In Week 6, the Kansas City Chiefs faced off against their division rivals, the Denver Broncos, in primetime on Thursday Night Football. And just as they had done in the 15 previous matchups between these two teams, the Chiefs walked out of Arrowhead with a victory, winning 19-8.
The defense was the story in this game, as it smothered Russell Wilson and the Broncos offense like a plate of enchiladas at Sunday night dinner in El Paso.
Here are five things we learned from the game:
1. Kelce is still Kelce
Tight end Travis Kelce balled out in this game, catching nine of nine targets for 124 yards, proving that even though he may have lost a step over the last few years, no player is more adept at finding the hole in the zone and sitting in it.
In a game where Mahomes continued to struggle to connect with his wide receivers, Kelce was his weighted blanket during a thunderstorm, providing a level of comfort and security that only this mustachioed tight end can. Kelce is still playing at a high level, so why waste a single moment of his greatness?
Let's enjoy him while he's still here and can carry this offense to victory.
Taylor Swift and Brittany Mahomes were lovin' this Kelce catch pic.twitter.com/JpskuP05u9— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 13, 2023
2. Harrison Butker is the best kicker in the NFL
This time last season, Butker was recovering from an ankle injury that caused him to miss four of the first five games. He wasn't 100% when he returned and would miss six field goals and three extra-point attempts in the regular season.
There were grumblings over whether the Chiefs rushed him back from his injury too soon. Former Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt was screaming from the rooftops that it was all Tommy Townsend's fault.
Butker said in the offseason that he was over-kicking last year and that he went back to basics over the summer and just focused on striking the ball cleanly.
Fast forward to this season, and Butker is on the heaters to end all heaters.
*Knocks on wood*
But it seems like Butker can't miss at the moment.
*Knocks on more wood*
It's not just that Butker's been accurate; he hit a 60-yard field goal on Thursday night with leg to spare. He's one of three kickers this season who has made at least 10 field goals without missing an attempt or an extra point.
*Knocks on even more wood than that*
3. The defense is a pod of Brazillian dolphins
In Laguna, Brazil, pods of dolphins help the local fishermen with their catch by driving schools of fish toward the shore and then signaling to their human counterparts when to cast their nets.
With nets in hand, the fishers patiently wait as their cetacean partners drive the fish toward the shore. A cue from the dolphins — usually a deep dive — indicates when they should cast their nets.
This fishing partnership has passed down through the generations, enduring for more than a century
This is what the Chiefs defense reminded me of on Thursday: a group of top-of-the-food-chain predators, driving their outmatched and flopping prey ashore into the awaiting nets of the fishermen.
The Chiefs have always had playmakers on defense; they sometimes lacked system integrity.
In the past, someone would blow up the play and get in the backfield, but the linebacker would lose containment, and the opposing quarterback would scramble for a first down. That sort of thing does not happen with this defense. Everyone knows his assignment, and they execute it to near perfection.
4. Justin Reid is underrated
Being one of only two veterans (along with L'Jarius Sneed) in this Chiefs' young secondary, Reid doesn't always get the credit he deserves. You can tell by the body language of the players on the field that his teammates respect him. Reid had a stellar stat line on Thursday night, compiling six tackles, one interception, a sack and a pass defensed.
To the naked eye, Reid seems to be making more plays this year than he did in his first season in defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's defense. He's playing more aggressively, driving downhill on the ball, unafraid to jump a passing lane or step up in run defense.
This is also the benefit of playing in a defense where everybody else is doing their job.
5. The Chiefs' lack of offense is not sustainable
Patrick Mahomes tends to press and try to do too much when he feels like all of the weight is on his shoulders to make a play. Along with this, he will also bail on the pocket early if he is not confident in his protection. We saw both of these things happen on Thursday night.
Mahomes doesn't trust that his wide receivers will get open, and in his defense, outside of Rashee Rice and Travis Kelce, I'm not sure I blame him.
Fourth interception on the year for Mahomes and the first one this season for Justin Simmons— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) October 13, 2023
Skyy Moore continues to struggle with situational football, as evidenced by his failure to work back to Mahomes on third-and-2 in the red zone on the Chiefs' first drive of the game.
By the time the second half rolled around, Mahomes was barely even looking to the outside receivers on any of his reads, instead focusing on outlet passes to the running backs and short-to-intermediate passes over the middle. That's also why Rice and Kelce accounted for two-thirds of the Chiefs' total passing yards in this game.
This lack of production on the outside of the offense isn't sustainable. At some point, something has to give. Thursday night, the Chiefs were good enough to win against the Broncos, but there will be a day when the Chiefs will need Mahomes and company to flip the switch and turn it on.
Right now, it looks like half the lightbulbs in the house are broken.