For a while this season, it felt as though the following sentence would never be written: the defense was the reason the Kansas City Chiefs won their football game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way right now: the Chiefs weren’t playing Aaron Rodgers on Sunday. Had they been, there is no telling how the game would have panned out. Still, though the opponent did not offer the reigning NFL MVP, they did bring along their all-world wide receiver in Davante Adams and one of the better rushing tandems the league has to offer: Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillion.
Remember this: just last week, Rodgers threw for 184 yards. The combination of Jones and Dillon for 137 yards dictated a game in which Green Bay knocked off a previously-undefeated Arizona Cardinals team.
The Chiefs defense held this same duo to 99 yards — a key to keeping the game under control while the offense continued to struggle. (More on that in a second). Sunday’s game told us that the deadline acquisition of defensive end Melvin Ingram may have been the key to moving him back inside on a much more regular basis. Left to right, the Chiefs’ starting defensive line was Mike Danna, Jones, Jarran Reed and Frank Clark. Clark looked as healthy as he has since the 2019 stretch run.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s game plan was sound — and had it not been for another Daniel Sorensen blunder, it would have been a near-perfect performance.
The Chiefs showed no fear in doing what you should do against a first-game starter: mix pressure and sometimes bring the house. Jordan Love never seemed comfortable. Cornerback Charvarius Ward did a fine job Adams, one of the more challenging assignments in football — who finished with 42 yards on 14 targets. L’Jarius Sneed flew around all afternoon — and the late-game interception where he jumped and fell backward was a fantastic play. Linebacker Antony Hitchens’ return to the lineup did not seem to disrupt the on-field time for those who are becoming young stars in Nick Bolton and Willie Gay. If anything, Hitchens’ return is likely to cut into some of Ben Niemann’s snaps. Safety Tyrann Mathieu’s sack came off like a huge breakthrough.
It would be difficult to say the defense is suddenly fixed due to their strong performance against Love, but facing that matchup, it did what it was supposed to do. Seven points allowed and a win because of it.
Offensive struggles continue
As the defense took a step forward, Sunday’s matchup felt like, at best, a lateral move — or worse, a step back — for the offense.
Just like last week, head coach Andy Reid’s opening script was the highlight of the night.
15 plays (7 run, 8 pass)— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) November 7, 2021
7:55 off the clock
0 close turnover calls
7-0 Chiefs — just what the doctor ordered
Mahomes’ performance for the 48 game minutes after (before the four-minute drive to ice the game) was one of the worst of his career; he could not stay in sync with his receivers. The quarterback once again had downfield opportunities, but he failed to connect on them. It was not all on Mahomes; drops were sprinkled in throughout the evening that simply exacerbated the issues. He finished 20 of 37 for 166 yards and the opening-drive touchdown. Right now, running the football seems much safer for the Chiefs — a place where it seemed they would never be as we watched this offense in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Back to the film.
Turnovers and the third phase
Another thing we did not think we’d be able to say: A big reason the Chiefs won the game was that they won the turnover battle. Outgained by the Packers 301-237, the Chiefs did not turn the football over — while Alex Okafor blocked a field goal and Sneed intercepted Love.
A struggling offense can use all the help it can get —, and we can’t finish these thoughts without a tip of the cap to punter Tommy Townsend, who pinned the Packers deep all night — making things much more difficult for Love — and placekicker Harrison Butker, who was 2-for-2, including a 55-yarder.
The Chiefs are no championship club right now. But ugly wins like the one they had on Sunday can buy them time to get there.