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Film review: Passing offense fails to lift Chiefs out of sloppy Week 3 performance

Kansas City’s passing attack wasted the opportunities it had to clean up the mess the team made in Indianapolis.

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Kansas City Chiefs v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs are looking at a long list of things that went wrong in Sunday’s 20-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. From special teams miscues to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, the Chiefs constantly shot themselves in the foot — and that extended to the offense.

The running backs combined for just 29 yards on 17 carries They didn’t get much help from the offensive line — which also contributed to quarterback Patrick Mahomes experiencing pressure on one-third of his dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. The Colts also recorded two quarterback hits and a sack. And as Nate Christensen pointed out in his film review, the Chiefs were also primarily playing behind the sticks.

All that said, the former MVP quarterback and his group of pass-catchers had chances to uplift the Chiefs out of a bad day by making a few timely plays — but ultimately did not. Let’s look at some of those key moments.

Stealing back early momentum

The Chiefs’ first offensive possession came with a challenge: answering the momentum that Indianapolis established after rookie Skyy Moore’s muffed punt, which handed the Colts an early 7-0 lead.

After two unsuccessful play-action passes, the Chiefs used a simple route to win against simple coverage — and bet on their playmakers to make something happen.

Facing man coverage with only one safety deep, wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling runs vertically from the slot — and has a mismatch against cornerback Kenny Moore, who is a 5-foot-9 defender. Not only does Valdes-Scantling create separation from Moore, he also has ample room with which to work — taking advantage of the safety’s pre-snap alignment away from his route.

It’s a recipe for a momentum-shifting play, but the ball is too far in front of Valdes-Scantling. With the Colts’ defensive line in pass-rushing mode, Mahomes noticeably rushes his dropback and release. This impacts the accuracy of the deep throw.

Wasting scoring opportunities

Trailing 7-6 with six minutes remaining in the first half, a Kansas City possession entered Indianapolis territory. Then, two pressured dropbacks resulted in two unsuccessful plays — and set up a failure on third down.

The Colts’ defensive line had been making Mahomes feel them — so when he drops back on third down, he escapes pressure that isn’t really there.

Without the rush in mind, Mahomes could have stepped up into the wall at the front of the pocket, scanned the field and found Juju Smith-Schuster wide open in the middle.

Instead, he bails to the right after minimal pressure — and then, after the defense has already covered up its initial mistake, attempts to throw it back across the middle of the field. The Chiefs are forced to punt from opposing territory.

After being gifted with another short field to score a touchdown, the Chiefs took a 14-10 lead into the third quarter — and immediately threatened to add to it. Once in the red zone, Kansas City ran seven plays attempting to score — all of them to no avail.

On this play, Smith-Schuster doesn’t create separation at the top of his route, but he runs with Mahomes to stay in his line of vision on the scramble.

I’d like to have seen him get the ball here, so we could have seen whether he can strong-arm his way through tacklers into the end zone.

But instead, the Chiefs had to settle for a deflating field goal, pushing their lead to 17-10 instead of 21-10.

Game-deciding errors

Possessing a 17-13 lead as the game ticked below nine minutes remaining, the Chiefs were once again threatening to score in the red zone. A second-down pass looked like the perfect play-call — and was executed well.

Here, we see that both the pass protectors (and Mahomes himself) have one of their cleanest snaps of the day, which allows a well-timed, accurate throw to Kelce’s back shoulder that gives him a chance to catch it away from the defender. Everything is perfect except the catch; the ball bounces off Kelce’s hands. It’s worth mentioning what looks like a tough spot for sun and shadows.

After a third-down holding penalty, the Chiefs ended up missing a field-goal attempt.

The next time Kansas City possessed the ball, they had a mountain to climb — in the form of a 20-17 deficit with 18 seconds remaining after a kickoff return put them at their own 30-yard line. A 24-yard catch by Valdes-Scantling got the Chiefs past midfield — still with two timeouts left.

Out of the timeout, it appears the Chiefs want to run a simple slant-flat combination — which is one of the most basic quick-pass concepts. That’s what Mahomes and Smith-Schuster expect, but slot receiver Mecole Hardman doesn’t run to the sideline. Instead, he curls upfield, where he blocks the throwing window to the slant route.

It noticeably disrupts both the route and Mahomes’ timing; the quarterback ends up double-clutching it. This allows Colts cornerback Stephon Gilmore to catch up and get a hand on the pass, which leads to the game-ending interception.

Smith-Schuster’s post-snap reaction strongly suggests that in this very crucial moment, Hardman ran a bad route.

The bottom line

Outside of the defense’s play between the whistles, the entire Chiefs team had a sloppy, ugly performance in Indianapolis. During the Andy Reid era, this hasn’t been all that uncommon. But usually, such a performance can be turned into a win with individual plays made by Kansas City’s elite quarterback and talented pass-catchers.

But that didn’t happen — and the sloppy game became a loss. The Chiefs’ passing game has long been relied upon to win these kinds of games — especially the most important ones. The season is young, so they have time to improve — but this game (and even the Week 2 game against the Los Angeles Chargers) didn’t demonstrate that the quarterback and his pass-catchers are consistently on the same page.

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