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Against Raiders, everything clicked — and the Chiefs think offense can improve

The Kansas City offense returned to its spectacular norm on Sunday — and players and coaches say it can be better.

Las Vegas Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

“Yeah, things worked,” smiled head coach Andy Reid after his Kansas City Chiefs turned in a resounding 48-9 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. “I think everybody was clicking.”

After a dominating win in all three phases of the game, Reid had reason to start his post-game press conference cheerfully. The Kansas City defense had started with a fumble scoop-and-score on the game’s very first play. This was a sign of things to come: in all, the defense caused five turnovers. The offense chipped in, scoring five touchdowns of their own. Even special teams did their part: Harrison Butker was perfect on all six extra points and two field goals — one of which was from 54 yards in swirling winds.

But is this offensive output here to stay? Over the last five games, the offense has scored more than 20 points just once — against the same Raiders team four weeks ago.

“They were disappointed after the last game that we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be — and there’s just such a small margin,” said Reid of his offense. “You catch the balls last week and you might have the same type of thing happening here — but we didn’t. The guys did a nice job with all that.”

Las Vegas Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Reid has repeatedly commented that his players and coaches continue to work on the little things about offensive execution.

“Whether we’re running the ball or throwing the ball or catching the ball, you keep your focus on the job at hand,” he again emphasized. “It doesn’t matter if you’re up or down — you’ve got to keep going. Consistency against zone defenses becomes important. You might not have all the long shots, but you got to be able to put a drive together. And that’s a tough thing to do in this league consistently.”

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes reiterated Reid’s point.

“We definitely focused on it,” he noted. “We focused on not trying to throw it into the wrong spot — me kind of placing it in the right spot — [and] runners tucking it and really covering up in traffic. But I think at the end of the day, it’s just guys going out there making plays on defense — and offensively, just playing hard and rallying to the football.”

There has been a lot of talk about Mahomes’ interceptions this season. First, the narrative was that he was “broken.” Then the discussion shifted to skill players not bringing the ball in — and having bad luck with turnovers. But none of that was the case on Sunday. Mahomes was efficient throughout the game, completing 20 of his 24 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns — a quarterback rating of 139.2.

“It’s awesome to win and throw for 400 yards and five touchdowns and all that different type of stuff. And it feels amazing,” confessed the quarterback. “But I learned in my career that those losses — when you’re throwing for all those yards — feel terrible. So you’d rather win — no matter what it takes to win. If it’s throwing for 100 yards and winning — or if it’s throwing for 300 yards and winning — as long as you have that ‘W,’ nothing else matters.”

That mentality is something that Reid has built into Mahomes over his still-young career. We had become accustomed to Mahomes’ quick-strike offense that simply overpowers opposing defenses. But this season — with the two-high safety shells and zone coverages that defenses have been deploying against the Chiefs — those big plays haven’t been there.

This has forced Mahomes to be patient and assemble long drives to score points. Coming into Week 13, the Chiefs led the league by averaging nearly seven plays per drive. Teams were baiting the Chiefs into these long drives, hoping the team would make mistakes; essentially, it was death by a thousand cuts. But Reid believes that over the long term, it will end up being a beneficial experience for Mahomes and his offensive teammates.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

“It makes them better for down the long road,” he observed. “Every time you have an opportunity to get out there, you learn something. And this year, with all this zone coverage and not being able to absolutely use the power part of his game — but to use the finesse part — I think will be a benefit to them for a lot of years.”

Part of that finesse game has been getting other playmakers involved, because opposing defenses have focused on taking away Kansas City’s big plays — especially those made by Mahomes’ favorite weapon: Travis Kelce. Over the last few weeks, the tight end has been visibly frustrated as defenses have mauled him — and that continued on Sunday as he finished with just three catches for 27 yards.

So other playmakers have had to step up. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for only 37 yards on Sunday — but the vision he displayed on his two touchdown runs was notable. Darrell Williams also had an impact with three catches — including one that went for a touchdown on a pick play. Wide receiver Josh Gordon found the end zone for the first time since becoming a Chief and Mecole Hardman had a couple of nice grabs for 59 yards — including one on a broken play where his defender fell. Other players also stepped up — and moving forward, that’s big.

“You need everybody to be a threat somewhere,” explained Reid. “The defense has to cover everybody. You can’t give up on this guy because Pat is going to shoot him from another position — so that ends up being important, absolutely. [The] more pressure you can keep on these defenses, the better off you’re going to be with your players.”

“I think we’re getting better and better each and every week,” echoed Mahomes. “So I’m just excited to continue to build this momentum — and try to keep it rolling into next week.”

The Chiefs will need to do just that — because on Thursday, they’ll play on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers in a game that will be pivotal in the AFC West.

“I’m proud of the way the guys are playing,” Reid said confidently. “The neat part is we have a chance to even be better. And we’ve got to keep the foot on the pedal here as we go.”

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