Chiefs comebacks have become predictable
The 12-point comeback was the biggest regular-season rally of Patrick Mahomes’ career, but it was already the Kansas City icon’s eighth victory (in 12 tries) when facing a 10-plus-point deficit. Mahomes’ fourth-quarter heave to Tyreek Hill, which reminded me of the duo’s game-extending connection against the Ravens three seasons ago, helped enhance his increasingly preposterous September stat line. Mahomes exited Week 1 11-0 in September with a 35-0 TD-INT ratio. No QB has mounted such a streak in any month previously. A “Mr. September” Mahomes moniker is damning with faint praise, but his comeback conquests over high-caliber teams being this predictable is certainly notable.
Chiefs -3 at Ravens
Here’s the perfect illustration of what we just discussed. This line was posted on Sunday night at Chiefs -2.5. I pretty much reflexively back the Chiefs whenever they’re laying less than a field goal, regardless of opponent or location. By the time I got around to writing this column, though, the line had moved to three. I expect it to be outside field goal in the coming days, possibly as soon as the end of Ravens-Raiders on Monday night, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it get to 4.5 or 5 by kickoff on Sunday night. This is why you strike when opportunities present themselves.
Top Offensive Trio Remains Nearly Unstoppable
When opposing defenses prepare to face the Chiefs, they know they have to try to find a way to limit the production of Mahomes, Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. That’s much easier said than done because that trio can be unstoppable, much like they were Sunday.
Kansas City compiled 397 yards of total offense. Mahomes went 27-of-36 for 337 yards and three touchdowns while also adding a rushing score. Hill had 11 catches for 197 yards and one touchdown. Kelce had six catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns.
Not many other skill players contributed to the offense. But nobody needed to, especially late. After the Browns took a 29-20 lead with 10:24 to go, Mahomes immediately answered with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Hill. That set up Mahomes’ go-ahead TD pass to Kelce on the third play of their next possession.
“That’s Patrick Mahomes being Patrick Mahomes,” Hill said, per Dave Skretta of the Associated Press.
How can opposing defenses stop Mahomes, Hill and Kelce? It seems like teams are still struggling to figure this out. And it’s possible that nobody will anytime soon, meaning more big numbers should be on the way for the Chiefs offense.
On Sunday, Hill tested the limits of the rule during his 75 yard catch-and-run for a touchdown that cut Cleveland’s margin to two points, 29-27. While running to the end zone, Hill made his trademark gesture and generally flashed his fingers in the direction of Browns safety John Johnson. Hill wasn’t flagged.
Whether he should have been is a different issue. What he was doing was obvious. He muted the gesture, looking around at the officials while doing so, in order to avoid getting caught. It will be interesting to see whether he eventually gets fined; that would essentially become an admission by the league office that he should have been penalized.
Fifteen yards on the ensuing kickoff could have helped the Browns. They otherwise started on their own 25, and a three-and-out effort led to the punting mishap that gave the Chiefs a short field that allowed them to take the lead. At a minimum, the field wouldn’t have been as short for the go-ahead score.
5. The Chiefs were terrific on third down.
Finding ways to make plays on third down is often what makes the difference between a win and a loss when facing a good team, and the Chiefs took care of business on Sunday.
Kansas City went 9-of-13 on third down in the victory, and one player in particular – Tyreek Hill – was tremendously effective. Hill caught four passes for 53 yards on third down, moving the chains with each grab. His four conversions were the second-most for any player in the league.
The Browns Defense
Midway through the third, the Browns had held the Chiefs to a measly 10 points. Mahomes was mostly relying on shorter throws, as the Cleveland secondary took away the deeper parts of the field and the pass rush consistently squeezed the pocket. But this Chiefs offense is inevitable. The Browns pass rush seemed to wear down in the second half, and with the secondary forced to hold up a bit longer in coverage, Mahomes found his deep ball. The play that changed the game came midway through the fourth quarter after Cleveland had just extended its lead to nine. The first play of the ensuing drive, Mahomes escaped the pocket and saw Tyreek Hill one-on-one with Johnson, the centerpiece of the Browns’ offseason additions, about 45 yards downfield. Johnson couldn’t find the ball in the air, and Hill was able to haul it in before scoring a momentum-swinging touchdown.
That’s the type of play Johnson was brought in to prevent, as he did for the Rams last season. But if Cleveland was trying to replicate the defensive success Los Angeles enjoyed in 2020, it did not get off to a good start. Those Rams gave up just 11 passes of 20-plus air yards during the entire season. On Sunday, Mahomes completed three.
Ahmad Gardner CB
Gardner is a long, press corner who would give the Chiefs some depth at a position that could be quite thin after the season. He’ll need to get stronger but he has the tools to be a solid NFL cornerback.
Around the NFL
It was a wild OT period with the Raiders thinking they had won on a 33-yard pass from Derek Carr to Bryan Edwards, who was ruled to have been down inside the 1-yard line. The Raiders then failed to convert, with Carr being stuffed on a sneak, followed by a false start penalty on first-round pick Alex Leatherwood at right tackle and Carr’s pass to Willie Snead IV bouncing off him into the end zone for an interception by Anthony Averett.
On the ensuing Ravens drive, Carl Nassib’s strip-sack of Lamar Jackson and Darius Philon’s recovery at the Ravens’ 27-yard line set up Carr’s winning 31-yard pass to Zay Jones with 3:38 remaining in the extra period.
Carr also set up Daniel Carlson’s 55-yard field goal with two seconds in regulation to force overtime.
The extracurricular activity earned Jones a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness, turning the third-and-1 into third-and-16. The next play, J.J. Watt disrupted a screen, forcing an errant Ryan Tannehill throw into the turf. The defender nearest the incomplete pass? Murphy.
The Titans were forced to punt, and the next time they regained possession, they netted a grand total of five yards before punting again. A rough start became a game-long nightmare offensively and led to a 38-13 season-opening defeat to Arizona.
“That’s absolutely nothing that we coach or teach,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of Jones’ penalty on Monday. “So, that would fall into the category of dumb s--- that hurts the team, right there, in bold letters.”
Though early, the penalty buried the Titans’ best offensive chance to that point and before long, they’d trail 17-0. At the time of the handoff to Henry, the league’s reigning rushing champ had a total of -2 rushing yards.
A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Fitzpatrick is expected to miss six to eight weeks.
Fitzpatrick was injured on a second-quarter hit in Sunday’s 20-16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. He was replaced by Taylor Heinicke, who will start Thursday’s game vs. the New York Giants. Heinicke completed 11 of 15 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown Sunday.
In three games with Washington dating to last season, including one start in a playoff loss to Tampa Bay, Heinicke has completed 62.8% of his passes for 565 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He has a 50.1 Total QBR in those seven quarters. He last started a regular-season game on Dec. 23, 2018.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
After the game, head coach Andy Reid had praise for a position group that drew a tough matchup in the season opener.
“That’s a good front seven,” he said. “I thought they held their own and really did a nice job. To get the run game going like that against that crew? I thought [it] was big. We had the one sack at the end, but that shouldn’t ruin the rest of what they did.
“I was pretty impressed. Lucas Niang had probably the toughest job of all of them — and he [bore] down and pushed through. These are young, young guys in there — and a veteran group of defensive linemen.”
To be fair, it took some time for the offensive linemen to get it together. In the first half, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire gained just three yards on as many carries — and quarterback Patrick Mahomes posted a passer rating under 100. But in the second half, Edward-Helaire gained 40 yards on 11 carries, clearing the way for Mahomes to pass for 168 yards and three touchdowns — good for a spectacular second-half rating of 147.9.