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Chiefs-Jaguars Instabreakdown: Explosive runs and passes steer offense

Against Jacksonville, things looked much easier for the Kansas City offense.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jason Hanna/Getty Images

Final score: Kansas City Chiefs 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 17


Unlike the game against the Tennessee Titans, the Kansas City offense was boosted by an efficient ground game. Starting running back Isiah Pacheco carried the lion’s share, taking 16 of the 17 total carries by running backs. The coaching staff’s trust in Pacheco was tested early: on Kansas City’s opening drive, Pacheco fumbled in the red zone; on the next drive, Pacheco started it with a 13-yard gain.

It’s easy to see why the Chiefs have solidified their belief in Pacheco. On a few of those first-half runs, Pacheco showed off explosive cuts that got him into the open field. At the same time, Pacheco’s ability to drive through tackles late in the game helped ice the victory. He ended the game with over five yards per rushing attempt.

The impactful rushing attack helped to open up the passing game, allowing quarterback Patrick Mahomes to spread the ball among nine different receivers in the first half. Out of his 191 first-half passing yards, none of the nine receivers had more than 50 yards. Mahomes continued spreading it out in the second half, totaling 331 passing yards for the game. His four scoring throws each went to a different player.

Running back Jerick McKinnon was a big part of the passing game, taking a lot of Mahomes’ checkdowns and making the most of them for 56 receiving yards on six receptions; one of his other two targets was a clean drop. He has cemented himself (over Clyde Edwards-Helaire) as the primary back on passing downs. McKinnon had only two incomplete targets on the day.

The passing game was also helped by great pass protection; the ample time Mahomes had in the pocket was noticeable — and it was borne out in the box score: Mahomes was not sacked once and only four quarterback hits were recorded by Jacksonville defenders. When the routes didn’t come open, Mahomes had time to find the scrambling lanes and gain yards himself; he finished with 39 rushing yards on seven attempts.

The offensive line’s performance extended to the running game, where right guard Trey Smith had an improved performance from his game against Tennessee. They were allowing Pacheco to get to the second level cleanly, which led to some of his exciting rushes. At one point, Prince Tega Wanogho came in for right tackle Andrew Wylie, but the offensive line continued to get push.

The running game finally produced explosive plays, which made it easier to produce explosive plays in the passing game. In the first half, both Noah Gray and Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught touchdown passes 10 or more yards downfield. Gray’s pass came out of a three-tight end set; he ran a wheel route into the end zone that came open because of attention on fellow tight end Travis Kelce.

Valdes-Scantling found space on a crosser in the end zone for his score — but also made a 36-yard catch down the sideline in the fourth quarter; this incredible completion in tight coverage also helped ice the game.

Offensive Player of the Game: Wide receiver Kadarius Toney

The newest Chiefs player may also be the most explosive. Toney made a statement on Sunday afternoon, making three big plays: he gained 32 yards on a jet sweep, using his speed to outrun defenders down the sideline. Then, a quick pass to the flat gained 19 yards after Toney broke multiple tackles. He also added a 22-yard gain by jumping over a cornerback near the end zone, setting up a touchdown a few plays later. Toney is earning a bigger and bigger role with each snap he takes in Kansas City’s offense.


One of the first defensive highlights of the game came from linebacker Leo Chenal, who earned an early sack by blitzing — and also showed off an impressive, nonstop motor. Early in the game, he helped to stuff a run behind the line of scrimmage. It was probably his best game as a professional.

Chenal wasn’t the only linebacker making plays. Willie Gay Jr. was all over the field, being utilized as a blitzer to make plays both as a run defender and as a pass rusher. He earned one sack that way, then made a tackle-for-loss on a handoff. He also broke up a pass in coverage. He ended the game as the team’s leading tackler.

The linebackers had a better day than the defensive backfield. Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed was consistently beaten by slot receiver Christian Kirk, who finished with 105 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions. Sneed had trouble keeping up with Kirk in man coverage, directly leading to both of the wideout’s scores.

His teammates at cornerback had some rough plays, but bounced back with good snaps down the stretch. Late in the first half, first-round pick Trent McDuffie allowed his first career reception on a deep pass down the sideline that led to a score. But he came back to defend two other passes — one of them with an incredible swipe at the last second to deny the completion. At one point, Joshua Williams was beaten on a slant, but showed tight coverage on other snaps.

Safeties Justin Reid and Juan Thornhill had largely uneventful performances; Reid made one run stop — but soon afterward, he had a bad missed tackle in space.

The Chiefs’ defensive line made plays. In the first half, defensive end Carlos Dunlap went over the 100-sack mark for his career by earning half a sack. Defensive tackle Khalen Saunders earned a sack for the second straight week, once again using great pursuit and effort to eventually corral a scrambling quarterback.

Defensive Player of the Game: Defensive tackle Chris Jones

Jones — as usual — was Kansas City’s most impactful defensive lineman. Jones teamed up with Dunlap for his first sack. Then in the second half, he bullied through the right tackle on an island on third down for sack number two. Early on, he also made a big third-down play against the run, blowing up a block with his penetration. It was just the latest All-Pro performance from the Chiefs’ best defender.

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