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Chiefs’ passing attack explodes against the Chargers

The Chiefs offense went nuclear against the Chargers defense in what turned into a display of fire power.

NFL: SEP 07 Lions at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Coming off of an atrocious performance in Week 6, the Kansas City Chiefs offense needed a rebound game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Not only did they rebound, but they blew the Chargers' defense out of the water and silenced the critics.

Mahomes to Kelce

Two weeks ago, it seemed like Kelce might possibly be out for several weeks or even longer. Since then, he has been on a tear. With a massive 13-reception, 179-yard receiving day, Kelce was responsible for nine first downs, including three on third downs.

Kelce even created some explosive plays, and for the first time this season, the Chiefs used their vaunted 13 personnel to gash the Chargers for some chunk plays.

The Chiefs have had this look for most of the season, and in a highly-contested divisional matchup against the Chargers, they chose to break it out.

The Chargers came into the game intending to stop the run and were ready to match the heavy formation from Kansas City by putting eight players in the box to match numbers.

The run action from Mahomes draws in the linebackers for just a second. Meanwhile, Kelce and Noah Gray sprint upfield side by side. Gray keeps running vertically at close to 10 yards of depth, but Kelce breaks inside and starts to create separation.

This modified dagger concept took advantage of the Chargers' man-to-man look and them only putting one safety back deep in coverage. Mahomes fired a laser to Kelce, who caught it in stride and rumbled just short of the endzone.

Rashee Rice as a viable second option

The Chiefs' receiving core has struggled to make an impact for much of the season, but one player has started to stand out among the group. Rookie receiver Rashee Rice turned in another solid performance and was second on the team in receptions: five for 60 yards receiving and one touchdown.

Although he is still working through some kinks as a route runner — much like all young players — he is excelling after the catch.

47 of Rice's 60 receiving yards came after the catch, and he was a good second option for Mahomes once Kelce was covered.

This "levels" passing concept is designed to pressure the secondary quickly, forcing them to choose a man. Kelce was in the middle of an all-time day, so he was the easy pick.

Once Rice enters his route, he comes open and catches the bullet from Mahomes. One burst of speed later, and it was a 37-yard rip. The Chiefs' playcalling has made it an emphasis to put the ball in Rice's hands, either in a route or by design.

As Rice motions around the formation, it tips off the Chiefs that the Chargers are in man coverage. It also tells Joe Thuney which player he needs to attack upon being released from the line of scrimmage.

Thuney gets out in space, and Rice gives a nice hesitation move look to allow the big man to connect on his block. As Rice picks up momentum, he faces a choice as the safety steps up to fill: go around him or through him.

Rice lowers his shoulder, delivering a bone-crushing hit and sending a message to the defense.

Rice has been described by many as a "power slot" type, but his speed and explosion make him a little harder to categorize. It is early on in his career, but it looks like the team has every intention of continuing to feed him the ball and help him grow as a player.

Valdes-Scantling's improvisation

Perhaps one of the most criticized Chiefs through the early portion of the season has been Marquez Valdes-Scantling. After recording zero receptions in Week 6 — and only seven through the first five weeks — he was in need of a big day.

The struggles for Valdes-Scantling have been an issue, but his quarterback still had trust in him. Mahomes has struggled to get on the same page with his wideouts multiple times this season, but he showed on Sunday that his best connection when improvising is when Valdes-Scantling is on the other end.

Scantling initially is running in route, but Mahomes does not like what he sees from any route runners and decides to work to his right. Valdes-Scantling finds himself in space just before the scramble and is able to unlock his long speed as he heads to the sideline.

Mahomes finds him in stride, and Valdes-Scantling walks the tightrope for six. The same comfort while making decisions on the fly would be on display later in the game as well.

Mahomes has a clean pocket to operate in but does not like what he sees downfield. He starts to scramble left and keys in on Valdes-Scantling. Feeling Mahomes starting to look his way, Valdes-Scantling gets behind the defenders and turns toward the sideline to create more separation.

Mahomes fires an across-the-body pass, and Valdes-Scantling does a good job of looking the ball in and hauling in the pass.

Although the pair have not had many connections this season, it is clear after this performance that Mahomes still has faith in Valdes-Scantling. The connection the two showed is genuine, and hopefully, for the Chiefs, it will jump-start Valdes-Scantling to being a bigger factor in the offense on a week-to-week basis.

His long speed and ability to keep running with Mahomes while he scrambles should hopefully add another layer to the Chiefs passing attack.

The bottom line

When this offense is at its best, no team in the NFL can beat them. Mahomes and Kelce have surpassed the greatest quarterback-tight end duo of all time conversation and have wholly entered into being the greatest duo of all time.

The monstrous 424-yard and four-touchdown from Mahomes silenced any question about whether he was having an off-year and once more put him at the forefront of a budding MVP conversation.

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