Among his five things we learned from the Kansas City Chiefs 32-29 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, John Dixon mentioned the first 8-0 road record in Chiefs history. In their three big takeaways from the win, the Arrowhead Pride Nerd Squad noted that quarterback Patrick Mahomes played much better than his box score would indicate. In his list of the game’s winners and losers, Matt Stagner named Big Red as a big winner. And in his rapid reaction, Pete Sweeney pointed out that targeting the Chiefs with a physical game just doesn’t work any longer.
The Saints wanted the Chiefs in a “bat game,” which essentially translated to roughing up the Chiefs as much as possible. This reminded me of when Travis Kelce described how the Patriots were physically aggressive at the line of scrimmage in the 2018 AFC championship game. The Patriots jumped out to a 14-0 halftime lead and an eventual win, and Kelce admitted the Chiefs just weren’t ready for that type of game.
It could be considered a tactic that is thought to even the playing field when there is a talent disparity. And to the Saints’ credit, they did “bring the wood” on Sunday.
The Saints were physical with wide receiver Tyreek Hill, Kelce and the rest of the Chiefs weapons. They were able to get to Patrick Mahomes with four rushers against a somewhat-makeshift offensive line — especially early in the game — collaborating for 4.0 sacks and 11 quarterback hits. In the fourth quarter, Mahomes took perhaps the biggest shot of his career when he was sandwiched by two Saints defensive ends.
The Saints almost found a way to pull out the game, but the problem was that these 2020 Chiefs are a far cry from those 2018 Chiefs.
By Monday afternoon, the terrible-looking injury the Chiefs’ first-round rookie had suffered on Sunday was looking a lot better.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is hurt but could be back for the playoffs, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport suggested in a new report on Monday morning.
#Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire suffered a hip and an ankle injury yesterday, but X-Rays were negative, per coach Andy Reid. They’ll know more after the MRI. The early expectation is CEH is done for the regular season with a chance to return for the playoffs, source said.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 21, 2020
Rapoport provided an update on his earlier tweet on Monday afternoon, presumably after the running back’s MRI.
For #Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the high-ankle sprain will likely take more time to heal than the hip strain. The team is hopeful for a playoff return depending on his rehab, and the divisional round is about a month away. He has time.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 21, 2020
Edwards-Helaire left the Chiefs’ game with the New Orleans Saints in the fourth quarter due to an ugly injury. The running back was helped off the field while he did not appear to put any weight on his left leg. The Chiefs called it a leg and hip injury.
“Clyde got twisted up,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said after the game. “He had the splits. The X-rays were negative, but we will evaluate him as we go.”
On account of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the NFL Pro Bowl will not be played after the 2020 season — but fans still voted on the yearly honor. On Monday, we learned that seven Chiefs had made the cut.
They are defensive end Frank Clark (second nomination), left tackle Eric Fisher (second nomination), wide receiver Tyreek Hill (fifth nomination), defensive tackle Chris Jones (second nomination), tight end Travis Kelce (sixth nomination), quarterback Patrick Mahomes (third nomination) and safety Tyrann Mathieu (second nomination).
On Tuesday, Kent Swanson looked through the film from Sunday’s game, showing how Kansas City’s superstar quarterback had outperformed his statistics against the Saints.
Mahomes’ performance on Sunday was reflective of the kind of leader he has become. It had everything. He showed growth in his decision making. He gave players chances all over the field. He made plays when his team needed them the most. And all of this was in a game the Chiefs didn’t need to win.
The Chiefs closed out their regular-season away schedule with a perfect 8-0 — some of those wins against very good teams. Every time he steps on the field, Mahomes is holding himself to a high standard — and won’t let his team waste a gameday opportunity to get better and build toward the ultimate prize.
Also on Tuesday, we explained how it is that even with a greater than 99% chance to win the AFC’s only bye, the Chiefs still had some business to conduct in order to get it locked up.
Kansas City remains in control of its own destiny; it doesn’t need to have help from any other team to lock down the bye. Two wins to close the season will give the team a 15-1 record that no other team can match; no tiebreaker would come into play.
Should the Chiefs win just one of their last two games against the Falcons and Chargers, their record will be 14-2. No other AFC team can match that record because the other remaining contenders — the Steelers and the Bills — both already have three losses. Again, no tiebreaker needed.
