CHIEFS GRADE: B-
With Taylor Swift in attendance, Travis Kelce put on a show with nine catches for 124 yards. Although Kelce had a big day, the same can’t be said for the rest of the Chiefs offense. The unit was plagued by uncharacteristic mistakes: They couldn’t convert on third down (4 of 13) and they couldn’t score in the red zone (they got just one touchdown on five trips). The offense was far from perfect, but Harrison Butker and the defense more than made up for it. Chris Jones led a Chiefs pass rush that sacked Russell Wilson four times. Not to mention, the defense also forced three turnovers. As for Butker, he drilled four field goals, including a 60-yarder just before halftime. Yes, the offense struggled at times, but the Chiefs still won by double-digits, so for now, you probably don’t need to worry about Kansas City. The defense is playing at a high level and the offense will almost certainly catch up to it eventually.
The 34-year-old signal-caller hasn’t put up bad numbers this season, completing 66.87% of his passes for 1,210 yards to go along with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions prior to Thursday’s contest.
However, he struggled mightily against Kansas City’s defense on his way to a season-low 46.6 quarterback rating. He finished the night with a mere 95 yards passing, including one touchdown and two interceptions.
“They did a lot of different things,” Wilson said. “The first [interception] was on me. They made a great play on the ball that bounced up on [the second interception]. ... That’s part of the game. ... They made good plays tonight. They’re a good defense.”
Well, except that doesn’t solve everything in short yardage.
Or at least it hasn’t. The play calls, it turns out, are only the secondary problem, simply trying to mask the primary problem. Which is this: The Chiefs think they need to trick the defense to be top-of-the-league successful in short-yardage situations — and, gulp, they just might be right.
They have been combating this thing for awhile now, and nothing is working as well as it should be. Not running the ball, which the rest of the league uses as its crutch, per FTN Football Almanac, but in which the Chiefs have a below average success rate. And not even giving the (dang) ball to Mahomes.
Since the onset of 2022, the Chiefs have converted on third or fourth downs with 1 or 2 yards to go only 62.3% of the time. That ranks 22nd in the league.
The defense has been there to pick up the slack. After Thursday’s win where they allowed the Broncos to just eight points, the Chiefs are allowing just 14.7 points per game (second best in the NFL) and allowing just 284 yards per game (fifth best in the NFL). It is an incredibly fast defense that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has playing aggressive, dominant football. Now that Chris Jones is back in the lineup, they also have their biggest game-changer in the middle of the field making an impact.
This is not to say the Chiefs offense has been bad. It just hasn’t been what we have come to expect. Over their past 11 games dating back to last season (including playoffs), the Chiefs have topped the 30-point mark in just three of those games, and in six of those games have failed to score more than 24 points. Their only game with more than 27 points this season was a 41-point outburst against the Chicago Bears
Chiefs’ high-priced problem
In a relatively restrained offseason, Jawaan Taylor landing a four-year, $80 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs stood out as one of the few truly controversial moves. Sure, that’s essentially the going rate for top offensive tackles these days. But Taylor, 25, hasn’t established himself in that class yet, meaning this was a substantial bet on his growth potential. In the early going, that wager has gone bust. Through five weeks, Taylor had a solid lead as the NFL’s most penalized player with nine accepted flags. Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid have come to the right tackle’s defense, saying he was being unfairly targeted by officials. But beyond the penalties, Taylor hasn’t been nearly good enough as a protector for Mahomes. In the cutthroat AFC, the margin for error is slim, especially with the young receiving corps yet to find its way. Things are still salvageable, but a significant leap will be required for Taylor’s deal not to go down as one of the franchise’s bigger missteps in recent history.
Around the NFL
PJ Walker will start at quarterback Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
Watson also missed Cleveland’s game Oct. 1 against the Baltimore Ravens. He briefly threw on the field during pregame in front of Browns officials before the decision was made to make him inactive. Rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson started for Watson in that game.
After the 28-3 loss to Baltimore, coach Kevin Stefanski said he expected Watson to be ready for the 49ers. But Watson has not had a full practice since Sept. 22 while dealing with a bruised rotator cuff to his throwing shoulder.
Daniel Jones’ neck injury will cost him more than just the remainder of New York’s Week 5 loss to Miami.
Jones will not play in the Giants’ date with the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night, coach Brian Daboll announced Friday.
Jones suffered the neck injury early in the fourth quarter of New York’s 31-16 defeat when he was sacked by Miami’s Andrew Van Ginkel. He exited and did not return, with some fearing his injury could be serious enough to cost him significant time.
Jones ended up receiving fairly positive news on his injury, which was not related to a prior injury that cost him the final six games of the 2021 season. Earlier in the week, he claimed he was still hoping to play Sunday night.
Instead, it will cost him at least one game against a team that ranks fourth in pressure rate, despite only blitzing sporadically through five weeks. It might be for the best: Jones has been under constant duress in 2023, ranking dead last in times sacked (28) in five games.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Tight end Travis Kelce: When you see Travis Kelce not only get open downfield and make a catch but also pitch to Noah Gray for a first down, you know we’re in for a show. Kelce lived up to his moniker of literally being “always open,” leading the team (as usual) with nine targets, nine catches and 124 yards. He’s clearly not distracted by one of the biggest celebrities in the world watching — the Chiefs are still undefeated with Taylor Swift in attendance.
Wide receiver Rashee Rice: The four catches for 72 yards represented a solid day. The 28-yard plays showed what Rashe Rice can do running after the catch. Perhaps the most exciting part of Rashee Rice’s game against the Broncos was the efficiency. He caught each of his four targets, avoiding the one drop per game we had come to expect. The rookie is getting better every week and should continue to be a cornerstone of this offense going forward.
A tweet to make you think
Frank Clark’s release now has been turned into the NFL and his name will appear on the Saturday wire; once it does, Clark will be free to sign wherever he wants. A return to Kansas City is the most likely scenario in the eyes of league sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 13, 2023