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Chiefs-Rams Instabreakdown: Kansas City coasts, improving to 9-2

It might have been anticlimactic, but Kansas City defeated Los Angeles at Arrowhead on Sunday afternoon.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Final score: Kansas City Chiefs 26, Los Angeles Rams 10

The defending Super Bowl champions are leaving Kansas City disappointed. The Chiefs handed the Rams their fifth consecutive loss by claiming their fifth straight victory, improving their record to 9-2. They hung onto their claim for the AFC’s No. 1 seed — and and now look ahead to a road matchup against the defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals.

Offense (Talon Graff)

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes led the Kansas City offense through a bumpy day — especially in the red zone, where the Chiefs mustered only one touchdown on six trips. Placekicker Harrison Butker was able to convert four field-goal attempts — while Mahomes threw an end-zone pick on the remaining attempt. Thankfully, the defense did its job, allowing the offense’s down day to be enough for a multi-possession victory.

The offensive line was without left guard Joe Thuney — arguably its best player — so Nick Allegretti slid in to take his place. Stopping perennial All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald without a fully-healthy line proved problematic. But even though pressure was present on multiple snaps, the unit did keep Mahomes from being sacked even once.

The rushing attack looked more explosive. Rookie running back Isiah Pacheco was given the bulk of the carries, continuing to consistently run with toughness and intent; his fuel tank still never seems empty. He had 22 carries for a total of 69 yards and a touchdown. With Clyde Edwards-Helaire now on injured reserve, Ronald Jones saw his first game action of the season, getting four carries for 12 yards. Jerick McKinnon was utilized on passing downs, catching three passes for 26 yards.

Mahomes didn’t look as efficient or sharp as he normally does; many of his throws looked off or came up short. He was still able to hit 10 different receivers. His favorite was tight end Travis Kelce, who led the Chiefs with 57 receiving yards and Mahomes’ lone touchdown pass. With wide receivers Mecole Hardman and Kadarius Toney both unable to go, other pass-catchers stepped up. Marquez Valdes-Scantling made some big catches, while rookie Skyy Moore made up for another special-teams miscue with his second straight five-reception performance.

Offensive Player of the Game: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes

The offense squeezed out 26 points — but they were very hard to come by. Mahomes spread the ball around like it was the main dish at Thanksgiving dinner, completing 27 of 42 attempts for 320 yards and a touchdown — plus 36 yards as a rusher. Even a slow day at Mahomes’ office is still a pretty darned good day.

Defense (Bryan Stewart)

Coming into this game, the Kansas City defense knew it would be facing the Rams’ third-string quarterback — who would be missing the team’s top wide receivers: Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson. This set a reasonable expectation: that the Chiefs’ defense should have dominated the game.

Largely, it did. At the core of all that took place, Kansas City allowed just 10 points, intercepted two passes and logged three sacks — all while frequently pressuring Los Angeles’ backup backup quarterback Bryce Perkins. The turnovers were much needed for a unit that hasn’t accumulated many this season. Surely this will help defenders build some confidence that they can take the ball away to secure victories — because on Sunday, they did.

During the first quarter, rookie defensive end George Karlaftis collected the first full sack of his career — and while defensive tackle Chris Jones and safety Bryan Cook were the only others who registered takedowns, the whole defensive line flashed the ability to disrupt Perkins on a snap-to-snap basis. To the live eye, defensive end Frank Clark really jumped the snap numerous times, moving Perkins off his spot.

Linebackers Nick Bolton and Willie Gay Jr. flew all over the field with high intensity and speed. It felt like the vast majority of plays concluded with one of those two involved.

Dynamic slot cornerback (and overall defensive weapon) L’Jarius Sneed left the game in the second quarter to be checked for a concussion. He returned in the second half, making his presence known with an interception and some big tackles. Over the course of the season, Sneed has been the secondary’s best player. One could argue that only Chris Jones has been more valuable to the defense.

Defensive Player of the Game: Defensive tackle Chris Jones

While I don’t think there was a single clear-cut option to pick as Sunday’s defensive MVP, the tie must go to the unit’s best overall player. Jones was (once again) a steady disruptor — and beyond his supremely impressive sack, there were many other plays that he wrecked on his own.

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