1. The Chiefs were taking no chances
Right from the opening kickoff, it was clear that the Chiefs were pressing for every advantage they could get against a fair-to-middling opponent. Exchanging Juan Thornhill for Daniel Sorensen at safety was one such indicator; going for it on fourth-and-1 at their own 47-yard line in their opening drive was another.
But to me, the most significant indicator that they were leaving nothing to chance against Washington was their decision to start backup offensive lineman Mike Remmers in place of right tackle Lucas Niang. The second-year rookie had been on the team’s injury report all week with a hamstring issue. Still, he practiced fully every day — which kept his injury under the radar for most observers.
But this wasn’t a game-day decision. Photographs from this week’s practices showed Remmers lining up with the first team, so Kansas City was clearly preparing to have the option to start him on Sunday; the Chiefs apparently decided that for this game, they’d rather have Remmers at 100% — rather than Niang at something less than 100%.
There’s a chance that Remmers will remain at right tackle. Given his experience level, Niang has been solid — but he hasn’t been playing at the level of rookie offensive linemen Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith, either. So we’ll see if Kansas City chooses to keep the veteran on the right edge — or allow Niang to gain more experience.
2. The defense is still breathing
Given up for dead by many fans and talking heads, the Kansas City defense finally showed signs of life against Washington. While it’s true that they weren’t exactly facing an offensive powerhouse, the unit still turned in some unexpected numbers.
The defense allowed just 13 points — I didn’t even have to look it up to know it was their lowest total of the season — and none at all in the second half. They allowed the fewest passing yards of the year, along with less than 100 rushing yards. Washington had 12 possessions. Four ended in punts. Three concluded with field goal attempts. Two others ended halves, while just one resulted in a touchdown.
But perhaps more importantly, two more ended in turnovers. The Chiefs can try to eliminate offensive turnovers, but as long as they are one of the league’s top offenses, opponents will try to gain an advantage by forcing them. It may be that the best way to eliminate the problem is for the Chiefs’ defense to do the same. And on Sunday, just one of Kansas City’s turnovers resulted in Washington points.
The defense wasn’t perfect by any means — and there will be many teams that will present more significant challenges. But on Sunday, the defense delivered a performance that would be good enough for the Chiefs to win a lot of games.
3. Patrick Mahomes still hasn’t quite learned his lesson
I’ve written about it in this space. Both head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy have spoken publicly on the subject. Even the Chiefs’ star quarterback has admitted that he’s been pressing too much — that he needs to learn when not to try and make a magical play.
But as Kansas City was driving down the field while the first-half clock was winding down to zero — and the team possessed a real chance to take the lead before halftime — Mahomes once again tried to throw the football as he was being taken down. As has happened on several other similar occasions this season, the ill-considered throw resulted in an interception.
Let’s be fair: Mahomes possesses otherworldly talent. He’s probably more likely to make a play in those situations than any other quarterback. But he still needs to learn that even his percentage of making a play in such moments doesn’t mean he should try.
In the case of Sunday’s play, he could have easily afforded to take the sack; while it would have resulted in a fourth down, the Chiefs were within field goal range and could easily have tied the score at 13 before heading to the locker room.
The sooner Mahomes can improve his situational awareness in these kinds of plays, the better. It’s literally his only significant weakness.
4. But Mahomes is still capable of shaking it off
Even though Mahomes demonstrated he still has something important to learn about playing in the NFL, we also saw him display one of his most amazing talents against Washington: his ability to dismiss adversity as if it never happened.
Through the first five games of the season, we hadn’t seen much of that from Mahomes. He would have a rough patch in a game — something even the finest quarterbacks will sometimes do — but he seemed to have trouble shaking it off.
But even after a lousy first half on Sunday, he back to his usual form after halftime. Following a three-and-out on the opening drive of the half, he finally returned to being the quarterback we have become accustomed to seeing: intelligent, athletic and effective. His ad-lib shovel pass to Travis Kelce to convert a critical third down in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty — as were several other throws.
It was great to see that Mahomes still possesses his amazing ability to put bad things behind him.
5. Jody Fortson can catch passes — but not breaks
One of the season’s most pleasant surprises has been the emergence of tight end Jody Fortson. After two seasons in which he could not make the team’s roster as a wide receiver, he came into the offseason prepared to play as a tight end.
Fortson not only made the roster but also continued to do what we had seen him do in previous preseason action: be effective in limited use. Through six games, Fortson had five receptions for 47 yards — and two touchdowns — on just five targets. 27 of those yards came on an incredible catch in Sunday’s opening quarter, setting up the first Chiefs touchdown.
And according to Pro Football Focus, Fortson had a grade of 87.8 on 13 run-blocking snaps during the first five games.
But in the third quarter of Sunday’s game, he suffered a torn Achilles during a play in which he wasn’t really involved — the dreaded non-contact Achilles injury — and for the second time in three seasons, Fortson will finish the season on Kansas City’s Reserve/Injured list.
But we will look forward to his recovery for the 2022 season... and even better days ahead.