Here’s how that all boils down: any Chiefs win — OR any loss by either the Steelers OR the Bills — guarantees Kansas City the top postseason seed.
In turn, that means that the Chiefs could easily lock up the first seed as early as Sunday.
Late on Tuesday afternoon, we got some bad news.
According to Monday’s NFL transactions report, the Kansas City Chiefs have added starting linebacker Anthony Hitchens to the team’s reserve/COVID list.
With this, we add the standard reminder: this does not necessarily mean that Hitchens has tested positive for the novel coronavirus; players may be placed on the reserve/COVID list merely for coming into close contact with a person who has tested positive for the virus.
It doesn’t even necessarily mean Hitchens will be unavailable to play in Sunday’s Week 16 game against the Atlanta Falcons. We have already seen occasions where it appeared that the Chiefs put players on the COVID list as a precaution but returned them to the roster when their tests turned out negative — or perhaps when additional research indicated the players hadn’t been significantly exposed.
Even though Kansas City’s starting running back hadn’t been injured as badly as we had feared, it was still clear he was going to miss some games. So on Wednesday, Matt Lane looked at the film to see how the former All-Pro could help his new team.
By all appearances, Bell is getting more comfortable in the Kansas City offense and figuring out how his running style best fits his new team.
He still runs with the iconic patience and vision that made him so special — and he’s starting to figure out how best to use it within the Chiefs’ scheme. He also brings an extra dimension of power to the running game, which could help improve the team’s production in short-yardage situations.
Still, it will be interesting to see how the Chiefs will utilize Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson, hoping to add some more dynamic elements to the rushing attack until Edwards-Helaire returns.
In the Wednesday edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory podcast, the Nerd Squad addressed the Chiefs players we might see if the team chooses to rest some players in what could be a meaningless game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The 2019 first-round pick was called up to the 53-man roster on Sunday for the Saints game — playing only on special teams. The Chiefs are trying to find out if Baker is part of their future and getting a whole game in Week 17 would be a big opportunity to learn about both Baker and rookie BoPete Keyes. The Chiefs could have Baker under club control for the next three seasons at a low rate. If he can show the ability that got him taken 30th overall two seasons ago, that could be massive. Week 17 could be a big opportunity for him.
On Christmas Eve, reporters wanted to how the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator thought the veteran running back would perform in Edwards-Helaire’s starting role.
“Le’Veon Bell has played in this league long enough to know football,” declared Bieniemy. “Now he may be learning a different language — in a sense — but when it’s all said and done, football is football. He’ll be able to connect the two dots if that language doesn’t quite snap in. I’m not concerned with Le’Veon at all. Like I said... the next man is up.”
And even if he doesn’t every detail of the playbook down just yet, Bieniemy talked as if it won’t take Bell much longer to be fully acclimatized.
“He’s smart,” said Bieniemy. “He’s intelligent. He takes the game home. He’s a football junkie. He just gets it. And that’s the thing that I love about him: just his football intellect. And on top of that, he’s always asking questions — because he wants to know exactly what to do and how to do it the right way.”
On Christmas morning, we left a present under the tree: Craig Stout’s defensive preview for Sunday’s game against the Falcons:
I expect Chris Jones to have a big day rushing the passer. Matt Ryan’s propensity for holding the ball, lack of elite mobility in the pocket, and the aforementioned offensive line should lead to more opportunities for Jones to get pressure. The Falcons may be forced to dedicate more attention to Jones, freeing up Tershawn Wharton in the Chiefs’ dime defense.
Calvin Ridley will likely be the focus for the Chiefs defense, as he’ll be the most dangerous target on the field. If he continues to operate primarily out of the slot, this could be L’Jarius Sneed’s biggest test since moving to his current nickel cornerback role. Sneed certainly has the athletic ability to defend any route that Ridley throws at him, but the diverse route tree he’ll run from the slot could give the rookie cornerback fits this week.
Atlanta’s best performances this season have come from jumping out to a big lead and attempting to hold on throughout the game. They haven’t been able to do so very often, but it’s led to some close games against some decent-to-good teams. Spagnuolo has started well — and adjusted well out of the half — as this season has progressed, so this is a potential “strength-on-strength” matchup.