It’s been an emotional roller coaster this week for Kansas City Chiefs fans.
The cart came out for Patrick Mahomes after a quarterback sneak led to a dislocated knee on Thursday Night Football. He walked away, refusing to take the ride. The hours following left a lot of people with fear that the season was over. Slowly, optimism started creeping into reports — no ligament damage, best-case scenario.
Less than a full week since the injury, Mahomes is a limited participant in practice. It’s utterly insane. There are four games before the bye week. The Chiefs have two home games against NFC North opponents, a road game against Tennessee and a divisional battle with the Chargers on a field that was deemed unplayable a year ago in Mexico City.
The Chiefs have decisions to make about how to rest Mahomes, how to protect him from himself and how to play with Matt Moore for however long they’re without the reigning MVP. A win this week against Green Bay on Sunday Night Football would help them create some flexibility and extend the grace period.
Moore had an up-and-down performance replacing Mahomes. He reportedly hadn’t received much of any team reps this season and came in a little rusty. They don’t need him to try and be anything other than himself in No. 15’s absence. But for them to upset the Packers, these are the things he needs to do:
Be perfect on easy completions
Moore needs to be perfect on the easy completions if the Chiefs are going to have a chance to win with him.— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 23, 2019
Play 1: Leaves a first down throw short (DRob might have ran a little too deep, but I also think that throw needs to better regardless)
Play 2: Easy yards for Kelce. pic.twitter.com/jNiBEEtSlM
While Moore is at the helm, he cannot have any hiccups on the easiest yardage. Anything to make a down-and-distance more manageable, anything to help field position, he must be perfect on.
The first play in this clip cannot happen. Moore tries to hit Demarcus Robinson on an out route but leaves the ball short. I believe Robinson might have drifted upfield a tad to make this throw a little more off-target, but the throw is likely off-target regardless. Maybe Robinson gets a chance to get underneath it, but Moore has to make this...Moore catchable.
The next play, you can see what happens when the throw is on target. Moore finds Travis Kelce for easy yardage. If defenses are going to play soft on the outside (which I’m not sure they will against Moore), the veteran has to take advantage. Notice that these two plays are run-pass options. I think the Chiefs should still incorporate them into the game plan. Moore had some success with them and it gives him a chance to get the ball in the hands of his excellent playmakers. Have the likes of Kelce and Tyreek Hill help, which is why Moore needs to...
Never miss a chance to give his stars the football
If Matt Moore is going to help the Chiefs steal a game here in the next couple weeks, he can't miss opportunities to give the ball to his best playmakers.— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 23, 2019
Play 1: Had Tyreek Hill on the whip. Bailed out by PI.
Play 2: Gave Hill a chance, fought for an extra yard or two. pic.twitter.com/REaIO4SrIh
The Chiefs may not find success in Mahomes absence with a ton of air yards. They may find themselves with safer throws to keep turnovers from happening. If that’s the case, Moore can never miss an opportunity to get one of his star offensive weapons a chance at the football.
A pass interference call bailed out Moore on this third-and-3 throw, but with Hill running a whip route underneath his target, Robinson, and creating separation at the sticks, this ball needs to go to the supremely talented receiver. Give Hill a chance to make a play after the catch. His speed, burst and short-area quickness is among the best in the league.
The second play was a quick out to Hill that he was able to gain an extra yard or two after slipping out of a tackle. Give your best playmakers a chance to make plays for you.
Score touchdowns in the deep red zone
Deep Red Zone opportunities need to end in touchdowns while Patrick Mahomes is away. If you're going to get down there, you can't waste points.— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 23, 2019
Moore had Kelce ISO'd, Hill on the rub. Tried to get Damien Williams crossing into the boundary but had better options. pic.twitter.com/ghUrmMhqCs
We can give Moore a little grace on this play because this was the first series after the dislocated kneecap, but it can’t happen this week. The Chiefs dial up a rub concept on the goal line that has some similarities to the play they ran on fourth-and-3 against the Ravens last season in the come-from-behind victory.
The Chiefs have Kelce isolated one-on-one in the boundary and run a rub concept to spring Hill open to the field. Damien Williams runs a route from the boundary to the field and Byron Pringle tries to set up a rub route for him there too. Moore had three options to throw on this play, and he took the worst one. Hill was wide open through traffic, and you can see the defensive backs for Denver frustrated because of the miscommunication. Kelce got single coverage. Instead, Moore tries to throw to Williams for an incompletion.
Much like we said earlier, give your stars a chance.
Make a play or two
Matt Moore is going to have to make a big throw or two for the Chiefs to steal a win. Be it a touchdown (play one) or a big third down (play two), he'll have to give them one or two plays. pic.twitter.com/HleYGUusQa— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 23, 2019
Moore doesn’t need to be more than himself. He doesn’t have to be Superman. He will have to make a few key throws if the Chiefs want to win on Sunday night. He’s more than capable. Here, you see the 57-yard touchdown pass to Hill on the leak concept (which accounted for a little less than half of his yardage output, by the way) and a big third-and-7 conversion against pressure.
There will be a moment or two in the game that he’ll have to come up with a big play. Andy Reid will do a lot of the heavy lifting this week with the scheme, but there are going to be some spots where the Chiefs need Moore to move the chains or create an explosive play.
If Moore can do all these things, he’ll put the team in a great situation to win this game. It may not be the likeliest outcome, but a clean, simple game gives them a chance to steal a win during a critical stretch.