We broke down the highs and lows on the AP Laboratory Postgame Show:
Here are three of our big takeaways:
Pass protection, pass protection, pass protection
Every year, there is a game that perfectly showcases how difficult it can be to be an offensive tackle for the league’s best player — Patrick Mahomes. For much of the night, the Chiefs pass protection’ was breaking down on the edge over and over again.
Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz both looked to bite off more than they could chew trying to handle Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa one on one. It’s certainly worth monitoring after such a quick passing attack against the Houston Texans in Week 1 and now a shaky performance from the two tackles in pass protection for the second week in a row.
Part of the issue does fall onto Mahomes, who tends to drop back, then drift backward even farther. It makes blocking to specific points — depending on the drop steps and depth — very difficult. The Chargers know this about the Chiefs and Mahomes, so their defensive ends took very deep, very direct pass-rush angles knowing they didn’t have to worry about creating the space to loop up into the pocket behind the quarterback.
After a game in which this issue creeps up this aggressively, it usually gets better quickly for Mahomes, but it is something that should be monitored.
Juan Thornhill is still working back into shape
Juan Thornhill had probably his worst game in a Chiefs uniform against the Chargers, and he almost certainly wanted a few plays back — starting with the very first drive, in which he looked to struggle to get over the top of a wheel route and then simply never located the football. His tough day continued with missed tackles throughout the game at various levels.
Defensive backs and cornerbacks coach Sam Madison dropped some hints this week that Thornhill may not be in the best football shape, as he working back from his injury. That looked evident on the field. He is not showing the same explosion and natural fluidity he seemed to have last season. He will likely rebound quickly, but there were a handful of plays he made last year as a rookie that he wasn’t finishing in this particular game. It got to the point where Tedric Thompson looked crisper than Thornhill on the field, which is great for the Chiefs moving forward as they wait for Thornhill to return to form.
The defensive line and its ups and downs
The defensive line had one of its easier matchups of the season against Sam Tevi, Dan Feeney and Trey Pipkins. Despite that, the defensive line did not dominate in the running or passing game. The Chargers did a good job putting them on their heels early with quick passing, rollouts and the screen game, but it’s still a matchup the Chiefs should have won.
After Frank Clark was ruled out at halftime, the Chargers clearly felt more comfortable in running traditional dropbacks, and the Chiefs lacked a dynamic edge-rushing presence. Mike Danna had some nice reps, as did Taco Charlton, but there was a lack of a consistent, explosive edge rusher to compliment Chris jones getting extra attention on the outside.
As far as run defense, it simply was bad from the front end to the back end. Outside of Derrick Nnadi, no player was very strong against the run. The Chargers specifically targeted aggressive Chiefs defensive tackles and cut behind them, outran slower linebackers and broke tackles from defensive backs routinely. Mike Pennel returning for the Baltimore Ravens game will be critical for the Chiefs, but they will also need Frank Clark out there helping to hold an edge and crash down on the back side of plays.
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