Down 17-0 to the Las Vegas Raiders at home in Week 5, the Kansas City Chiefs were desperate to get something going on offense. Through the team’s first three drives, they had no points — and the offensive line’s play seemed to be the main factor.
That’s why Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes challenged the teammates that protect him, emphasizing to them that their performance could be the difference between a win and a loss.
After a sack put the Chiefs in second down with 17 yards to convert, the team trusted that same line to blow open a seam for running back Jerick McKinnon — and that’s exactly what happened. 30 yards later, Kansas City was set up to eventually score their first touchdown of the night.
Leading the way for McKinnon was left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. His bulldozing effort gave McKinnon the space to keep his momentum moving 10 to 15 yards downfield. As he spoke with reporters before practice on Wednesday, Brown reminisced about the game-changing play.
“It helped spark a little bit of momentum,” Brown acknowledged. “I felt Jet behind me, pushing me; I saw two defenders there, so I just chose one — and happened to put him on his ass.”
It is a thing of beauty watching Orlando Brown Jr. work on the frontside of a down-scheme run.— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) October 12, 2022
Creates wider lane by helping Thuney first, then just works upfield from one potential block to the next pic.twitter.com/P0JSy8QaJs
That physical play can definitely jolt a group of players awake, but that wasn’t the only way Brown catalyzed the rest of the line. Embracing the challenge from his quarterback, Brown stepped up his own play — while also motivating his guys to do the same. He acknowledged having an in-game message for the group on Thursday.
“I’m very vocal, obviously in getting the job done,” Brown noted. “Most importantly, it starts with myself as a leader, making sure that I’m doing my job... but as far as what I said, I’m very vocal, a lot of the time it’s just emotion — so I can’t really pinpoint anything.”
It does start with Brown, who protects the blind side of the most important human being in Kansas City. On Monday, Raiders edge rusher Chandler Jones got the best of him multiple times early in the game. It wasn’t lost on Brown that he was hurting the team initially.
The frustration was part of what led to him making a statement.
“Just poor execution,” Brown responded when asked what made him get vocal. “My play where I got beat clean by 55 (Jones), Pat gets out of a sack. A few other negated players here and there... it’s a lot of emotion in those situations. We put a lot on ourselves as individuals out there, as football players — especially myself specifically. I just think it was the emotion of the situation and the circumstances of that game.”
That emotion is appreciated by the leaders of the offense — because they are emotional players too. Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce are never ones to hide their feelings on the field, and both appreciate the mentality of Brown and the rest of the line.
“I think the best thing about our offensive line is they’re competitive,” Mahomes told reporters on Thursday. “A lot of times I don’t have to talk to them... But I think at that time, it was talking to them, talking to myself, talking to the whole team and letting everybody hear it, is you go out there and we got to compete. I think there was a little snippet of [Travis Kelce] talking and you heard him. They were bringing more energy; they were bringing more to us. I think just having that urgency throughout the entire offense, I think that’s what picked up our play as the game went on.”
Kelce did acknowledge Brown’s leadership, during his post-game press conference on Monday night.
“Orlando Brown was an unbelievable vet to have on that offensive line,” Kelce told reporters. “I can’t say enough about what his mentality is. All five of them rallied together and found a way to stop the pass rush, so that Pat can get the ball down field.”
“When he starts talking, everybody listens. He’s had a bunch of success in this league and a bunch of success as a football player – we know the family tree. It’s just so much fun to play with a guy like that.”
The credibility Brown has among his teammates is noteworthy. He isn’t the perfect left tackle and does have flaws in pass protection that get exposed by the right type of rusher.
However, he has continually proven to be a necessary leader in an offensive line with youth and quieter personalities. That means something, and you saw how his teammates feel it can impact a game as it did Monday night.
He leads an offensive line continually trying to prove they are as good as some say they are — but he also leads Chiefs running backs 20 yards downfield while looking like a freight train.
A pancake like Monday night’s can sometimes be just as motivating as an emotional speech, and Brown can do both.