On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Los Angeles Rams 26-10 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
Kansas City improved its record to 9-2 as it now looks again to its AFC title rematch against the Cincinnati Bengals next week. But before we jump into that, let’s discuss this game.
The Chiefs are showing patience on offense — and that’s good — but they’ll need to be better in the red zone to beat the confrence’s elite.
Of quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ 27 completions, 24 went into the box score play-by-play as “short,” a clear-cut sign that Mahomes — and the Chiefs offense as a whole — has found comfort in attacking opposing defense in the intermediate area of the field. In the process, Mahomes continued to spread the ball around, hitting 10 different pass-catchers on the day.
Led by depth offensive lineman Nick Allegretti — making a spot start in place of injured left guard Joe Thuney — the Chiefs did enough against a formidable unit led by All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The Rams made a point of frequently lining Donald up against Allegretti. The reserve offensive lineman rose to the occasion. Mahomes, to his credit, showed strong pocket awareness, choosing the right times to step up and bail.
Those efforts allowed for the Chiefs’ talented pass-catchers to get open— like when tight end Travis Kelce absolutely cooked cornerback Jalen Ramsey for Kansas City’s first touchdown. Kelce has now recorded a touchdown in three straight games and has 12 on the season.
Justin Watson was quite the offseason find for general manager Brett Veach, as he has become the perfect go-to player for the Chiefs as the wide receiver room faced adversity. On Sunday — already without wide receiver Mecole Hardman — the Chiefs decided to ease JuJu Smith-Schuster back in after his concussion. Watson proved to be a reliable target for Mahomes, finishing with two catches for 26 yards. Rookie Skyy Moore (on offense*) has also been making the most of his added opportunity. Moore had five catches on Sunday. Over the last two weeks, he has had 10 receptions for 99 yards.
The Chiefs are just a better team when they are intentional about running the football, and rookie Isiah Pacheco is clearly the best back for them on early downs. A sprinkling of Jerick McKinnon and Ronald Jones is fine, but I am happy to see the Chiefs finally leaning into one, single back and giving him north of 10 carries.
There was one grand negative that must be mentioned, and that was the Chiefs’ struggles in the red zone, where they scored a touchdown just once of six chances. It worked Sunday against a lowly Rams team, but Kansas City won’t beat the surging Cincinnati Bengals on the road next week if they fail to score touchdowns in the red zone.
It’s back to the drawing board for head coach Andy Reid, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and their staff. Mahomes is likely sick about his no-look interception that may have gotten the Rams back in the game had it been the seasoned Matt Stafford and not third-year quarterback Bryce Perkins, who quickly delivered the ball back to Kansas City via a L’Jarius Sneed interception.
Kansas City’s front found a means of getting home several times against a rather elusive quarterback.
And speaking of Perkins: even though he may have been making the first start of his career, he looks like someone who may have a future as a starter — even if it’s not in Los Angeles.
The Chiefs knew coming into the game that Perkins could play — and a major part of his game is his ability to evade would-be tacklers. Getting to Perkins would require both consistency and relentlessness, which is something we saw from the front throughout the game. Defensive linemen George Karlaftis and Chris Jones both registered sacks — and because it was the latter’s 10th of the season, it came with a $1.25 million incentive. I’m sure Jones enjoyed the win, but there’s got to be something awfully sweet about that number hitting the bank account on Monday.
Rookie Byran Cook did an admirable job filling in for safety Juan Thornhill. He also joined the likes of “Sack Nation” on a play where Perkins was juking and jiving through what seemed like every Chiefs defender. Kudos to Sneed for his pick — and to Nick Bolton for sealing the game with his own interception for the second consecutive week.
That should be all she wrote when it comes to the Skyy Moore punt-returner experiment.
Kansas City’s win did come with another negative: a continuation of problems on special teams. Moore’s third muffed punt of the season saw his benching — likely ending the experiment to turn him into a viable returner after he did not do it in college.
Watson entered the game at returner. The sarcastic cheer from the Arrowhead faithful when he was able to successfully bring in a fair catch should have been everything coordinator Dave Toub needed to hear. Watson has to be the guy — at least until Kadarius Toney returns from his hamstring issue.
The Chiefs also need to be a little more cognizant of a fake-punt pass. Bad special teams cost them an early-season game against the lowly Indianapolis Colts. Just like converting red-zone ooportunities, a clean special teams game on the road against the Bengals in Week 12 is an absolute must.
The final word
Sunday’s win did not really come with a ton of glitz or glamour; Kansas City simply did what it needed to do in order to win. The Chiefs trudged along, containing one of the best defensive players in the league on the way to their fifth-straight win.
A third-year quarterback should never really have a chance to beat the consensus MVP, and he never really did. Some Sundays don’t need the flash — and this one, in particular, did not call for it.
The Chiefs beat a bad Rams team despite not playing as good a game as they are capable — and that’s OK. But they will not only need to be better against the Bengals, but also the rest of the way — and then into the playoffs.