If you’re anything like me, you love reading the leaderboards when the regular season is over. You can finally honestly compare statistics between teams and players across the league — not only in the just-ended season, but in previous years, too.
If that sounds like it’s a lot more fun in my head than it is in yours, I get it — and that’s perfectly OK. But that’s why I scoured statistical databases like Pro Football Reference, Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders to highlight some notable Kansas City Chiefs statistics from 2022.
I found some positive (and negative) trends we should be considering as the team begins what we hope will be three consecutive postseason victories.
1. While targeting Mecole Hardman, Patrick Mahomes’ passer rating was 142.3
According to PFF, no other NFL wide receiver with 10 or more targets earned a higher mark on those targets. Kansas City wide receiver Kadarius Toney produced a 139.3 passer rating when targeted — the league’s third-highest mark.
It’s a simple way to show how impactful their skill sets are to the offense. Both have primarily been used as role players in the right situations — but they also had the talent to take full advantage. Jet sweeps, quick screens, crossing patterns and designed vertical shots are both maximized by Hardman’s top-end speed and Toney’s play-making in space. Toney has even shown flashes of real ability to win contested catches.
During the postseason, the duo could continue to get fewer opportunities than some of their offensive teammates — but based on the efficiency and creativity of their usage, they could end up making big impacts.
2. When targeted, Trent McDuffie allowed a completion rate of just 57.8%
According to PFF, no other Kansas City cornerback earned a completion rate lower than 65%. McDuffie’s mark ranked 21st among 70 NFL corners who played more than 385 coverage snaps. While that is a respectable ranking, the point is more about the comparison to his teammates.
It has become clear that McDuffie is the team’s best pure cover corner — and that’s why defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo recently began using the rookie in the slot. PFF’s data says that in the last three weeks of the regular season, McDuffie played 71% of his snaps either in the slot or in the box. In the games prior to that, McDuffie was only playing 10% of his snaps in those alignments.
In the postseason, this will allow Kansas City’s coverage to be more versatile — and will improve matchups against shifty receivers like the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Christian Kirk, who gave slot cornerback L’Jarius Sneed some issues during the Week 10 contest.
Even if it’s not for a specific receiver matchup, using McDuffie both in the slot and on the perimeter gives the Chiefs another layer of unpredictability in their secondary.
3. Chiefs ranked 31st in Football Outsiders’ Power Success metric
During the first part of the season, this was a big issue. Both in the red-zone and short-yardage situations, it forced the Chiefs to rely more on passing than the traditional running game. This did work — leading to the success of players like Hardman, Toney and running back Jerick McKinnon as receivers.
But as the season moved forward, the running game — buoyed by a strong offensive line — has gained steam. A lot of that success has come against spread-out, light-box defenses that give Kansas City an advantage while running the ball. Once defenses condensed down — expecting the run more often — the Chiefs chose to pass more often. But the ability to gain these yards on the ground — even when the defense expects it — will be a key factor in playoff success.
It also can keep Kansas City unpredictable. Defenses may start disrespecting the possibility of a run in these scenarios, giving the Chiefs a great chance to counter.
4. Seven different Kansas City defenders registered at least 3.5 sacks
In each of the previous two seasons, the Chiefs had only two defenders reach that number. In 2019, there were five.
This is pretty simple. While star defensive tackle Chris Jones makes Kansas City’s pass rush top-heavy, it is also very deep. Defensive ends George Karlaftis, Frank Clark, Mike Danna and Carlos Dunlap each earned at least four sacks. Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed nabbed 3.5 of his own, while linebackers Willie Gay Jr. and Nick Bolton earned 4.5 between them.
While calling a blitz will always be one of Spagnuolo’s options when a big play is needed, they will be much harder to stop when the unit can also get pressure with just four rushers. In recent weeks, we’ve seen that it can.
5. Mahomes had no interceptions on passes of 20 or more air yards
Kansas City’s superstar quarterback is one of only two full-time quarterbacks who avoided a pick while throwing deep — even though his 63 attempts of 20 or more air yards ranked ninth.
Mahomes might have been getting more deep-shot opportunities; defenses might have been willing to take more risks in man coverage when Tyreek Hill wasn’t among Mahomes’ receiving options. But that doesn’t mean Mahomes has been forcing anything. For the most part, he’s done a great job of looking for the big play when it’s there — and moving on when it isn’t.
There’s no reason to see Mahomes to adjust that mindset in the postseason. But the Chiefs’ wideouts — specifically Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Justin Watson — could be better on those deep passes. They will consistently be running deep routes, helping others get open. When the play is there to be made, these two will have to be better at securing the catch.