The Kansas City Chiefs won their third straight game on Sunday afternoon, beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-17. They now hold the AFC’s best record as the team continues to play their best football at just the right time.
While Kansas City’s offense will always be headlined by superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes, it got a major boost on Sunday — when the team’s running backs rebounded nicely from a lackluster performance against the Tennessee Titans in Week 9.
“It’s a great running back room,” said Mahomes after the game. “We’ve got a lot of guys that play well. When the offensive line’s protecting like they were doing today — and run blocking like they were — that makes our team really, really hard to stop.”
Against the Jaguars, the Chiefs rushed for 155 yards on 27 attempts. That was in stark contrast to the Week 9 performance, in which Kansas City gained 77 yards on 19 rushing attempts — and Mahomes accounted for 63 yards of it.
On Sunday, Isiah Pacheco was the hot hand among the running backs, leading the team with 16 carries for 82 yards. The seventh-round rookie got his third consecutive start and turned in a strong opening drive — until he made a rookie mistake: fumbling the ball away in the red zone after a big hit from Jacksonville safety Rayshawn Jenkins.
Despite the turnover, the Chiefs went right back to Pacheco on the first play of the following drive — and he responded with a 13-yard gain. He would continue to play a pivotal role throughout the game; in the fourth quarter, his physical running style wore down the Jaguars’ defense to help seal the victory.
Both Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid praised the rookie for his performance — specifically for his ability to shake off the bad play.
“[Pacheco] stepped up and had a big game,” Mahomes said. “Especially [because] you like to see guys respond. I mean, he was running the ball really well in that first drive — and then had the fumble. Some guys can shut it down. We kind of went right back to him [and] let him keep running it —and he stepped up.”
“He’s a young guy,” noted Reid. “You got to get back on the horse. He was upset that he fumbled. He learned from it — and now, you got to go.”
For Pacheco, the support from his teammates and coaches meant a lot.
“For me, that just allows me to know that my teammates and coaches have my back — and they trust me,” he said. “For me, it’s going out there with that same mentality and mindset to pound the defense so that Pat can throw the ball over the top — and allow us to run the ball more.”
Pacheco’s improvement — and the general improvement of Kansas City’s running game — will give the team a huge boost in the second half of the season. Not only will an effective ground game help keep opposing defenses honest, it will also decrease the number of times Mahomes is exposed to potential hits from pass rushers. In Week 9, the quarterback’s 68 pass attempts resulted in four sacks and three quarterback hits.
So Mahomes continues to be a big advocate for Pacheco’s development — and expects big things from the rookie.
“He’s a super smart guy,” Mahomes continued. “This offense is hard [to learn] — especially on the running back position — because you have to do all the protections, you have to do all the routes — and run the ball. And we have different types of run schemes.
“So for him, he has all the talent in the world — so now he’s going to continue to get better and better as he learns those little tricks of the trade to kind of go out there and make stuff happen — [like], ‘This read might not be exactly how it was scouted during the week, but how can I make this run work?’
“As he gets more and more reps, he’ll get better and better.”