Here are the winners and losers from Sunday’s game:
- Expect something different? OK, I can see where maybe you might have wanted me to name the Cleveland-rooted players first. Trust me—I’ll get to them. The first winner of this football game is Patrick Mahomes, and more so than the game, it’s what this game meant in terms of his place in NFL annals. Mahomes’ three touchdowns against Cleveland gave him 29 total in the first 10 games of his career—the most in history. If you’re wondering, the player second to Mahomes is Kurt Warner with 26. With his eighth consecutive game of 300-plus passing yards, Mahomes is now tied for the third longest-streak in NFL history (Andrew Luck, 2014). Drew Brees had two streaks of nine games from 2011 to 2013. Mahomes tied Trent Greene’s franchise record, set in 2004, with his eighth game of 300 or more passing yards. This is a record Mahomes now has seven more opportunities to break. The Chiefs’ record for passing touchdowns in a season is 30, set by Len Dawson in 1964. That one is going down, too.
- Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce, two players who grew up around the Cleveland area, had outstanding games playing in front of their friends and families. Kareem Hunt had 17 rushes for 91 yards and two rushing touchdowns, as well as one 50-yard reception that went for a touchdown. That’s 141 yards from scrimmage and three total touchdowns. Hunt has now scored at least one touchdown in eight straight games for the Chiefs. I know most NFL fans across the country would take the Rams’ Todd Gurley based upon numbers, but I think we’re seeing just how special Hunt is. In my mind, it’s a reasonable debate for top dog. Kelce had seven receptions for 99 yards and two touchdowns, the fourth multi-touchdown game of his career. Like Hunt, he is at least in the conversation for the best at his position in the entire league. By the way, the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski is inactive on Sunday night.
- Spencer Ware finally looks like he has regained his steam. If you missed it, I wrote over the weekend about how Ware is thriving in his role as backup running back, and Sunday was just another example. Ware had two carries for 12 yards, as well as four receptions for 69 yards in the Chiefs’ win. Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins each had more than 60 yards on four and five receptions, respectively.
- With Ware playing so well, Damien Williams wasn’t involved in the offense, but he made an outstanding play to block a punt.
- Cornerback Steven Nelson stood out on the Chiefs’ defense. Even before the second interception of his career, a telegraphed pass by Baker Mayfield, I felt that he was having a strong game. So was Jordan Lucas, who got home for the first sack of his career. Chris Jones also had a sack and two tackles for loss—Jones has 5.0 sacks on the season.
- I also thought that Kendall Fuller had a nice game. In addition to his two tackles and one pass defensed, Fuller was responsible for keeping the Browns from gaining a two-point conversion on two separate occasions. I was impressed with the Chiefs secondary as a whole keeping Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry relatively quiet (50 receiving yards).
- I felt good for right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, center Austin Reiter, left guard Cam Erving and linebacker Nate Orchard, who were all let go by the Cleveland Browns for one reason or another, went home and scored the victory. It was only Reiter’s third career start with Mitch Morse still in the concussion protocol. The fact that Reiter’s insertion hasn’t really been all that noticeable is a good sign.
- On the Browns side, rookie running back Nick Chubb had a good game, rushing 22 times for 85 yards and a touchdown. So did Duke Johnson, who reemerged in the Browns offense for nine catches, 78 yards and two touchdowns.
- I know Browns interim head coach Gregg Williams is known for his aggression, but I couldn’t really understand going for two points so many times. The Browns could have only trailed by three instead of four early on, but the risk and reward seemed too lopsided. There is something momentum-killing when you go for two and don’t get it after a touchdown, and I thought that was palpable and continued throughout the game when the Browns had to keep going for two to play catchup.
- I think the referees in this game left something to be desired, especially considering what seemed like mass confusion at the end of the first half. Mahomes said this after the game regarding what happened, actually blaming himself for the mixup and penalty: “Yeah, we’ve been over that situation. That was on me. The penalty, no matter if we except or decline it, the clock stops. So technically, me spiking the ball like that is almost an intentional grounding penalty. At the same time, the refs said they hadn’t seen that happen in 40 years. I just thought, decline the penalty, the clock was going to roll, so tried to spike it and save the time out. Schwartz actually told me you can’t do that, but I just thought we could get away with it, and we didn’t. It made a difference for sure at that half.” Later on, the referees negated a Dee Ford strip-sack due to an offsides penalty but were not clear about the call when it happened.
- All that being said, despite the referees’ transgressions, the Chiefs as a whole need to be more disciplined. The Chiefs took 11 penalties for 86 yards, which is fine against the Cleveland Browns, but they might have a tougher time beating teams like the Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Chargers taking that many penalties.
- We’ll have to review the film this week, but the Chiefs run defense is not playing at a championship level. I think when you have a team that is Super Bowl-caliber on the offensive side of the football, you begin to nitpick a bit because such an opportunity is fleeting. As a Chiefs fan, you hope the impending returns of Daniel Sorensen and Eric Berry make a difference, as well as Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland playing better as they get healthier.
- I’m not ready to buy in on Baker Mayfield just yet.