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Maybe the Chiefs’ rushing struggles aren’t struggles at all

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Maybe they are, and maybe they aren’t. Let Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, of all people, help you decide.

San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

The disparity between Kansas City Chiefs rushing numbers from 2017 to 2018 through three games has been more than apparent.

At this time in 2017, Kareem Hunt, then a rookie, had 47 carries for 401 yards (8.5 y/c) and four rushing touchdowns, along with nine catches for 137 yards and two receiving touchdowns.

Through that same game span in 2018, Hunt has 52 carries for 168 yards (3.2 y/c) and two rushing touchdowns, one catch for five yards, which went for a touchdown.

So who better to turn to when wondering about the Chiefs rushing problems than... Laurent Duvernay-Tardif?

Actually, yes.

“The thing with us running the ball right now is that there are so many plays that have a pass-option out of it, and Pat (Mahomes) loves to throw the ball, so sometimes, we block the look pretty well and Kareem (Hunt) would for sure go for 15 yards at least, but Pat decides to throw it for 20, so who can blame him, you know?” Duvernay-Tardif said, as the media laughed.

With more than 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns with no picks in three games for Mahomes, I know for a fact that Chiefs fans wouldn’t.

Duvernay-Tardif continued.

“With Pat’s arm, the cool thing this year is that we’re able to do those run-pass options, but instead of being for four yards passed, it’s a 25-yard pass,” he added. “That’s a big thing for us and the way we approach a drive now—of course, we’re willing to drive the whole field for 15 plays like we’ve been doing last year, but to go out there and have a four-play drive for 65 yards is a good feeling, too.”

San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes handing it off to Kareem.
Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

And no, you don’t have to feel guilty because yes, everyone is thinking it:

Damn Larry, at least wait until Alex is in the room to defend himself.

Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy provided an alternate take on the matter Friday.

“Here’s the thing—I don’t think Pat just wants to pass all the time,” Bieniemy said. “He obviously loves to watch those guys run. I think that he’s just doing a good job of going through his progressions, doing what he’s been taught all week and just taking advantage of the advantageous situations that we’re putting him in. I think it’s just a testament to the kid. He studies a lot of tape. Obviously, there’s still a lot of room to improve, but we’re just going to continue chopping and continue moving in the right direction.”

Duvernay-Tardif went on to explain that the problem isn’t necessarily in the run game, but more so that Mahomes chooses to pass at a higher frequency than Alex did.

In that regard, Bieniemy is content with the decisions Mahomes is making.

San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

“I’m always happy,” Bieniemy explained, “because one thing you don’t want to do—you don’t want any player going out there hesitating and not playing fast, so at the end of the day, whatever we decide to do, let’s go do it fast, let’s go play hard and regardless, we make a mistake or not, it’s onto the next play.”

But back to Hunt—the subject of the post. Where does that leave him?

“That has been the dilemma for us right now, so maybe the running game doesn’t really reflect what we’re able to do on the field,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “I think a game like the Broncos is really where we’re going to be challenged to do good in the run game.”

But the Denver Broncos on Monday night may not turn out to be just what the doctor ordered (I’ll be here all week).

Through three contests, the Broncos are allowing a fourth-best 77.7 rushing yards per game, so despite the Chiefs’ intention to get the running game on track, it may not happen this week.

Still, the Chiefs say Hunt is maintaining the right attitude.

After a media opportunity last week in which Bieinemy told us Hunt is “running his ass off,” running backs coach Deland McCullough doubled down Friday by saying Hunt has been willing to do everything he can for the Chiefs.

“[Hunt’s] been a great team guy in following along with the plan,” McCullough said. “He has individual things that he’d like to see happen along the way that he wants to see come to fruition. And what we’ve been doing is telling him to continue to trust the process.

“Looking at the things he’s done well, the guy’s really been running hard, doing great in pass protection, his attention to detail is on point and continuing just to hammer away at it because those opportunities are going to come for him to get those big runs and when they do, he needs to make sure his details are tight, so he can exploit those.”

All offseason, we wondered which star’s numbers would suffer between Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins given there is only one football.

Perhaps we were overlooking Hunt, as maybe in the Air Reid, the running back suffers.

But if the Chiefs continue to win, that should be OK.