After eight years of losing to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Denver Broncos finally have something to celebrate after beating the world champions 24-9 on Sunday afternoon. It had to be one of the sloppiest and flattest offensive performances we've seen in the Patrick Mahomes era.
Here are five things we learned from the game.
1. This offense isn’t good enough to overcome mistakes
In recent years, one of the Chiefs' calling cards has been their ability to come from behind and win. But Kansas City no longer has the offensive firepower to stretch the field and score quickly.
After having a big game against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 7, wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling struggled to find separation, lost a fumble and struggled making contested catches. On a fourth down late in the game, wideout Skyy Moore dropped a crucial touchdown pass, continuing to prove that he is not ready to become the player the Chiefs expected. He might not ever be ready.
Mahomes had two pretty bad interceptions — and also gave up a fumble when he failed to feel the pressure closing from behind. He was sick with flu-like symptoms — but in his postgame press conference, he downplayed their effect on him.
The Chiefs committed a total of five turnovers, while the Broncos had just one. That’s a deficit that any team would find difficult to overcome — especially one whose highest-paid wide receiver (Valdes-Scantling) is averaging 28 receiving yards a game.
At the end of the day, it was a sloppy offensive effort, It’s pretty simple: if the offense plays as badly as Kansas City’s did in this one, the team isn’t going to win many games.
2. The Chiefs need wide receiver help
With the trade deadline looming (Tuesday at 3 p.m. Arrowhead Time), general manager Brett Veach has to take an honest look at the roster — and admit that the Chiefs do not have enough talent at wide receiver.
That's not to say Kansas City won’t win a lot of games with the roster as it is. While the Chiefs are very likely to once again win the AFC West (and will continue to be contenders), that doesn’t necessarily mean the team is good enough to win another championship. If the Kansas City is down by 10 points in the second half of the Super Bowl, would its offense have the personnel it needs to come back and win?
Here’s the problem that Veach and his team now face: trading for receiving help will require giving up draft resources — and when Mahomes is on your payroll, you need those to build your team through the draft. So any player they bring in will have to be someone who can contribute to this team over the next couple of years; they can’t just be a nine-game rental before they hit free agency at the end of the season. That’s going to be the problem with the players (like Mike Evans, for example) that some observers are now calling for the Chiefs to get.
3. The pass rush is not the problem
On a day when a lot of things went wrong, the pass rush looked right.
Edge rusher George Karlaftis played like a man on fire, getting 2.5 sacks to give him six on the season. That now leads the team. Mike Danna, Leo Chenal, Drue Tranquill and Charles Omenihu all bolstered their sack numbers. In all, the Chiefs registered six sacks.
George Karlaftis! Strip sack on Russell Wilson. pic.twitter.com/1H0iGHzT97— Arye Pulli (@AryePulli) October 29, 2023
The Chiefs are on pace to record 59.5 sacks in 2023. That would be 4.5 more than the Super Bowl-winning squad managed last season — and tantalizing close to tying (or exceeding) the franchise record of 60 set by Derrick Thomas and his teammates in 1990.
4. Depth at linebacker is suddenly a concern
What was once a strength has suddenly become a concern. With linebacker Nick Bolton now on injured reserve with his dislocated wrist, Kansas City could hardly afford another blow to the position group. But that’s precisely what has happened. On Sunday, Willie Gay Jr. left the game with a tailbone injury.
After the game, head coach Andy Reid said that Gay’s injury was still being evaluated. Should he miss extended time, that will mean that second-year player Jack Cochrane will be forced to start in his absence.
Still, things could have been worse. At one point late in Sunday’s game, both Gay and Bolton’s replacement Drue Tranquill were on the sideline. Thankfully, Tranquill returned to the game — and Reid said he isn’t expected to miss any time.
5. No Taylor,
I’m joking... kinda.
Over the last week, sports media was beating us over the head with a statistic showing that tight end Travis Kelce has significantly more production when his boosnack Taylor Swift is at the game. There was no sign of Swift on Sunday — and Kelce had his lowest offensive output since Week 2, catching six balls for 58 yards.
In the 4 games Taylor Swift has been in attendance, Travis Kelce is averaging 108 receiving yards per game.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 23, 2023
The games she was not, he's averaging 46.5. pic.twitter.com/990Hp9AWyB
Kelce was also seen drinking while out on the town following a World Series game that he attended on Friday night in Texas. Some have suggested this was the reason he struggled in this game.
I know y’all gonna wanna blame Taylor Swift absence but Chiefs TE Travis Kelce attended the World Series Friday in Texas and was raging after game at Texas Live before going back and joining his team for the road trip to Denver, which was a loss to the Broncos. Was that ideal? pic.twitter.com/8dUKAXtbKW— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) October 29, 2023
But Kelce is a professional — and it’s doubtful this is the first time he’s been out for drinks on a Friday night before a game.
There were a lot of factors that played into Kelce being held in check, but it’s doubtful that any of them had to do with Swift’s absence — or Kelce attending a baseball game. The Broncos were determined to take Kelce out of the mix as much as they could, forcing the Chiefs to find another way to beat them. Clearly, the Chiefs couldn’t do it.