Spot on Mitch. Chiefs play their starters in preseason. Other teams do not. In Andy’s case, it’s been a winning formula. Hey, GMFB is on all July and August. We are ready and sizzling by September. Other shows start in Week 1. It’s what works for us.— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) September 19, 2022
No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs (13-4)
In news that should surprise absolutely no one, the Kansas City Chiefs offense seems to have figured out how to cope without Tyreek Hill.
Andy Reid and the powers that be in Kansas City would not have agreed to trade Hill unless there was a plan to evolve the offense. They proved they had done just that by putting up 44 points against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1.
The encore performance featured fewer fireworks but was still functional. The Chiefs only scored 27—only 20 thanks to the offense—against the Chargers in Week 2, but that was enough to win a big game on Thursday Night Football.
The Chargers could be their biggest enemy when it comes to playoff position. It’s possible the second-place team in the AFC West has a better record than two division champions.
1) Chiefs’ defense ahead of schedule: This is normally the time of year when we’re lamenting the sorry state of Kansas City’s defense. It’s notorious for starting slowly, generating all sorts of criticism and then finding a way to improve down the stretch under coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. That’s not the case this year. The main reason Kansas City sits atop the much-celebrated AFC West right now — after winning a tough Thursday night game with the Los Angeles Chargers — is that defense. It’s younger, faster and more opportunistic, as proven by the game-changing, 99-yard interception return for a touchdown by rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson in the Week 2 victory. That isn’t to say this group is dominant yet. It was fairly quiet in the first three quarters of that contest. But it exploded in the fourth quarter with key stops and harassed Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, who sustained a rib cartilage injury with just over five minutes remaining in the game. Couple that effort with the way the Chiefs overwhelmed Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray in a Week 1 blowout win, and you can see the danger here. The AFC West might be stacked, but the Chiefs have jumped out to an early lead because they are a better overall team so far.
Mahomes wears a band on one arm with a built-in fitness tracker from the company WHOOP that monitors his daily sleep, recovery, effort, strain and heart performance. The readings have changed how he works and helped him understand the impact of sleep and diet on his fitness and preparedness.
Last season, during the grueling playoff games against Buffalo, WHOOP found that Mahomes’ heart rate late in the game was higher when watching Josh Allen bring the Bills back to take a late lead (about 170 beats per minute) than it was when he was in the game bringing Kansas City back to tie in the final 13 seconds (156-159 bpm).
That both seems incongruous and telling about Mahomes. His trainer said it was about Mahomes being in a “flow” state — when a person is immersed in an activity he’s an expert in, even an activity with high stress like an NFL playoff game, his heart rate is more under control.
“When you’re playing, you’re focused,” Mahomes told me. “You’re not really worried about what’s going on outside. You’re trying to do your job and win the football game. For me, you go back to your routine. You go back to doing what you’ve done every single drive, every single play of your career. I think that’s why you saw my heart rate kinda lower when I played than when I was watching, when I didn’t have control of the game watching from the sidelines. There was nothing I could do.”
Another interesting note: Mahomes’ sleep performance in training camp this year wasn’t as efficient as either in camp last year or during the ’21 season. That could be — and probably is — because his hours were long this summer. He and his offensive mates had to work harder than in normal years because Mahomes was getting four new wide receivers in gear to hit the ground running to start the season. The work has paid off so far, obviously, with a 2-0 record and two impressive offensive games.
4) Hill ties a record set by Jerry Rice
Hill went nuclear in Week 2 with 11 catches for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Not only was it the most receiving yards by any player with Tagovailoa as the starter, but it was also Hill’s fourth career game with at least 10 receptions, 150 receiving yards and two receiving scores. This ties Hall of Famer Jerry Rice for the most such games since at least 1950, when official game logs have been tracked. Regardless of the feat, matching any receiving record that has Rice’s name next to it is an accomplishment in itself.
