Sunday’s coverage of the Kansas City Chiefs’ 33-31 victory over the Carolina Panthers — in which we saw a big milestone for quarterback Patrick Mahomes — included Pete’s Sweeney’s rapid reaction about the team’s offensive consistency and the Arrowhead Pride Nerd Squad’s postgame analysis of a defense that struggled at every level. Matt Stagner tallied up four winners and four losers from the game, while John Dixon reflected on other things we learned.
4. The offensive line remains a merry-go-round
The Chiefs started Austin Reiter at center on Sunday, leaving veteran Daniel Kilgore on the bench after he had started three games. Mike Remmers — who has been holding down right tackle while Mitchell Schwartz has been out — was injured during the game (rookie Yasir Durant took his place) but was back on the field before the final gun. Meanwhile, Nick Allegretti and Andrew Wylie remained in their starting positions at left and right guard.
Results seemed mixed. Mahomes appeared to have plenty of clean pockets in which he could operate — but Chiefs rushers Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Le’Veon Bell gained just 22 yards on just nine attempts.
To be sure, part of this was a greater reliance on the passing game than we expected to see against the Panthers; the Chiefs were in the unaccustomed position of playing from behind until late into the third quarter — and the passing game was working. As long as that’s the case, we can expect Andy Reid to continue leaning toward passing plays.
On Monday, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and his quarterback talked about unusual play the Chiefs had used on Demarcus Robinson’s touchdown reception against the Panthers.
“The last three weeks Pat’s been messing around with it,” said Reid said after the game. “So I told him, I said, ‘We’re going to put it in,’ and he looked at me like I was crazy. But he had been doing it and it looked good, so, if I said, ‘If it looks good, let’s try it,’ and so we tried it. He goes down there during special teams and he was messing around with a couple things, so we put it in — and it worked.”
As has grown to be expected, Mahomes had more details to share about the play than his ever-humble head coach.
“You see me in training camp and before practice, taking snaps with centers, and so obviously I’m doing formations and stuff like that and I started going in motion,” he said. “After that, I had to go to Tom Melvin — our tight ends coach — and ask if it was legal for me to be in motion and he said as long as everyone was set.”
Tuesday brought news that a full year after sustaining a knee injury, offensive lineman Martinas Rankin was back on the active roster.
Rankin — a former third-round draft pick originally acquired from the Houston Texans in August 2019 in a trade for running back Carlos Hyde — started five games for the Chiefs in 2019. He sustained a knee injury in the Week 10 game against the Tennessee Titans and was placed on injured reserve for the remainder of the season.
To make room for Rankin, the Chiefs waived former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Demone Harris, who has been with the team since last November. He played in four 2019 games and has been active for just one contest this season.
The Chiefs also placed practice-squad defensive tackle Braxton Hoyett on the Reserve/COVID list.
Not every national writer agreed, but even the narrow victory against the Panthers kept the Chiefs at the top of multiple Week 10 rankings.
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Patrick Mahomes is locked in, and it makes the Chiefs something close to unbeatable. A ball-control Panthers offense allowed Kansas City only 22 minutes of possession on Sunday, but that was still enough time for Mahomes to throw for 372 yards and four touchdowns in a 33-31 win. Mahomes needed just 40 games to reach 101 touchdown passes, passing Dan Marino as the fastest ever to triple-digit scores. “You’re seeing the best of him right now,’’ Andy Reid said after the game. Reid dialed up a pass-heavy attack against Carolina, and Mahomes relied on his two stars to carry the day — Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce finished with a combined 272 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The defending champs hit their bye as the best team in football.
— Dan Hanzus
Following news that the NFL had approved a plan to give a pair of third-round compensatory draft picks to teams that have a minority assistant coach become a head coach elsewhere, Wednesday’s Arrowhead Pride Laboratory podcast included a conversation about what might happen if offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy finally becomes a head coach.
What will Veach do with the assets he has?
A trade-up is always in play. Being good has a price, and the Chiefs are expecting to pick in the back of the draft in each round, as they have the last few years.
One of those third-round picks could help the Chiefs move up five or six spots in the first round to ensure they get a player they are seeking. If Veach really wanted linebacker Patrick Queen last year, he might have been able to move up with one of those additional premium picks to acquire him and still have two additional premium assets.
Veach could also hold onto his picks and load up with four picks in the top 102. He’s had a lot of success on day two of the draft the past two years, so having another swing in that range is not a bad thing.
Wednesday also brought news that another Chiefs player was going to have to sit down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
As a reminder, Hardman’s placement on the list does not necessarily mean that he has tested positive for COVID-19. The news came shortly after Yates’ ESPN colleague, Adam Schefter, reported that the Chiefs asked the NFL to launch a COVID protocol-related inquiry with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA).
1/2 Chiefs have asked the NFL to launch an inquiry with the NFLPA after a union rep conducted an in-person meeting with all KC players late last month and rep allegedly was unmasked while meeting and mingling with the players in close proximity, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 11, 2020
Schefter later added that the NFLPA had been made aware of the situation and took action. It is unclear as of this writing if the two matters are related.
On Thursday, John Dixon tallied up the records of the team’s remaining opponents — and also took a non-traditional approach to determine how difficult the Chiefs’ remaining schedule might be.
The Chiefs drop from 19th-easiest to 29th-easiest. Once we’ve applied the simplest possible method to adjust for the quality of upcoming opponents, a number of teams move around. The Chiefs, Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers all have harder schedules that we first thought, while the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers all have easier ones.
But again... let’s not get too excited. The letter grades tell a somewhat different story. Using SRS, the Chiefs fall just outside that average range with a D+. The Buccaneers — falling from 10th to 25th — come closest to dropping a full letter grade.
Then we learned that a player who’s been with the team for over a year might finally get a chance to play.
Ward, 23, first joined the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent out of Old Dominion in 2019. The 6-foot-6, 255-pound defensive end red-shirted the championship season on the team’s reserve/non-football injury list.
Ward did not make the Chiefs’ initial 53-man roster in 2020 but was quickly added to the team’s practice squad. Ward could help fill the void left by Taco Charlton, who fractured his ankle in the Chiefs’ 33-31 win over the Carolina Panthers and is expected to miss time.
Ron Kopp Jr. had spent the bye week recapping the Chiefs players the Arrowhead Pride staff had voted to receive midseason awards — beginning on Wednesday with special teams, most improved player and best assistant coach awards — and then continuing on Thursday with our midseason picks for offensive and defensive rookies of the year. Ron saved the best for last on Friday:
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes
The reigning Super Bowl MVP quarterback swept the votes for the team’s most valuable player.
Mahomes has been as prolific as ever this year — if not more. He’s second in the NFL in both passing yards and passing touchdowns, thrown an interception on the lowest percentage of his pass attempts — and is in the top three in both passer rating and ESPN’s QBR metric.
Mahomes has his blow up games — like the 385 passing yards and five total touchdowns against the Baltimore Ravens or the 416 yards and five scores through the air on the New York Jets. Mahomes has also had not-as-flashy games — like the 211 yards and three touchdowns against the Houston Texans in the season opener, which was a performance that his backup quarterbacks Matt Moore and Chad Henne called “one of the best game he’s played.”