After Week 9’s 20-17 slugfest against the Tennessee Titans, a comfortable, stress-free 27-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars is just what Kansas City Chiefs fans needed. The home team dominated the Jaguars from beginning to end; the game was never truly in doubt.
There were plenty of good performances on Sunday afternoon — and those from defensive tackle Khalen Saunders, tight end Noah Gray and defensive end Carlos Dunlap all deserve an honorable mention. Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce were their usual brilliant selves: in full command of the offense and making the big plays we’re accustomed to seeing.
Here are a few others who stood out this week as the Chiefs improved to 7-2 — which is now the AFC’s best record.
Note: Applying the labels “winners” and “losers” is not intended to be a judgment on the talent or character of any of these players. It’s just a simple way to grade their performance in a single game. No disrespect is intended.
Wide receiver Kadarius Toney: With Mecole Hardman out, we thought Toney might get some opportunities against the Jaguars. He did — and made the most of them. The new offensive weapon walked the tightrope for his first NFL touchdown and made a spectacular catch on the sideline en route to six touches and 90 total yards. He was the team’s third-leading receiver (four receptions for 57 yards) and the third-leading rusher (two carries for 33 yards). The best-case scenario was that the Chiefs would find a couple of plays to get the ball in Toney’s hands this season — even if he wasn’t a huge part of the offense until 2023. What we saw on Sunday might ratchet up our expectations a bit.
Running back Isiah Pacheco: The Market Movers reverse jinx strikes again. After struggling last week, I thought Clyde Edwards-Helaire would be featured over Pacheco on Sunday. But Kansas City dialed up No. 10 for 16 carries that gave the team 82 yards. Pacheco was the only Chiefs running back who did anything on the ground — but he was able to provide the offense enough balance and run the clock down when needed. He also lost a fumble in the red zone, but made up for it by averaging over five yards per carry.
Cornerback Trent McDuffie: Given how much time he’s missed, the only criticism of Kansas City’s first-round pick has been that the sample size has been too small. Now we have a bigger sample — and McDuffie is still phenomenal. The first catch he allowed all season was a downfield dime over near-perfect coverage to Marvin Jones. But when Jacksonville tried it again, McDuffie was there to break up the pass and force a fourth-quarter punt.
Defensive tackle Chris Jones: Now with seven sacks on the season, Jones is putting together a potential Defensive Player of the Year campaign. Jones lived in the offensive backfield, causing havoc throughout the game — including two plays where he helped put Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence on the ground.
Linebacker Leo Chenal: We’ve been wondering when Chenal would start showing some of the characteristics that made him an intriguing draft pick. Against the Jaguars, he appeared to be playing a little faster — and a little more downhill. Chenal got his first career sack, too. Hopefully, this was a sign of things to come.
Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling: He’s not the most consistent receiver — but when he gets going, big plays happen. Valdes-Scantling scored his first Chiefs touchdown against Jacksonville — but his most impressive catch came in the fourth quarter on a third-and-7 from deep in Kansas City territory. His huge 36-yard back-shoulder catch continued the drive that iced the game.
Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed: The value that this third-year player brings to the defense isn’t limited to his coverage ability. This season, he’s been fantastic as a blitzer and a tackler — and on Sunday, he nearly had another sack before Lawrence escaped into the arms of Willie Gay, Jr. But the Jaguars also seemed to recognize Sneed’s limitations. They often targeted him with great success. Jacksonville wideout Christian Kirk got off to a great start, beating Sneed with a 24-yard catch in the first quarter. Sneed also gave up two touchdowns to Kirk — one just before the half and one in the fourth quarter.
Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire: If the Chiefs were going to “ride the hot hand” at running back this week, it’s pretty clear that Edwards-Helaire was not that guy. Unable to reel in either of his two targets, he also didn’t get a single carry. The box score shows a good day for Kansas City’s ground game, but Patrick Mahomes, Kadarius Toney and Isiah Pacheco gained the yards. Edwards-Helaire will probably be the guy in another game — but against the Jaguars, he wasn’t a factor.
Special teams coordinator Dave Toub: Another week — and another list of miscues. The Chiefs allowed an onside kick to be recovered, placekicker Harrison Butker missed another extra point and Jody Fortson fumbled a kickoff. Luckily, this game wasn’t close — but already this season, we’ve seen special-teams errors that cost Kansas City a game. Something needs to change before it happens in a matchup that really counts.