Hill has had 43.4% of his career touchdowns come from 40-yards or longer, the third-highest percentage in NFL history behind DeSean Jackson (59.1) and Bob Hayes (47.4). In fact, Hill is one of just five players with at least 30 such touchdowns in their first seven seasons. Each of the other four are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Hayes (36), Lance Alworth (34), Rice (34), Randy Moss (30).
While Ammendola needed assistance finding the Chiefs’ locker room ahead of the game, he needed no assistance finding his way on the scoreboard. He made a 19-yard field goal to tie the game at 17 in the third quarter. He then made a 31-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to give Kansas City a 10-point lead, which helped the team maintain a three-point lead in the game. Additionally, Ammendola was a perfect 3-for-3 on extra points.
He wasn’t half bad in the kickoff game either, which is something he struggled with last season with the Jets. Ammendola had six kickoffs for over 300 yards in total distance. Four of them were touchbacks and two of them were returned for 42 total yards by Chargers WR DeAndre Carter.
According to Build KCI, the first plane to arrive at the terminal came Wednesday night. It was the Chargers’ team flight. A Delta 767-400 landed at KCI a day ahead of the “Thursday Night Football” game against the Chiefs.
The Chargers players didn’t enter the terminal, which in March was 80% completed. The Delta gate is not ready either, so the players took stairs from the plane down to the pavement.
Build KCI tweeted: “We had our first aircraft park & unload passengers out on the New Terminal apron at @KCIAirport! It just so happened to be the @Chargers on a @Delta Boeing 767 in town for the @Chiefs season opener tonight! (Delta gates not ready). Welcome to #KC! GO CHIEFS!”
Around the NFL
Bills starting cornerback Dane Jackson was being evaluated for a neck injury at a local hospital Monday night following a scary collision with a teammate during Buffalo’s 41-7 win over the Tennessee Titans.
Jackson has full movement in his extremities, according to the Bills, and was getting a CT scan and an X-ray at Erie County Medical Center.
“Still awaiting word and obviously praying for Dane and all of [the Bills’ injured players],” coach Sean McDermott said after the game. “You go from the real part of it here; you go from being a coach to just being a human when I’m out there watching him getting loaded into the ambulance. That’s a real moment.”
Jalen Hurts has officially arrived. Those who felt unsure about the 2022 Eagles’ outlook because of Hurts can now rest easy. The third-year quarterback put together perhaps the greatest half of his career (definitely in terms of passing), letting it rip all over Lincoln Financial Field to the tune of 17-of-20 passing for 251 yards and one touchdown in the first two quarters. Hurts wasn’t just an excellent passer, though, rushing for 50 yards and two touchdowns (one was absolutely Herculean) on seven first-half attempts. Hurts cooled off in the second half, throwing for less than 100 yards in the final two quarters, but it didn’t matter much. He put on a show worthy of the Monday night stage, and these Eagles rolled to 2-0 thanks in large part to his performance.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Placekicker Harrison Butker
Also against the Cardinals, Butker suffered what appeared to be a classic lateral ankle sprain.
The most common type of ankle sprain, it occurs with forceful inversion of the ankle, causing damage to structures on the outside of the ankle. With his ankle taped for improved stability, Butker was able to return to the game and (amazingly) kick a one-step 54-yard field goal — although following the kick, his gait was noticeably painful. The fact he was able to return to the field to kick — when the Chiefs were leading — indicates a mild sprain.
Complicating recovery, however, is that the ankle in question is Butker’s ‘plant’ leg. Extra stability is needed, because the forces applied through that ankle place increased stress on the ligaments already injured. Barring setbacks in his rehab, it is likely that Butker returns to the field in the next one or two weeks — especially considering the 10-day mini-bye following Thursday Night Football. But if Matt Amendola continues to be reliable in his relief role, the Chiefs may elect to let Butker recover longer.
A tweet to make you think
On Monday, the NFL announced it has suspended #Chiefs LB Willie Gay for the next 4 games. Those games include: @ Indianapolis, @ Tampa Bay, vs. Raiders, and vs. Bills. #APEditorsShow@pgsween | @Arrowheadphones pic.twitter.com/ipynL70AGU— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) September 19, 2022