Although last Thursday’s victory moved the Chiefs to 5-1 on the season — tied atop the AFC with the Miami Dolphins — their offense appeared stuck in neutral most of the night, continuing an alarming trend for the defending champions.
Speaking before Wednesday’s practice, quarterback Patrick Mahomes acknowledged his frustration at seeing four drives against Denver end with field goals compared to only one Kansas City touchdown.
“It’s little stuff,” Mahomes observed. “I said that after the game — and watching the film, you see it even more. It’s just the little stuff that we’re not executing at a high enough level. It’s not everybody, and it’s different people every single play — including myself... In order to have these sustained drives and score touchdowns, get in the endzone and score against good defenses, you have to execute — everybody, coaches included.
“I think that’s something that we have to continue to get better and better at. I think if we start executing at a high enough level, we have the talent, and we have the play calls. So, let’s just continue to get better and better.”
Since 2018, Mahomes’ deep-passing ability has been a hallmark of a Chiefs offense that has won two of the last four Super Bowls. Part of the frustration with this year’s Chiefs’ squad has been the inability to punish defenses with home run passes. The reigning MVP confirmed Wednesday that Kansas City’s ineffective deep routes do not result from lack of effort but expressed confidence that taking what defenses do allow will pay off eventually.
“We design plays to get the deep shot throughout the week,” Mahomes reiterated, “and when those aren’t there, it’s hard sometimes. You almost want to force it in there to give it a chance because you’ve worked all week for it, but you have to continue to be patient. Teams are playing us in a lot of deep coverages, deep zone coverages, and we haven’t proven that we can sustain multiple drives where we go down the field and score.
“We’ve done it in spurts, we have to continue to do that, and once we show that, we run the ball, we throw it short, we get down the field and score touchdowns, they’ll come up, and that’s when I’ll hit the deep shots.”
For a quarterback who put himself on the league’s radar with weekly shootouts in Texas Tech’s high-scoring offense, such patience goes against instinct.
“You kind of have to just take what’s there and what the defense is giving you,” Mahomes explained. “That’s something that I’ve learned over my years is — as much as I want to throw it deep every play — you have to take what’s there. There were probably a couple shots in the game where I could have got there but, at the same time, continue to sustain those drives we had this last week. Let’s just put it in the endzone at the end of them.”
Head coach Andy Reid noted Mahomes’ more patient approach when he spoke on Wednesday.
“He’s more patient,” the coach stated, “with the underneath game [and] check downs, but [he’s] still staying aggressive [and] finds balance there. He’s gotten better at that for sure.”
Should that balance of patience and aggression lead to a win over the Chargers on Sunday, the Chiefs will be in the driver’s seat to win a ninth-consecutive AFC West title. Ahead of last season’s Week 2 matchup with the Chargers — a 27-24 Chiefs’ victory — Reid revealed that he dedicates a portion of the offseason’s organized-team-activities (OTAs) to each divisional foe.
The Chiefs have now won 12 consecutive division games — speaking to the efficacy of putting in the work well before the week of each game.
“I think the guys know,” said Reid, “that they understand that you’re playing a team twice in your division, and you’ve got to do well. I think taking the time for the coaches and players when it’s not quite so chaotic as it is during the season to spend some time on it, I think helps.”
His quarterback predicts the extra work will benefit the Chiefs, especially if Sunday plays out as another close AFC West battle.
“I think it does have value,” Mahomes agreed. “I think just the coaches put an emphasis on that we have to win our division first. We believe that we have a tough division. Every game in our division is a one-score game [and] is going down to the wire. We understand it’s the little things that are going to get us that win.
“We have to continue to really focus on our division opponents — and especially the Chargers. We take that time in the offseason; we take some more time in training camp. So, when we get to this week, we’re prepared and ready to go out there and be our best. Our best is what it’s going to take in order to get the win.”