The Kansas City Chiefs are still undefeated after an epic battle with a division rival on the road. I’ve often said that division games are ones where you can throw the stats and expected scoring out the window.
The Monday night game looked nothing like Weeks 1-3. It was a struggle throughout, big plays were (relatively) limited. It’s the kind of game we may look back on and see it as the first week when the Chiefs (and the QB) were truly tested and passed with flying colors. In the end, they got the win, which is all that really matters, but we’ll still look at some trends anyway.
The man, the myth, the legend, Patrick Mahomes: Mahomes traded in flashy stats and big plays for resilience, grit and calm in the clutch. He willed, dragged and carried his team to victory when it seemed like it “just wasn’t their day.” This is what makes the Mahomes era different from all that preceded it. The difference between a good quarterback that you can win with and an elite franchise quarterback is not defined in the box score. It becomes clear when the game is on the line and the game plan isn’t working. Mahomes would not be denied in this game, and his teammates could see it. Next time they struggle, they’ll be that much more confident that they have a leader that won’t allow them to lose.
Kareem Hunt: Speaking of determination and a will to win, the Chiefs running back reasserted himself this week. It wasn’t just that Hunt put up 121 yards or that his average yards per carry was 6.4 or that he scored a touchdown. It was how he did it that was most impressive. Running over, through and past a tough Broncos defense, breaking tackles and the backs of his opponents along the way. Hunt got the Chiefs moving on their first drive of the game with a tough 27-yard catch-and-run, and he scored to complete the comeback. This team is electric with Mahomes, but they are most effective when Hunt brings balance and toughness.
Tanoh Kpassagnon: Kpassagnon is showing tremendous progress. He led the team in quarterback hurries, and certainly looks like he belongs on the field. With Dee Ford battling through a groin injury, the Chiefs need Kpassagnon in the rotation.
According to @pff - Tanoh Kpassagnon led the Chiefs in QB hurries last night with 4.— Jinx (@JinxAverage) October 2, 2018
Armani Watts: The rookie recorded his first career sack on Monday night, showing off his closing speed to get to Case Keenum. He’s still only playing 20 percent of the defensive snaps, but he has a real opportunity to increase his role as the season goes on.
Others trending in the right direction: Travis Kelce, Mitchell Schwartz, Eric Murray, Chris Jones, Orlando Scandrick, Dee Ford, Allen Bailey
All the flags: 10 penalties this week, many at critical moments, including nine on offense. Two holding calls on Eric Fisher, illegal use of hands on Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, holding on Cam Erving and Mitch Morse and a pick-play on Kelce all threatened to derail drives and dig a hole that only Mahomes could get the offense out of. This week, he was able to do just that. But, there may come a time that Mahomes isn’t able to overcome sloppy offensive play.
The dynamic duo, Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland: Both of these guys have made some plays downhill in the run game. But, that’s about where the positive impact on defense has ended thus far. Neither has been very good in zone or man coverage, and Ragland’s snaps have started to decline due to health and limitations.
Ron Parker: I’m sure you’ll hear more about Parker from the Nerd Squad this week, so I’ll just leave this here as a teaser.
Denver targeted Ron Parker in both the pass and the run this week.— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) October 3, 2018
DEN saw Parker in the box in run support and changed the play, motioning Thomas in as an H-back. Thomas absolutely flattens Parker, clearing the hole.
Special shoutout to Hitchens getting flattened by the OC. pic.twitter.com/L2WCy5Ihou
Breeland Speaks: Kpassagnon finally out-snapped Speaks 18 to 16 this week, and based on what we’ve seen on the field, that gap should only widen in the coming weeks. Speaks still looks like a defensive lineman trying to learn how to play the EDGE, he’s just not an effective linebacker at this point.
Damien Williams: Granted, this was a week in which Kareem Hunt did Kareem Hunt things. But, I expected Williams to be a bigger part of the Chiefs offense at this point. He was only on the field for three snaps this week. He’s got one rushing attempt this season for zero yards, and three catches for 18 yards. A complete non-factor, buried behind Hunt and Ware.
Others trending in the wrong direction: Marcus Kemp, Tremon Smith, tackling
Kendall Fuller: Fuller has been very good overall this season, but man, it would have been nice to see him hold on for a game-sealing interception against Denver. Nonetheless, he’s more of a solution than problem for the Chiefs secondary.
Sammy Watkins: Watkins is going to have to prove that the injury-prone label isn’t accurate. A hamstring injury early this week didn’t help. He has shown he can be a difference maker when on the field.
Others who are who we thought they were: Steven Nelson, Tyreek Hill, Justin Houston