The players and coaches who walked to the post-game podium at FedEx Field in this Washington D.C. suburb couldn’t pinpoint the reason it all finally came together — offense, defense, special teams — for the first time this season.
There wasn’t some gifted speech or moving moment on the sideline, they insisted. But this is where the experience matters. After a miserable first half, a group of players spotlighted in back-to-back Super Bowls kept it simple, as if to say ...
“Enough’s enough,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, later adding, “The guys get tired of it. The leaders, you get tired of it. And it’s gotta change.”
Kansas City was able to survive a rocky first half. While they allowed one touchdown off a turnover, the Chiefs’ defense was able to hold Washington to field goals instead of touchdowns on two occasions in the game’s first 30 minutes. An example of the Chiefs’ impressive defensive performance took place after Patrick Mahomes threw his first interception deep in Washington territory. Kansas City’s defense forced a quick three-and-out, which set up a short field for Kansas City’s offense. The Chiefs’ offense parlayed the short field into a Harrison Butker field goal. Kansas City’s offense woke up in the second half. The offensive line gave Mahomes better protection while clearing the way for Darrel Williams on the ground. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce also woke up after both players had slow starts. Their contributions in the second half helped the Chiefs’ offense convert on eight straight third downs, with the eighth conversion coming on Mahomes’ 24-yard touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson that put the game on ice.
Next Gen stat of the game: Patrick Mahomes was 8 of 15 for 83 yards, two interceptions on passes of fewer than 10 air yards in first half. He was 14 of 16 for 93 yards, TD on passes of fewer than 10 air yards in second half. It was Mahomes’ third career game with two interceptions on passes of fewer than 10 air yards (also happened Week 5 vs BUF).
NFL Research: The Chiefs are one of two teams in the last 30 seasons to score 30-plus points per game and have 14 or more giveaways in their first six games of a season — also 2014 Eagles (finished 10-6, missed playoffs). The Chiefs are the sixth team in the Super Bowl era to not have a winning record despite averaging 30-plus PPG through their first six games of a season — only one of previous five such teams made playoffs (2012 Patriots).
Why the Chiefs won
Kansas City was able to survive a rocky first half. While it allowed one touchdown off a turnover, the Chiefs’ defense was able to hold Washington to field goals instead of touchdowns on two occasions in the game’s first 30 minutes.
An example of the Chiefs’ impressive defensive performance took place after Mahomes threw his first interception deep in Washington territory. Kansas City’s defense forced a quick three-and-out, which set up a short field for Kansas City’s offense. The Chiefs’ offense parlayed the short field into Harrison Butker’s 52-yard field goal.
Kansas City’s offense woke up in the second half. The offensive line gave Mahomes better protection while clearing the way for Williams on the ground. Hill and Kelce also woke up after both players had slow starts, as they combined to catch 17 passes for 175 yards. Their contributions in the second half helped the Chiefs’ offense convert on eight straight third downs, with the eighth conversion coming on Mahomes’ game-clinching touching pass to Robinson.
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“It for sure brought us closer,” quarterback Derek Carr told reporters after Sunday’s victory. “Talking with the guys in meetings and that type of stuff, I’m proud of where we’re at and glad for our organization to get a win. We needed a win bad this week. Sometimes when you get punched in the gut it’s hard to bounce back.”
It wasn’t merely the final score — a 37-14 win for Arizona. It was that both teams came into this contest undermanned and only one acted as if those setbacks didn’t matter. A slew of positive COVID-19 cases left the Cardinals without head coach Kliff Kingsbury, a few other assistant coaches and veteran defensive linemen Corey Peters and Chandler Jones. After this game ended, it was fair to wonder how brutal the outcome would’ve been if Arizona actually had shown up at full strength.
Third down. Overtime. Seahawks’ ball at the Steelers’ 45. Geno and Co. had a chance to end the game after forcing OT on a crazy sequence of events that included an inexplicable Metcalf fumble, a quick Freddie Swain recovery, a Smith spike with seemingly one second on the clock, and a prolonged official review. But then Watt came flying in to sack Smith for a loss of 14, pushing Seattle out of field goal range. The Steelers didn’t score on their own ensuing drive, but then Smith came back out and coughed up the ball on another Watt sack, sealing Pittsburgh’s tight win.
The Fox TV cameras — and microphones — clearly picked up Rodgers’ message to the Bears’ faithful.
“All my f---ing life, I own you,” Rodgers shouted as he was congratulated by his teammates. “I still own you. I still own you.”
Said Packers running back Aaron Jones, who joined in the celebration: “What can you say? He’s right.”
Lawrence proves why he was selected No. 1 overall
It feels like this is being written on a weekly basis now, but it cannot be overstated. The Jaguars have their quarterback in Lawrence, and he showed once against why he was selected with the first-overall pick this year.
With just eight seconds remaining in the game, with the ball on the Miami 44-yard-line, the Jaguars needed just a few more yards to get into field goal range for Wright. They did just that with Lawrence dropping back, executing the play perfectly, an eight-yard pass to second-year receiver Laviska Shenault.
That wouldn’t be the only clutch play that Lawrence made, either. On the team’s drive prior, he would make multiple throws downfield to players such as Marvin Jones Jr. and Jamal Agnew.
Overall, Lawrence completed 25 out of 41 of his passes for 319 yards and a touchdown. The confidence the Jaguars rookie has shown thus far this season has been apparent and that much was made clear even more today after a few bad plays just prior to a couple of the most clutch plays of his young career.
Lawrence became the first rookie QB to win in London. Previously, rookie QBs were 0-5 in the country. After the game, Lawrence said it simply: “Gald I was the one to do it.”
Newton, 32, was released by the New England Patriots shortly before the season. He had missed three practices because of what the Patriots called a COVID-19 protocol “misunderstanding,” although coach Bill Belichick said Newton’s vaccination status didn’t factor into the decision to release the quarterback.
“Hell yeah I still want to play football,” Newton said in Sunday’s video. “I still get that urge to go out and perform and do something that I’ve been doing since I was 7 years old.”
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The end of the first half was ugly — but it was also the last points the Chiefs allowed on Sunday. In the second half, their defense allowed only four first-down conversions and held Washington to 3.8 yards per play; that rate is a vast improvement over their season mark of 7.1 yards per play.
The point: The defense had a lot more issues before Mathieu’s passionate outburst than after it. Mathieu likely doesn’t deserve all the credit for the unit’s turnaround in the second half — but he can recognize that it has a positive impact on the group.
“They love it when I go crazy; I don’t know why, but they love it,” Mathieu chuckled. “My coaches like it... I thought we put in a lot of good work this week, and the goal was to hold them to 10 points or under. Anytime you don’t reach your goals, it pissed me off a little bit.”
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.