The Chiefs are 6-2 after the first half of the season, or as Todd Haley would say, they went 4-0 and 2-2 in the first two quarters of the season. Against the Broncos it felt like the Chiefs were dominant, but they let them hang around. However, a two score win against a division opponent and a solid lead in the division should not be taken for granted. This Kansas City team has battled through injuries, execution issues and a very difficult schedule, and they are in a good position for the stretch run. With several players working their way back from injuries, and a bye week coming to rest and reset, the arrow on this team continues to point up.
This week, we saw big performances from three of the Chiefs biggest stars, with some familiar struggles leaving an uneasy feeling in fans after the fact. Here are some trending Chiefs (and one former Chief) from the Denver game as we see them:
TE Travis Kelce: The Chiefs offense features three primary playmakers in Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt. When they have a good week, two of the three are productive. This week, the offense as a whole struggled and Kelce was the only skill player who put up big numbers. Another seven catches for 133 yards and a TD, including some absolutely clutch plays when the team needed him. Kelce is playing like the best TE in football and the most reliable offensive weapon on the team.
CB Marcus Peters: Peters got back to doing what he does this week. An INT and a forced fumble/recovery/TD for the Kansas City Thief. Yes, there’s a concern about his lack of interest in tackling in the run game. But don’t get it twisted, Peters is an elite CB, one of the best in the league. Monday should serve as a reminder of how he can change games. Oh, and he can also cover people.
S Ron Parker: Ron had the only interception of the night that was actually a tough catch, as he out-leaped the defender on the sideline. The unheralded Chiefs safety kicked in seven tackles as well. He’s a key to this defense, whether we always notice him or not.
NT Bennie Logan: He’s been consistently good. Week in, week out. Don’t blame the poor run defense on Logan, he’s rarely blocked by one lineman, and very strong at the point of attack. Logan had five tackles and was in on a sack this week.
RT Mitchell Schwartz: When teams play Denver, Von Miller is the focus of their game plan on offense. He’s arguably the second best EDGE player in the league (after a healthy Justin Houston, of course). When Mitch Schwartz was signed, many pointed to the fact that he could handle Miller as a primary reason. Well, if it was true then, it was true this week. Von was quiet, with three tackles, no sacks, no QB hits. Schwartz has been Mr. Reliable for the Chiefs and came to play against the Broncos.
LB Justin Houston: Reports of Houston’s demise were premature. Monster game from the All Pro this week with two sacks, two tackles for loss, and overall dominance in the running game. We expect this game every week, whether reasonable or not. We should appreciate him more, as we’re watching one of the best there is.
RB Jamaal Charles: I can’t imagine a more fitting return to Arrowhead for JC. On his first carry, he burst through the line and showed he’s still got it. He averaged almost five YPC and was welcomed by Chiefs fans for the most part. Then, he was kind enough to provide a fumble that Marcus Peters returned for a touchdown. Of course, I’m kidding, and I know that Peters stole the ball from Charles. Charles wouldn’t intentionally give the ball back to the team where he’ll eventually be enshrined in their HOF. Would he? All joking aside, it was good to see (arguably) the best RB in Chiefs history back at Arrowhead this week.
LB Tamba Hali: It’s finally Tamba time. He can help vs the run and the pass. He’s a technician that can help rookie LB Tanoh Kpassagnon develop. The Chiefs may have thought they didn’t need him, but I think it’s clear that they do. Welcome back, No. 91!
Others trending in the right direction: Harrison Butker, Mitch Morse, Steven Nelson, Kenneth Acker, Dustin Colquitt, Tanoh Kpassagnon
TE Demetrius Harris: The drops have become a problem again ...or still. According to PFF, he has dropped 10 passes on 45 targets in the past two seasons. Little is more frustrating than to watch the Chiefs continue to target a role player like Harris (or Ross Travis) in the redzone, only to watch them drop the ball.
The run defense: I’m going to lump the whole unit in here, but I think it’s simpler than we’ve been discussing. The Chiefs CAN stop the run, when in their base defense. They CAN’T stop the run from the nickel/dime sub packages, when they essentially sub out a defensive lineman for a DB. Perhaps it’s a tradeoff each week, Bob Sutton and Andy Reid have to decide whether to focus on stopping the run or the pass. If they want to stop the run every week, the ILBs need to be more aggressive, the secondary needs to tackle better, and the DL needs to be more stout. Seth did a more in depth analysis of the problems here. I’d also argue they can win with a subpar run defense, if they can limit the big passing plays and get turnovers like they did against Denver.
LT Eric Fisher: Fisher was beaten a couple of noticeable times again this week, including the only sack allowed by the Chiefs. It’s a tough gig as an NFL left tackle. You’re expected to dominate on every play against a variety of crazy athletic defenders. If you make one or two mistakes per week, you land on some random guy’s stock down list. Expectations are even higher for Fisher, given his draft status and contract extension. He’s the franchise LT for Kansas City, and we expect to be impressed, or at least not to notice him each week.
Others trending in the wrong direction: Eric Murray, Cam Erving, Frank Zombo, Phillip Gaines
LB Derrick Johnson: Like Houston, I think we’ve been too hard on DJ. He’s still within the normal recovery time for an Achilles injury, especially given his age. It’s entirely possible that he’s still working his way back to 100 percent. There were a couple of plays (like this one and the fourth down pass breakup) this week that reminded us of why he’s an all-time great Chiefs defender. He may not be as fast today as he once was, and maybe he doesn’t quite trust his legs yet, but I wouldn’t bet against him continuing to get stronger as the season goes on.
S Daniel Sorensen: As we have said a million times, Sorensen is a solid but limited role player on this team. I think the Chiefs are asking him to do way too much each week. He’s playing on every down, often as a linebacker in subpackages, and sometimes deep trying to cover. Sorensen is often overmatched and overwhelmed by blockers. He’s also trying to live up to an impossible standard, filling in for Eric Berry.
LB Reggie Ragland: The Chiefs are really giving Ragland EVERY opportunity to be the long term solution at SILB. Ramik Wilson, who many thought would start all year, continues to be a game day inactive in favor of No. 59. He’s not an every down linebacker, but it’s clear that they want him to learn on the job. Ragland isn’t making a big impact yet, and looks hesitant. But, he should improve in the coming weeks as he’s able to attack more and think less.
Others who are who we thought they were: Chris Jones, Alex Smith, Kareem Hunt