There are good and bad days in the NFL — as in life. Luckily, in our everyday lives, our bad days aren’t played out in front of millions.
The Kansas City Chiefs offense had a no-good, miserable, low-down, bad day against the Denver Broncos. They turned the ball over five times. They were 0 for 3 in the red zone, 3 of 10 on third down and 1 of 3 on fourth down. As good as the defense was, it couldn’t carry the offense to victory, nor should it have to do so. We have to be hopeful that this was the one “throwaway” loss that the Chiefs seem to have every season and not a pattern.
On this day, it’s hard to tell. Here are a few who stood out as the Chiefs ended lots of streaks by losing to the Broncos 24-9:
Linebacker Drue Tranquill: The Chiefs continue to rely on Drue Tranquill in the absence of Nick Bolton, and he continues to deliver. 11 total tackles (including one for a loss and a sack). It was just a huge performance from Tranquill on a day when the defense attempted to carry the offense.
EDGE George Karlaftis: On X, we saw comparisons to Tamba Hali and Derrick Thomas. Even if it was for one play, that was enormously high praise for “Furious George” and the best quarterback sack of his young career. He’d finish the day with 2.5 sacks and seven total tackles, including one tackle for loss. He might be the one benefiting the most from the return of both Chris Jones and Charles Omenihu. He is clearly working his tail off and improving each week.
Wide receiver Rashee Rice: When nothing else was working on offense, Rashee Rice took a first-down pass from Mahomes, made the linebacker look foolish and ran over the safety. This was the biggest play of the game (39 yards) and yet another example of how Rice is central to the future of the Chiefs’ passing game. At this point, he’s the unquestioned No. 1 wide receiver, which is not something we expected to say about a rookie.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes: Give him credit for being on the field through the flu and a bloody left hand, but this was not a day full of Mahomes magic. The MVP had two interceptions, three sacks and a fumble. The entire offense was out of sorts, but a lot of that falls (fairly or unfairly) on the guy who takes every snap. Even as poorly as this game went, there was still a feeling that Mahomes could lead a comeback. In the second half, the Chiefs punted after seven plays, then turned it over on downs after 11 plays. Mahomes threw his second interception of the day on a desperation fourth-and-27 play that followed two sacks. It wasn’t his day at all.
Wide receiver Skyy Moore: We’ve been patient with Moore, waiting for the light to come on— but it hasn’t. Three targets for 8 yards is not a good day for any receiver. But, when the Chiefs absolutely had to score, on fourth-and-2 from the Denver 26-yard line, Mahomes dropped a perfect pass into the end zone over a defender into the receiver’s arms. Moore seemed to lose the ball and let it go through his hands. How many more chances will Moore get to show that he’s the guy we thought he could be?
Wide receiver/returner Mecole Hardman: The three punt returns he attempted resulted in a total of negative-3 yards. Oh, and yes, he muffed a punt in the red zone in the fourth quarter that set up a Broncos touchdown to put this game pretty much out of reach. Last week, Hardman’s big return was a spark that got the whole team going. This week, it seemed to extinguish any chance of a second-half turnaround.
Wide receiver Kadarius Toney: The focus will be on Moore and Hardman this week, but it was also yet another game where the team’s presumed No. 1 receiver failed to produce. Toney netted one singular yard on offense this week. All the talk about the Chiefs needing to invest at receiver could have been moot if last year’s investments were paying off as expected. This offense should have been able to build around Moore and Toney. Neither has done anything to suggest the position is in good hands.
The Chiefs offensive coaching staff: There was a plan this offseason. They had organized team activities (OTAs), training camp, preseason games and the first eight games to vet, install, execute and evaluate that plan. Now, the season is nearly half over, and it’s clear. Something isn’t right with this offense. They are too inconsistent. They haven’t identified or developed wide receivers. The offensive line gets penalized too much. They can’t convert on short yardage. They don’t consistently run the football, even when they can. It’s too widespread to pin on any one player, so it falls on the coaching staff to figure it out. They have the best quarterback and tight end in the game, with a promising young running back (Isiah Pacheco) and wide receiver (Rashee Rice). They have, at least on paper, one of the best offensive lines in the league. They have to figure out how to execute over a multi-game stretch, and now they’ll have to do it against their toughest opponents of the season (Dolphins, Eagles).
Note: Applying the labels “winners” and “losers” is not intended to be a judgment on the talent or character of any of these players. It’s just a simple way to grade their performance in a single game. No disrespect is intended.