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The Chiefs’ win over the Rams was soured by a poor red-zone performance

If Kansas City’s offense had finished more drives, Sunday’s comfortable win could have been a no-doubt blowout.

Los Angeles Rams v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

By the end of the Kansas City Chiefs26-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday afternoon, the Chiefs’ offense had racked up 437 yards and 29 first downs. That was more yardage than it gained in the 41-31 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 4 — and tied the team’s second-best mark for first downs in 2022.

Kansas City’s offense was clicking on all cylinders as it marched up and down the field. After a punt on the opening drive, all seven of the team’s remaining possessions reached the red zone.

Considering all of that, the Chiefs’ coaches and players agreed that 26 points was a very disappointing point total.

“We have to do a little better in the red zone,” head coach Andy Reid noted to reporters after the game. “That’s a place we’re normally really good, but we were off just a tick tonight. We’ll go back to the drawing board on that and make sure we take care of that.”

The Chiefs converted only one of their six red-zone opportunities into a touchdown. On the other five, four ended with field goals — while the fifth concluded with an ugly fourth-quarter interception by quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“In the red zone, we have to execute at a higher level,” acknowledged Mahomes. “I have to execute at a higher level. I have to take out the one dumb play I make every game, it seems like. If I can take that out, we’ll be all right.”

Every quarterback will have some dumb plays — and Mahomes will tell you about the many he’s had in his career. Yet this looked like one of the worst — and the quarterback’s reaction immediately after the play says everything about how he felt about his throw.

“It wasn’t a no-look [pass],” Mahomes explained. “I was going to throw it to [Travis Kelce] — then at the last second, I didn’t think I could get it in. I tried to pull it down a little bit, and threw it directly into the dude’s stomach.”

In other words, Mahomes wanted to throw it into the ground — at the defender’s feet — but the pass went higher than he wanted.

“I have to make sure I don’t do that — especially in the red zone,” said Mahomes. “Those are the ones that kill you in big games.”

Entering the game, the Chiefs’ red-zone offense was one of the NFL’s best. The unit ranked third in red-zone drives ending in touchdown (72%), while also getting there more often than any other team through Week 11. It was only Mahomes’ second red-zone interception of the season; the other one came in the Week 6 loss against the Buffalo Bills.

Both defenses that were able to pick off Mahomes in the end zone are good ones. Entering Sunday’s game, the Rams were in the top 10 defenses by total yards allowed. Only one team had allowed fewer first downs. They still have All-Pro players like defensive tackle Aaron Donald, cornerback Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Bobby Wagner.

“[We were] not playing a JV team,” declared Reid. “That defense is a top 10 defense; it’s not like they’re no good. They did a nice job against us — and that’s all part of it.”

Los Angeles Rams v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jason Hanna/Getty Images

“At the end of the day, they have great players; they still have a great defense over there,” added Mahomes. “They did a great job of passing off crossers down there, they were in the right spots where I wanted to go [and] they had a good game plan. I have to find ways to execute at a higher level [to] get it to those guys in space — and when we do have chances, we have to make sure that we get in the end zone.”

These red-zone struggles may remind you of last year’s AFC Championship against the Cincinnati Bengals, when significant red-zone failures ended both the first and second halves — and set the stage for the Chiefs’ 27-24 overtime loss.

And next in Week 13? A road game against the Bengals. Considering the red-zone issues in last year’s playoff loss and Sunday’s contest, the coming week’s practices will likely emphasize that part of the game even more than usual.

Cincinnati will be the true test. With the Rams’ major injuries, it’s likely that Kansas City got through this game without a focused red-zone strategy. A week from now, we’ll be able to see if the Chiefs have solved the problem.

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