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Against the Buccaneers, the Chiefs’ rushing attack came to life

Kansas City running backs Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Isiah Pacheco played key roles during win in Tampa Bay.

Kansas City Chiefs v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs’ offense returned to its typical dominant form during Sunday night’s 41-31 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

By now, we know the characteristics of these kinds of games. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes makes absurd throws that nobody else on the planet would even attempt. Despite being the best tight end in the league, Travis Kelce somehow finds ways to run free for four quarters. Head coach Andy Reid dials up a few plays that will soon be imitated by teams across every level of the sport.

That is the blueprint. It’s tried and true.

Sunday night’s game had all of those — in spades — but it had something else that hasn’t been all that prevalent over the past few years: a dominant rushing attack.

The Chiefs racked up 189 rushing yards on 37 attempts. That’s Kansas City’s most rushing yards since Week 4 of last season — and the third-most rushing yards in any game since Patrick Mahomes became the starter in 2018.

Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire had his best game of the season. In his first three games, he amassed 116 yards on 22 carries. Against Tampa Bay, he led the team with 92 yards on the ground on 19 attempts — the most he’s had in a game since his rookie season.

This seems to have been by design. Reid said after the game that against the Buccaneers, he had felt it would be important to keep the ball out of quarterback Tom Brady’s hands.

“You play this group and time of possession ends up being a major league thing,” Reid noted to reporters. “You don’t want Tom to have that ball — and for too many snaps.”

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie running back Isiah Pacheco had a bit of a coming-out party on Sunday night, running the ball 11 times for 63 yards — and was particularly impressive when utilizing his strength to fight for extra yards.

It hasn’t been easy for Pacheco to earn touches. In the last two weeks, he had carried the ball only five times for just 15 yards. He has consistently been out-snapped by both Edwards-Helaire and veteran Jerrick McKinnon — who saw just two carries on Sunday.

It’s difficult for seventh-round picks to even earn a roster spot — let alone get valuable touches in one of the NFL’s elite offenses. Reid isn’t exactly running a rudimentary offensive scheme, which may explain why it often takes time for young players to grow accustomed to his system.

“[I’m] definitely getting comfortable,” said Pacheco in a postgame interview with the Chiefs Radio Network. “Comfortable being uncomfortable. Once I get that number called, I just find those reads, look at the o-line and keep the intensity rolling.”

Pacheco certainly looked comfortable on Sunday night — and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Through Week 3, the Buccaneers had boasted one of the league’s top defenses — and had been particularly stout against the run. If fact, since new head coach Todd Bowles became defensive coordinator in 2019, the unit has never ranked worse than third in rushing yards allowed. The 189 yards the Chiefs gained on Sunday night was the most Tampa Bay has allowed since Week 15 of 2018.

If Kansas City can have that kind of success — against that kind of defense — more opportunities will be coming for Chiefs running backs.

But maybe this was a one-off. Sunday night might just turn out to simply be the Chiefs’ best rushing performance of the season. But as defenses around the league continue to try to find ways to slow down the Kansas City passing attack, having a dependable running game could prove to be a godsend for an offense that is always trying to add to its arsenal of weapons.

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