It wasn’t as pretty (or easy) as we’d like. It included a couple of close calls on injuries for two of the most important players on the field.
Patrick Mahomes was brilliant, spreading the ball around in a one-dimensional offensive performance. The Chiefs’ defense played aggressively — and generally, it paid off. It took penalties (and a fake punt) to keep the Vikings in this game.
Here are a few Chiefs who stood out on Sunday.
Tight end Travis Kelce: It looked scary. Late in the first half, the dreaded no-contact injury dropped Kelce just short of first-down yardage with no defenders near him. He tried walking it off, went in for X-rays and seemed to be done for the day. But then Kelce came back to lead the team in receiving targets (11) and catches (10) — and scored a four-yard touchdown that would prove to be the difference in the game. Once again, quarterback Patrick Mahomes hit 10 different receivers — and once again, Kelce made nearly one-third of the team’s catches. We don’t want to see what this offense looks like without him, so let’s hope Sunday’s injury doesn’t last.
Cornerback Trent McDuffie: Kansas City’s top corner had a huge day against Minnesota’s talented receiving corps, with three passes defended and six tackles. He was always around the ball, playing with physicality and aggression. But he also did some work as a blitzer, hitting Kirk Cousins three times on the day.
Linebacker Leo Chenal: We featured Chenal in Week 5’s Market Movers — and the young man delivered! A sack and a tackle-for-loss were significant impacts for a role that is still pretty limited.
Kicker Harrison Butker: Chiefs fans and pundits have not talked about the kicker at all this season — which is actually a very good thing. Butker is 8-8 on field goals and 11-11 on extra points. (Hopefully, this article isn’t jinxing that!) But in games like this one — where a missed kick or two would have made things too close for comfort — it’s been great not to worry about him at all.
Defensive lineman Chris Jones: I haven’t seen the numbers on pressures yet, but from watching the broadcast it was clear that Jones was once again a game-wrecker. He notched yet another sack, continuing his streak of at least one in every game he’s played.
Defensive lineman Mike Danna: We need to put some respect on his name (and start pronouncing it correctly: it’s DAN-uh). He’s been very good this season. On Sunday against the Vikings, it was Danna who closed the game with a sack of Kirk Cousins, ending any chance of a Hail Mary play.
Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling: Also featured in Week 5’s Market Movers, Valdes-Scantling continued to have very limited targets and production: just one catch for 12 yards. His other target could have been a highlight-reel play for both himself and Mahomes — but as the broadcast team pointed out, the veteran wideout seemed to stop on the route instead of continuing to where his quarterback likely expected him to be.
The Chiefs’ running game: It’s hard to single out any one player here, but the Chiefs struggled to get anything going on the ground. They managed only 67 yards on a 3.2 per-carry average — and had more struggles in short yardage. Clyde Edwards-Helaire gained only four yards on three carries, while Pacheco was held to 55 on his 16 carries. Given the talent in the backfield (and on the offensive line), this team should be able to run the ball better than this. Instead, Mahomes had to drop back 41 times (and take a bit of a beating) in order to secure the win.
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.