pass touchdown that normally only works for Chiefs opponents. Wilson’s stock is up because of the difference in the overall offense with him as compared to without him. I’m not saying he’s the sole reason the offense was better this week, but his presence was a factor. He’s a cog in the machine and perhaps a more important one than we thought.
Others trending in the right direction: the run defense, special teams, Anthony Sherman
The whole secondary: Everyone wants to point fingers at Gaines or Sutton, which I get. But Peters wasn’t impactful again this week, Mitchell gave up over 100 yards and two TDS on 15 targets. Murray really struggled against Cook, Sorensen was caught out of position deep and even Ron Parker made some mistakes. There were communication and execution breakdowns across the secondary. Chiefs defensive backs were flagged six times for over 80 yards, many of which were in absolutely critical situations. They’ll get a boost with Steven Nelson coming back soon. They need it.
The pass rush: Behind every good secondary performance, there’s typically a great pass rush performance and vice versa. Ask your secondary to cover for too long, and they’ll eventually get beat. Cover for long enough and the pass rush can get home. Well, clearly both aspects of the Chiefs defense struggled against the Raiders. Houston was reasonably effective when rushing (still dropped in coverage more than I would like), but Carr was able to find open receivers too fast for him to hit him. The Chiefs didn’t blitz much, and didn’t have much success when they did. Perhaps Tamba Hali will return from wherever he is and help. Perhaps Tanoh Kpassagnon will be ready to contribute soon. Maybe Sutton will have to manufacture pressure in more creative ways. I’m not sure what the right answer is but little on this team is more important than fielding a good pass rush.
Cam Erving: Erving continues to be the weakest link on the offensive line, at least to the outside observer. He seems to be struggling to pick up assignments, and consistently gets outmatched from a strength/leverage standpoint. The Chiefs coaches are giving him an extended look while LDT, Morse and Ehinger work their way back from injuries. Here’s hoping those guys are back soon, and the OL gets back to the promising unit we expected.
The Chiefs ability to close out games: A hallmark of the Chiefs 5-0 start was their ability to dominate teams in the fourth quarter. Prior to the Raiders game, the Chiefs averaged 14 points in the final period. Against Oakland? The Raiders outscored the Chiefs 10-0 in the fourth. The big story has been the defense, and how they couldn’t stop Carr and Cooper on the final couple of drives. If the offense were able to execute on the four minute drive, the Raiders wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity. We needed to see the Chiefs killer instinct kick in and finish that game strong. Instead, they appeared to be at the mercy of the Raiders and the refs. One big play by the offense or defense when it counted and that game would be in the W column.
Marcus Peters: I know I mentioned the secondary above, but I think it’s worth talking about Peters individually here. I’ve been counting on Peters to bounce back for a few weeks now. He’s struggled more than expected after a strong start in New England. Something is a bit off with the Chiefs All Pro CB ... perhaps he has a nagging injury we don’t know about, but he isn’t impacting games. He’s always played off coverage with the intention of baiting the QB into making mistakes. Thus far in 2017, he’s not able to capitalize as evidenced by his two INTs through seven games. His 47 yard pass interference penalty this week was a killer. What the Chiefs need more than anything is for someone on the defense to step up, lead and dominate. Especially when things are going badly, they need to make up for it with a big play. With Eric Berry out of the secondary, MP22 needs to take on a more prominent role and be the guy that can take over games.
Others struggling this week: CJ Spiller, Akeem Hunt, RNR, NFL officiating, Ramik Wilson, nickel defense
Kareem Hunt: His record setting seventh 100-plus scrimmage yards game, but he wasn’t able to close things out when needed. Terez Paylor indicated that Hunt looked beat up, and the game film confirms he’s taking a beating. The blocking hasn’t been great and his running style leads him to take a lot of hits. Hunt is still on top of the league, and hasn’t fallen off like his YPC stats might indicate. He likely can’t take this type of beating all season. Let’s hope the Chiefs can get him some help, and let him run in space more. They’ll need him in December and January.
Chris Jones: Perhaps we expected too much from Jones this year. We all expected him to break out and be a complete game-wrecker. Thus far, Jones has been good. He’s tough to block, and at times very disruptive. Nearly all of his statistical production came in one game against the Eagles. Otherwise, he’s been a little quieter than we hoped. That’s not to say he’s been bad ... he’s just not taken the next step to consistently dominant yet.
Terrance Mitchell: I think Mitchell is another case where we need to manage our expectations. He’s basically the same guy every week. He competes hard, is physical, and breaks up a lot of passes. As the other guy in a secondary featuring Marcus Peters, he’s getting an insane number of targets. Teams avoid Peters, (even if mostly based on reputation) and go after Mitchell and whoever is manning the slot CB position. We can’t expect any CB to cover for 82 plays a game, 52 of which are passes, 15 of which are thrown his way, and completely shut down opposing receivers. We should expect that Mitchell is going to give up some catches and yards. We should also expect him to make his fair share of plays, and continue to make life difficult for the receivers he lines up against.
Others who are who we thought they were: Travis Kelce, Bennie Logan