“Managed” happens to be the key word of the evening, which is a problem given Kansas City’s Super Bowl-or-bust aspirations — and the aspirations of their opponent, who at this stage, would call it a successful season with eight wins. While the result is admittedly better than what could have been a much darker alternative, the truth of the matter is that the remainder of the Chiefs’ schedule includes no more lowly NFC East teams they can beat up.
The next three-game stretch features a 5-2 Las Vegas Raiders team with a new lease on life following the departure of Jon Gruden, sandwiched by two of the top three teams in the NFC in the 7-1 Green Bay Packers first and the 6-1 Dallas Cowboys last prior to the bye.
“Managed” was fine on Monday night; that is the last time it will be enough before the break.
Safety Daniel Sorensen continues to be a liability in coverage. Opposing teams have established that if Sorensen is left one-on-one, it is time to attack — and they do. Linebacker Ben Niemann was exploited on a touchdown to tight end Kyle Rudolph, and cornerback L’Jarius Sneed had a few blunders, including slipping on the turf that would lead to the Giants’ go-ahead fourth-quarter score.
All that mentioned, Steve Spagnuolo’s crew did its job overall.
The Giants were 4 of 12 on third down and scored only 17 points. Second-year linebacker Willie Gay shined with an interception on the evening, and his presence — along with that of rookie linebacker Nick Bolton — has given the defense a whole new outlook at the second level, and their play has permeated throughout the unit. This part is becoming real: Chris Jones needs his primary role switched back to the defensive tackle position. Jones’ quarterback hits — including the game-clinching sack — came on plays in which he was lined up inside.
The defensive effort was far from perfect on Monday night, but given the offensive build of the team, what we saw should always be good enough.
Where would the Chiefs have been on Monday night if not for the rare athleticism of Tyreek Hill?
With the Giants doing what teams have done defensively all season on Monday night — taking away the deep ball — the Chiefs were forced to play in the intermediate.
There were two parts of the game in which this challenge did not feel like pulling teeth — during the beginning of the game, when the Chiefs’ opening script utilized misdirection and pre-snap motion to make quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ first read seemingly wide open... and then during the stretch in which head coach Andy Reid heavily deployed third-string running back Derrick Gore to a 3-yard touchdown.
The rest of the game included Mahomes’ discomfort in and out of the pocket, penalties, dropped passes by once-reliable pass-catchers and turnovers. Yes, the Chiefs had two more turnovers on the evening, now have 19 on the year. That’s ahead of the New York Jets (and the rest of the league) by four giveaways.
Hill was the Mahomes outlet against the Giants, with opposing defenses continuing to disarm Travis Kelce by battering him off the line. There is no third air option.
The final offensive drive offered a step in the right direction, with New York helping the cause through undisciplined penalties.
The Chiefs managed a win over the Giants Monday night, but other than two games against the Denver Broncos, the rest of the schedule pits them against opponents in which managing simply won’t cut it.
The Chiefs narrowly escaped Arrowhead Stadium with a primetime win, but to say the team is “back” by any means would be a grand exaggeration. Despite this win, their aspirations are too high for the product they are putting on the field.