In Week 5, the Kansas City Chiefs went on the road, stepping into a hostile environment to face off against one of the league’s best passing offenses: the Minnesota Vikings. While it was a more physical game than many fans expected, the Chiefs emerged with a 27-20 victory that extended their winning streak to four games and improved their record to 4-1.
Once again, it felt like the team left us wanting more on offense — but it might be that we’re becoming nitpicky. Maybe this is simply the team the Chiefs have become.
Here are five things we learned from the game.
1. The Chiefs’ passing game is 100% dependent on Travis Kelce
This isn’t so much something we learned as it is a confirmation of something we already knew: the superstar tight end is the lifeblood of Kansas City’s passing attack. He’s quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ only difference-maker.
This team has exactly two irreplaceable players. The first is Mahomes. The second is Kelce, who is already a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.
Kansas City’s only loss this season came in Week 1, when Kelce was sidelined with a knee injury. So when No. 87 crumpled to the turf on Sunday — clutching his lower ankle — all of Chiefs Kingdom simultaneously felt sick. Non-contact injuries are rarely good news. It appears, however, that Kelce escaped with nothing more than a sprained ankle. That’s about the best outcome we could have imagined.
Travis Kelce hurt his right foot/leg on this play, a non-contact injury, and then headed to the locker room: pic.twitter.com/ogfEu6iIOB— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 8, 2023
Luckily, Kelce was able to tape up his ankle and push through the pain, demonstrating why he is one of the toughest son-of-a-guns to walk God’s green Earth.
Travis Kelce afterward pointing to his heart .. saying "All heart, baby" to the #Chiefs crowd .. then gives a young girl some game worn gear. (our own @Indiana_Johns_ with the shot) #Chiefs pic.twitter.com/UywE0NRm3X— Harold R. Kuntz (@HaroldRKuntz3) October 9, 2023
Pointing to his chest as he walked off the field, Kelce looked up to Chiefs fans who remained in the stands, shouting, “All heart, baby!”
2. Kansas City potentially made mistakes constructing the offense
Kelce richly deserves these accolades. But if we’re being honest, we must question the wisdom of building an offense that is so dependent on the health of a 34-year-old tight end. That’s not to say the Chiefs haven’t invested resources in surrounding Mahomes with other weapons. The problem is that none of those weapons have seemed to step up through the first quarter of the season.
2023’s second-round pick, Rashee Rice, appears to be a player on whom the Chiefs could rely in the future — but at this point, he is anything but a sure thing; he hasn’t yet topped 60 receiving yards in a game.
In contrast, 2022’s second-round-selection, Skyy Moore, looks like an NCAA athlete doing his best to play in the NFL — and failing. I don’t think it’s Moore’s fault. He is a small-school guy who simply might not be the player Kansas City needs him to be. Until he can prove otherwise, he is an afterthought in the Chiefs’ offense.
3. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is a problem
This brings us to the $11 million dollar elephant in the room. Kansas City is spending 5% of its 2023 salary-cap dollars on a player who has, so far, accounted for even fewer receiving yards than Moore. In three of the team’s five games, Valdes-Scantling has failed to exceed 15 receiving yards. He was utterly invisible in Sunday’s game.
There is, of course, a lot more that goes into it than a single season’s cap hit. But to put this into perspective, the 2023 cap hits for wide receivers Deebo Samuel, Chris Godwin and A.J. Brown are all less than Valdes-Scantling’s.
That’s just not a good look.
4. The second-round receivers have yet to prove they’re reliable
General manager Brett Veach has built a reputation by finding diamonds in the rough — and sustaining a championship-level roster. And I’m happy to admit that, at wide receiver, it’s hard to find difference-makers outside of the first round.
But when you have used three second-round picks on wideouts, shouldn’t you have more to show for it than one player who could be good someday?
It’s fair to ask if evaluating wide receiver talent is a blind spot — especially considering the Valdes-Scantling contract.
The simple fact is that all the preseason buzz surrounding the wide receiver corps now seems undeserved. Plain and simple, Veach has not surrounded Mahomes with enough receiving talent.
The 2024 NFL Draft is shaping up to be one of the deepest wide receiver classes in recent history. The Chiefs have to get it right.
5. The Chiefs have an awesome secondary
Sunday’s game was billed as the secondary’s biggest test of the season. It stepped up to the challenge, holding Justin Jefferson — the league’s leading wide receiver — to just 28 yards. Much of the credit should go to cornerback L’Jarius Sneed. Until the wideout left the game with an injury, Sneed held the primary responsibility for shadowing Jefferson.
The Chiefs’ defense also played very well against Minnesota tight end T.J. Hockenson — and while rookie wide receiver Jordan Addison found some success in a few moments, it was by no means a big performance. Facing its biggest challenge of the season, the Kansas City secondary got the job done — and its performance was a big factor in Sunday’s win.