Loser: Chiefs Juggernaut Talk
The Chiefs are clearly the most dominant team in the NFL. They won last year’s Super Bowl, they have the sport’s best player, they have the best record in the league this year, they’ve secured home-field advantage for the playoffs, and they’ve won 10 games in a row.
But every week, I get a little bit more worried about them. Since beating the Jets by 26 on November 1, they have won seven straight one-possession games. They beat the 5-10 Panthers by two; they beat the 5-10 Broncos by six; and Sunday, they survived an ugly game against the 4-11 Falcons when Younghoe Koo missed a last-minute field goal.
Last week against the Saints, Mahomes averaged just 5.4 yards per attempt, the lowest single-game average of his career. It was understandable—the Saints have an elite pass defense. This week against the Falcons, though, Mahomes averaged 6.3 yards per attempt, the fourth-worst single-game average of his career. That’s a much less understandable figure; the Falcons have gotten absolutely torched through the air all season long.
It’s almost like the Chiefs have been sleep-walking through the back half of their schedule. The Chiefs won their seventh straight game by one-score and they were lucky to escape this game with a win. There were plenty of uncharacteristic mistakes, including an ugly red zone interception by Patrick Mahomes in the second half and an inexplicable call by Andy Reid on a fourth-and-1 in the first half that ended with Sammy Watkins throwing an interception. Of course, Mahomes does a good job of glossing over every mistake the Chiefs make and he did that here with a game-winning touchdown drive in the final two minutes.
The popular thought the past few weeks, especially after the collapse of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is that the Chiefs can’t be beat this season. That’s not how the NFL works. The 2007 New England Patriots were beatable. So were the 1990 San Francisco 49ers. And the 1998 Minnesota Vikings, 2011 Green Bay Packers, 1968 Baltimore Colts ... great teams lose in the playoffs all the time.
We saw again Sunday that the Chiefs aren’t above that. The Falcons are a bad team. They entered Sunday’s game 4-10 and didn’t have Julio Jones. And yet, the Falcons had a great shot at an upset. The Falcons were tied 7-7 going into the fourth quarter and Atlanta took a 14-10 lead in the final minutes. Had rookie A.J. Terrell held onto an interception in the end zone with 2:01 to go, the Falcons likely would have won. Instead, Patrick Mahomes hit Demarcus Robinson for a touchdown with 1:55 left to give the Chiefs the lead. The Falcons had a chance to send the game to overtime in the final seconds, but Younghoe Koo’s field-goal attempt went wide right. The Chiefs escaped with a 17-14 win. They did not look very good against a team that is nowhere near the playoff race.
2) The Falcons (4-11) gave the heralded K.C. offense fits with an assertive pass rush and a disciplined secondary. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett led the way with several pressures of Mahomes, who was often forced to throw the ball away or compelled to take dangerous chances with Falcons defenders breathing down his neck. Linebacker Foye Oluokun picked off Mahomes to end the Chiefs’ opening drive of the second half, and if it wasn’t for Tyreek Hill’s hustle, it could’ve been a game-altering pick-six. Deion Jones (eight tackles) and Keanu Neal, who intercepted Sammy Watkins on a trick play, were other young Falcons who showed that the future isn’t all that grim in Atlanta.
Meanwhile, Mahomes did not have a great game in the Chiefs’ 17-14 victory over the Falcons. He was 24-for-44 for 278 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a season-low 79.6 passer rating. Plus his team scored just 17 points against one of the NFL’s worst defenses.
Rodgers entered the weekend leading the league in passer rating (118.0), and will increase his lead in that category after Sunday’s showing. Rodgers also leads the NFL in touchdown passes (44) and fewest interceptions (5) for quarterbacks who played more than 10 games.
Mahomes has 38 touchdown passes with six interceptions, but leads the league in passing yards per game.
Kittle congratulated Kelce on Twitter.
Kelce entered the weekend needing just 60 yards to break the record and averaged 94.1 yards per game before Sunday. He now owns the No. 1 and No. 3 spots on the list for all-time single-season receiving yards by a tight end. Kelce racked up 1,336 yards from 88 catches in 2018, briefly owning the top spot that year before Kittle reset the bar minutes later.
After saying he would never have to be the guy to chase down a defender because his quarterback doesn’t throw interceptions, Tyreek Hill was that guy on Sunday.
Hill ran down Foyesade Oluokun — 51 yards down the field — after the Atlanta Falcons linebacker intercepted a pass from Patrick Mahomes in the third quarter of Sunday’s 17-14 Kansas City Chiefs victory.
Around the NFL
Following its 14th-straight loss this season, the Jaguars (1-14) have secured its bid to pick the best player in the 2021 NFL Draft by virtue of the No. 1 overall pick. While the Jaguars needed some help - the New York Jets defeated the Cleveland Browns 23-16 -, the team’s 41-17 loss against the Chicago Bears today would secure it.
Entering the matchup, much of the talk around Jacksonville and nationally centered around Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the opportunity to select him. It would become a battle between the Jets (2-13) and the Jaguars, who were able to leap frog the Jets last week after New York secured its first victory of the season over the Los Angeles Rams.
While the Jets and Jaguars can still finish the the same record following Week 17, the Jaguars will own the strength-of-schedule tie breaker. The current SOS difference, according to Tankathon.com, is .553 for the Jaguars and .598 for the Jets.
Washington benched Haskins in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers. He completed 14 of 28 passes for 154 yards and two interceptions.
“Definitely the hardest week of my life. I just want to bounce back and move forward and pray and get my life together,” Haskins said. “I can’t really put into words how I’m feeling right now.”
Coach Ron Rivera isn’t sure yet who will start next Sunday’s season finale for Washington (6-9) at Philadelphia. If Alex Smith’s strained right calf is healthy, then he will start. But if Smith can’t play, Rivera was noncommittal over who would start.
Goff played the duration of Sunday’s game in which he also suffered a dislocation, Rapoport reported.
Goff is set for more tests on Monday to see about his playing status for the Rams’ Week 17 game against the Arizona Cardinals, but it’s unlikely he will play, Silver and Rapoport reported. Goff will see how his thumb is after the swelling goes down, but he will need surgery to repair it and it “could well be a season-ending injury,” Silver added.
The injury occurred when Goff’s hand hit a Seahawks defender’s helmet in the third quarter. Goff was later seen on the broadcast popping his thumb back into place.
The loss to Seattle on Sunday prevented the Rams from clinching a postseason berth. They now need either a Week 17 win over the Cardinals or a Bears loss to the Packers to qualify.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Chris Jones: The star defensive tackle was a problem for the Falcons all afternoon. Credited with a sack and four quarterback hits, he lived in the Atlanta offensive backfield. He added a tackle for loss and a tipped pass for good measure. When facing a pass-heavy offense, Jones can absolutely take over a game — and be a nightmare for opponents. That’s why he got paid this offseason.
L’Jarius Sneed: The rookie cornerback is making his presence felt... as a pass rusher. Sneed had another sack and two quarterback hits to go along with a solid day in coverage. Once again, Sneed was also physical in the running game and open-field tackling, collecting seven tackles. Given his draft pedigree and relative lack of experience, being a complete player this early in his rookie season is absolutely remarkable.
Willie Gay, Jr: Whether it was due to Ben Niemann’s injury or if it was planned all along, we got what we wanted to see: the rookie linebacker finally having a solid day. He led the team in tackles with nine — including one for a loss — and was consistently around the ball. He’ll have some things to clean up, but it’s great to see him flying around the field and gaining confidence.