The good times, however, were short-lived. The Chiefs went 1-2 in the following three games — and that explosive offense was nowhere to be found.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes believes that mental errors were a big part of the reason the offense has been lethargic.
“We executed better,” said Mahomes of the offense’s performance on Sunday afternoon. “We’ve shown that we can move the ball, but [we have had] penalties and drops — and me not getting it to the right guy at the right time... Little things like that have kind of stalled some of our drives. We got to it. [We] kind of went back to the fundamentals this week. We kept pressing and pushing — and we’re going to try to keep [that] going the rest of the season.”
Another big part of the Chiefs’ Sunday victory was a much-needed big game from tight end Travis Kelce. Since exploding for 179 receiving yards against the Chargers, the future Hall of Famer had been held back by aggressive double-teams by opposing defenses. After being held under 60 yards in each of the last three games, Kelce finished with six receptions for 91 yards in Las Vegas.
Mahomes believes that he did a better job of finding Kelce’s best windows.
“When you do get those right opportunities,” he explained, “you have to capitalize on them... When you get those man-to-man coverages or zone coverages when [Kelce] is out there, you’ve got to give him those chances. He’s going to make plays happen.”
In Mahomes’ view, another significant difference in Sunday’s game was the strong effort by other players — which should only help the tight end during the coming weeks.
“I thought for the most part,” Mahomes recalled, “guys around him made stuff happen whenever they did double-team him. That takes teams out of that — and that’s when you can get the football back to him. We’ll have to continue to prove that. Teams are going to continue to double him in big situations.
“We’re going to have to continue to prove that other guys can make those big plays. We’ll take them out of that and go back to Travis. [We’ll] kind of play with that [proportion] of how much we’re going to put him in there — and how much we’re going to use him as a decoy, I guess.”
One of the players who “made stuff happen” was running back Isiah Pacheco — who finished Sunday with 89 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns by following the advice he and his teammates have been getting from head coach Andy Reid.
“It’s been said all week, ‘Play as each other. Play together,’” revealed Pacheco after the game. “We were big on that since yesterday. Coach says, ‘Let your personality show.’ That’s all it takes for us. Keep being one another. Keep building off of one another’s energy. For me? I’m bringing it — and I look forward to building off of one of my other guy’s energy, as well.”
For the second-year back, Sunday’s much-needed breakout started with the week’s practice.
“My mindset is to go hard every day in practice,” said Pacheco, “so when we’re out there on the field on game days, [we] execute at a high pace to allow Pat to get us open.”
On Sunday, the Chiefs also ended an unwelcome streak of games in which they had not scored in the second half. According to Mahomes, that came from the mindset he and his teammates have been learning from Reid and offensive coordinator Matt Nagy.
“I think it’s all heart at the end of the day,” he observed. “In the second half, it goes down to who wants it more. You can have play designs — but for the most part, you’re off your script; you’re kind of picking up plays here and there. Coach Reid is going to put us in the best possible position — [as well as] Coach Nagy. But at the same time, at the end of the day, you’ve got to go out there and just want it.
“I thought the guys did a great job of that today. Even when stuff wasn’t pretty, they made stuff happen. When Coach put us in the right spots, guys caught the football — and I made the right decisions.”
Even so, the Chiefs have had strong offensive performances earlier this season — only to look lost in a game just a week later. Sunday’s outing was far from perfect, either: the team went three-and-out and four-and-out on their first two possessions — and spotted Las Vegas an early 14-0 lead.
“We still have stuff to learn from this game,” admitted Mahomes. “There were certain situations where we didn’t execute at a high enough level. But we obviously took a step in a positive direction. Now, let’s just continue to do that through the rest of the season.”