On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Arizona Cardinals 26-14 at Arrowhead Stadium, extending their record to 9-1 on the season. Here are five hot takes from the game:
1. Patrick Mahomes is mortal
It seems a bit ridiculous to say such a thing about a quarterback who just broke a franchise passing touchdown that has stood for more than 50 years — especially when he did it in only 10 games — but it’s nonetheless true.
But here is the amazing thing: it’s not because Mahomes threw three picks, or was suddenly unable to make plays under an unrelenting pass rush. That’s what you’d usually see with a first-year starter when he’s sacked five times for the first time in his career.
But it’s not what we saw from Mahomes.
Even though he threw for less than 300 yards for the first time since Week 1, he still completed 75 percent of his throws and ended the game with a stellar passer rating of 125.4. On two different drives, he picked up first downs with his legs. Unlike so many other players with his experience, he kept his cool and didn’t make mistakes trying to make plays that weren’t there.
This young man is smart, fearless — and even better — unflappable. Even with an offensive line that was — for the first time this season — unable to protect him adequately, he didn’t let it affect him and played a solid game.
This young man may be mortal, but that’s OK. The greatest quarterbacks who have ever played this game have been mortal, too. There’s no doubt in my mind: he’s going to stand among them — if not above them.
2. The Cardinals defense is no joke
Head coach Andy Reid told us this week that the Cardinals defense wasn’t a defense we should overlook.
“Defensively, they are as good as anybody in the National Football League,” Reid said during his Wednesday press conference. “We have to make sure that we get ourselves ready on both sides of the ball.”
We often tend to dismiss these kinds of remarks from head coaches in the week before the game — especially if the team in question is 2-6. After all, no head coach is going to stand before the press and say that the upcoming opponent is terrible!
But in this case, Reid was right.
We knew Arizona’s main problem was its offense — teams don’t tend to dismiss their offensive coordinators at midseason when the offense is doing well — and still, many fans confidently predicted the Chiefs would hang 40 points on the Cardinals.
But then Arizona held the red-hot Chiefs offense to just 26 points — the fewest number of points they’ve scored this season. Without Justin Houston’s fourth-quarter interception — which gave the Chiefs the ball at the Cardinals’ 31 — it’s entirely possible the Chiefs wouldn’t have scored again after Mahomes’ record-setting touchdown pass in the second quarter.
If new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich can get the offense playing well, the Cardinals could be a tough team to beat down the stretch. Thankfully, that problem will be left for other teams to solve.
3. For a change, the Chiefs defense was no joke
The Chiefs held the Cardinals to just 260 yards of offense, which should allow the Chiefs defense to inch up a bit in the total yardage rankings that its detractors have been watching so intently this season. But the bigger story is that the Chiefs held the Cardinals to just 14 points — one of the lowest point totals of the season.
To be sure, this was against an offense that hasn’t been very impressive to date, so let’s not get too excited about that. But it’s OK to gain some confidence in a defense that continues to make plays when it matters most — with two timely interceptions and several sacks at key moments in the game.
This is especially true when you consider that at first glance, Leftwich appeared to do exactly what AP’s Craig Stout was worried about this week: to have a game plan that depended on a running game and short passes that would force the Chiefs into staying in their base alignment. Cardinals running back David Johnson — whom Revenge of the Birds writer Seth Cox warned us was a player to watch — had 183 yards from scrimmage, but the Cardinals only scored on two of their 11 drives.
Whether the Chiefs can continue to do as well if a more potent offense attempts a similar game plan — for example, one (or both) of those NFL teams from Los Angeles — remains to be seen. But for the moment, the Chiefs defense picked a great week to hold the opponent to so few points. Without their effort, the Chiefs could easily have lost this game.
4. Not-so-special special teams
Based on what he said on Wednesday, Andy Reid was also concerned about the Arizona Cardinals on special teams.
“They have tremendous talent there on special teams,” he told the press on Wednesday. “You have to make sure you solidify and get down their scheme, and are able to adjust to their speed there.”
Reid’s worry on this aspect of the matchup with the Cardinals was also justified.
Not only did the Cardinals nearly pull off a surprise onside kick in the first half, they also held Tremon Smith — who has been averaging 33.8 yards per return so far this season— to just 22 yards on two returns. Meanwhile, Cardinals kick returner T.J. Logan averaged 29.7 yards per return, and the special teams unit’s lone highlight of the game — an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown by Tyreek Hill — was nullified by a penalty on Demetrius Harris.
I don’t want to be too hard on Dave Toub. We have come to expect a very high level of performance from his unit. This game, however, wasn’t its finest hour.
All of that said, it’s worth mentioning that the player who came through for the Chiefs on the onside kick play was none other than rookie Ben Niemann. We need to keep our eye on this kid.
5. Ladies and gentlemen... Chris Jones
With all the focus on Dee Ford becoming a top player on the Kansas City defense in 2018, we really haven’t paid enough attention to third-year player Chris Jones. He’s now had a sack in six consecutive games — many of them in key moments — and coming into Sunday’s game, was second only to Ford in quarterback hits, and led the team in tackles for loss.
On Sunday, his second-quarter strip-sack of Josh Rosen — while the Cardinals recovered the fumble — was a key moment in the game. On the previous play, Bob Sutton had caught the Cardinals with a safety blitz by Ron Parker, and Jones’ sack put the kabosh on a Cardinals drive that could have put them in striking distance at the end of the first half.
The man is indeed stone cold.