Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce proved once again Sunday to be the team’s beacon of consistency — and they are the reason their Kansas City Chiefs managed to enter the bye week seven games over .500 after the 33-31 win over the Carolina Panthers.
Of his 45 passing attempts, Mahomes targeted Hill (12) and Kelce (18) a combined 30 times (Mahomes himself was surprised to hear that number after the game) for 272 of his 372 yards. It is funny, because as Mahomes begins to build his very strong case to win the second MVP award of his career, Hill and Kelce are quietly building their own cases for best wide receiver and (undisputed) best tight end in the league, respectively.
Their success all comes back to head coach Andy Reid, who continues to put them in optimal positions to score and win. The Chiefs have scored more than 30 points in six of nine games this season — and just when it seems like there is no more room for creativity, we see something like “Ferrari Right,” the quarterback motion play that led to a touchdown throw from Mahomes to wideout Demarcus Robinson.
On the other side of it is the reality that the Kansas City defense left something to be desired. The offense did not punt until late in the fourth quarter, yet the Chiefs only won by two and were out-gained 435 yards to 397. The Panthers were 3-for-3 on fourth down and scored touchdowns all four times they were in the red zone.
There has been an underlying layer to games in which the defense has allowed opposing teams to remain in it — and it includes a dynamic performance from the running back position. I noted in our game prediction post that in the Chiefs’ one loss to the Las Vegas Raiders and their close call with the Los Angeles Chargers, they allowed opposing running backs to control the game.
What can’t be lost in the Chiefs’ struggles is that there may be no more talented player in the league than Christian McCaffrey — and if he had been with them all year, the Panthers, who have now lost five one-score games on the season, might have a better record than 3-6 (McCaffrey had been out for six games before Sunday). The new way Panthers head coach Matt Rhule is using Curtis Samuel has morphed him in a formidable dual-threat weapon, and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is fearless.
It is also worth a reminder that the Chiefs’ Super Bowl-winning 2019 defense did not really click until Week 11 — after that bye.
But that being said, the Chiefs need to be better setting the edge, tackling at the second level and containing and pressuring the quarterback. That — and Harrison Butker’s woes — could eventually cost the Chiefs a key game or two, regardless of how well Mahomes and the offense plays.
All that is real, but so is the fact that the Chiefs are 8-1 at the bye week. That is extremely difficult to accomplish in the NFL, and stemming from offensive consistency and enough from the defense, Kansas City is truly maintaining its goal to run it back.