“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness...”
There was a lot to like about this Chiefs performance — and there were also some things that left you scratching your head.
The result was an ugly battle that came down to the very end. But luckily, the good guys did just enough to extend their season record to 3-1.
Here are five things we learned from the game.
1. Isiah Pacheco is “The Boss”
Sorry, Bruce Springsteen. It’s time to move over. There is a new boss from New Jersey.
In his first game as a professional football player back in his home state, Kansas City’s second-year running back put up the first half of a lifetime, finishing the game with 158 total yards that was highlighted by a 48-yard touchdown run on the Chiefs' second possession to give them an early 10-point lead.
In the broadcast booth, Pacheco’s superhuman running style (and refusal to go down) earned him comparisons to former NFL running back Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch.
2. Bad Mahomes is still good enough to win
Earlier this year, Kansas City’s superstar quarterback talked with Chris Simms about how issues with his footwork affect his mechanics — and the accuracy of his throws.
Mahomes talking to Chris Simms about how important his footwork is to his throwing motion, and how if they are off, so are his throws. Lots of throwing off his back foot and not stepping into throws tonight against the Jets. #Chiefs pic.twitter.com/3bSZKrc7az— Rocky Magaña (@RockyMagana) October 2, 2023
I think this is what we saw a number of times on Sunday night: Mahomes throwing off his back foot when the situation didn’t necessitate it.
Consider his second interception of the night.
Sure... a pass rusher is closing in, but it still looks like Mahomes has time to step into the throw, allowing him to deliver a better ball — one that is closer to the sideline and beyond the defender’s underneath coverage.
Just the same, throwing that pass is probably ill-advised; more often than not, it probably ends up being incomplete or an interception — and the fact that he threw it on first down only compounds Mahomes’ poor decision. Next time, he’ll likely throw the ball away, living to fight another down.
Still, even though Mahomes didn’t play his best game, he came up big with his legs when the game was on the line — just like he always does. He’ll wish he could get this one back, but good teams (and good players) find a way to win these kinds of games.
3. The Chiefs still need a reliable possession receiver
On a night when Taylor Swift brought her whole crew out to see her new beau play, Jets head coach Robert Saleh played the role of Captain Wet Blanket — basically saying, “Yes, we’re covering tight end Travis Kelce by any (and all) means necessary.”
That was the right call. The Chiefs simply don’t have another player who can demand the respect that Kelce can — and therefore remove some of the pressure on the superstar tight end.
While second-round rookie Rashee Rice is really good after the catch, his only problem is that all of those catches are made within five yards of the line of scrimmage. On Sunday night, he led all receivers with 32 receiving yards — and over the course of the season, that’s just not going to work.
By Week 4 of last season, JuJu Smith-Schuster had topped 75 yards twice. So far in 2023, no Kansas City receiver has collected 75 yards in a game. The Chiefs need a reliable chain-mover who can get open on third-and-long. Rice has the tools to develop into that guy — but unfortunately, he still a way to go.
4. This defense has some fight in them
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. On Sunday, the defense was a little bit of both.
Late in the second half, defensive tackle Chris Jones seemed to be moving a bit slower than he had been — but the Chiefs’ offense had put in three drives that lasted less than a minute and another that lasted less than two minutes. In fact, almost 15 of the 32 minutes Kansas City had the ball came on its final two drives; up until that point, the Jets had held the ball for seven minutes longer than the Chiefs.
How you play in the first quarter is important. But what’s even more important is what you do when your gas tank is empty. How do you reach down and find the heart to make another play — when every muscle in your body is telling you to give up?
On Sunday night, the Chiefs' defense never broke down. Despite being visibly exhausted, they did enough to keep the Jets at bay, outlasting them just long enough for Zach Wilson to finally shoot himself in the foot.
5. Not every win will be pretty enough to hang in the Sistine Chapel
At the end of the year, ugly wins count just as much as pretty ones. Let’s not forget: the Miami Dolphins didn’t get any extra points n Week 4 because they scored 70 points against the Denver Broncos in Week 3. In fact, you might argue they got fewer points for doing so.
There’s just one thing that matters: when the clock strikes zero, do you have more points on the board than the other team? Once the season is over, how you got to each win is long forgotten. For now, the road the Chiefs took on Sunday is a matter of concern; there are plenty of things to fix.
But this is the NFL. These wins aren’t free. If you don’t believe me, just ask the Chicago Bears or the Carolina Panthers. Let’s just enjoy this one — and see how the team does against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5.