Our coverage of Sunday’s Kansas City Chiefs’ 27-24 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers included the game’s biggest winner — wide receiver Tyreek Hill — along with the Arrowhead Pride Nerd Squad’s concerns about the Kansas City defense and John Dixon’s worries about the Chiefs’ offensive line. But Pete Sweeney’s immediate thought was that at an important milestone, the team is in good shape.
A couple weeks back, Andy Reid noted that Sammy Watkins’ absence might have led to an uptick in their production. It may very well be that the opposite is actually true. Hill and Kelce may be about to produce more.
At quarterback, Patrick Mahomes continues to take what is in front of him: a lot of room to attack the opposing defense through the air. The timing he has down with Hill and Kelce has been special — something we have discussed on these pages all year.
I thought the Chiefs defense took some strides in Tampa Bay. The way to beat Tom Brady is to make him uncomfortable — and the Chiefs set that tone early. They hit him eight times on the day. He might have become a little too comfortable in the second half — but by then, it was too late.
Linebacker Anthony Hitchens, defensive end Alex Okafor and safety Tyrann Mathieu all had moments that popped on Sunday afternoon. Mathieu was involved in both causing an interception and securing one for himself. Chris Jones showed some bite to go along with his bark.
On Monday morning, we found a few surprises in the snap counts from Sunday’s game.
Along the defensive line, snap counts were near-normal for everyone — except for rookie Tershawn Wharton, who had the greatest use of his rookie season. When compared to fellow defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi, it’s pretty clear which interior lineman the Chiefs want on the field during passing and running situations. Mike Pennel’s use was as low as it’s been all season.
On Tuesday, we took our weekly look at where the Chiefs stand in the postseason race.
Making the playoffs — and winning the West
We can use the playoff calculator to assume the outcome of any remaining game and then see how it changes things.
With the Chiefs’ win against Tampa Bay — and the handy Las Vegas Raiders loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday — the math is pretty simple: any combination of Chiefs wins and Raiders losses totaling two gives the Chiefs the division title — and a playoff berth. That could happen as soon as this Sunday with a Chiefs victory over the Denver Broncos and a Raiders loss to the New York Jets.
But even if that doesn’t happen this weekend, the Chiefs are going to make the playoffs. Even if they were to lose their remaining five games — which itself would happen only about one time in 550 — they would still make the playoffs 98 or 99 times out of 100. So right now, their chance of missing the playoffs is about one in 54,000.
The Chiefs wide receiver had attracted a lot of national attention for his jaw-dropping stat line from Sunday’s game, so our Matt Lane went to the film to see if it’s really time to crown him the league’s best receiver.
Most Kansas City Chiefs fans know how good Hill is at football. Most NFL fans know what kind of impact he has on the game week in and week out. After this season, analysts may finally begin to get on the same page and realize just how good a wide receiver Hill really is.
He’s not just a speed or gadget guy — or even what would be considered a deep-threat wide receiver. He does everything you can ask out of a No. 1 wide receiver — and he’s steadily built up a refined skill set to pair with the freakish athletic traits that had already positioned him as the “most dangerous.”
On Wednesday, we learned about the steps the Chiefs are taking to make sure they don’t have the same problems the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens faced in Week 12.
“There are four desks — and then there’s one desk that’s like the main one for the coach to sit at,” Mahomes explained. “We have, like, five spots. That works when it’s just the quarterbacks and coach (Mike) Kafka, but obviously when other people come in, we have to send people out.”
Send people out?
“There’s only a certain number of guys that can be in that room together,” continued Mahomes, “[so] that we have the proper amount of distance between each other. And then whenever coach Reid or coach (Eric) Bieniemy come in there for some of our meetings, we’ll send people out.”
But Mahomes also pointed out that just as they have been doing since this curious NFL season began, those that have left the room could continue to participate in the meeting virtually.
“They’ll still be part of the virtual part of the experience, but it won’t be where it’s too congested in a room,” noted Mahomes. “But even with that, we still wear our masks and do all that different type of stuff. It’s something you have to stay on top of.”
Then Andy Reid talked about the latest unusual play the Chiefs had unveiled.
“It keeps the guys alive, it keeps everyone involved,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid told reporters on Wednesday. “They get into those. Kelce has taken a beating over his maneuvering with the football... We have a wrinkle here or there that we have fun with. Hopefully it works; we’re trying to score. I just go off of when I feel that it’s right to do. Then we’ll do it.”
It’s a give and take. When such a play succeeds, players rejoice and coach Reid looks like a genius. But when the play fails, media and fans will question the decision — and accuse Reid of being “too cute.” Reid never downplays how seriously he takes the sport — which actually contributes to why he calls the plays.
“This is a serious business, so we’re grinding away,” Reid pointed out. “There’s a lot of hours put in, so you give the guys a little something. Now, you want it to be a good play — we’re not making a mockery out of the thing. We’re trying to make it another opportunity to score a touchdown — and as you saw, we had people available; it just didn’t work out. 24 did a heck of a job with it too, you have to give him credit... It’s a good ‘get everyone involved’ play.”
The Chiefs’ lack of quarterback sacks has been a hot topic this season — but on Thursday, the defensive coordinator pushed back a bit.
Jones makes a noticeable impact on the game — but sometimes, Clark looks to struggle. On Thursday, Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo explained that he’s working to get more production — and for him, sack totals aren’t the be-all, end-all.
“We all feel like if we don’t get to him, then we didn’t get the job done — and I think Frank Clark feels the same way,” Spagnuolo told reporters on Thursday. “He’s out there battling just like the rest of them. We could try to put him in better situations, but I look at it like a unit thing more than anything.
“I thought we were really good on third down this past week, so it got a little bit better. Every time they drop back to throw the football, we’re trying to affect the quarterback. It doesn’t have to be a sack. Everyone gets wrapped up in numbers and that’s the big number — but It’s more than that: it’s how we affect the quarterback.”
The Chiefs’ quarterback received a big honor on Friday — and not for the first time.
Mahomes started four games during the month, completing 132 passes on 181 attempts (72.9%) for 1,598 yards, 14 touchdowns and only one interception. With a touchdown rate of 7.7% (and an interception rate of just 0.6%), that was good for a passer rating of 123.1. Mahomes was sacked just four times for 17 yards and rushed nine times for 50 yards — five of those carries good for first downs.
Mahomes had already been named the AFC’s offensive player of the week after his performance against the New York Jets in the first week of November, in which he was 31 of 42 for 416 yards and five touchdowns.
This is the third time Mahomes has won the monthly award. He also received it in September 2018 — his first month as an NFL starting quarterback — and in September 2019.
Some kind of stomach flu plagued Chiefs players during the week. By Friday, only the Chiefs’ rookie running back was still under the weather.
Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is questionable, but it’s likely he’ll play, according to head coach Andy Reid.
Reid on Edwards-Helaire: “He’s got the same thing Breezy (Bashaud Breeland) had with the stomach deal. We think we’re going to get him back here, I don’t think that’s a problem. He’s feeling better today, but we held him out.”
Linebacker Dorian O’Daniel (high ankle) is the only Chiefs player ruled out.