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Instabreakdown: Chiefs’ offense can’t make up for hampered defense against Packers

Each of Kansas City’s units had a rough game, but unfinished offensive possessions were the biggest problem.

Kansas City Chiefs v Green Bay Packers Photo by Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images

In Week 13’s “Sunday Night Football,” the Kansas City Chiefs registered a 27-19 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

Offense

The main offensive theme of this game that the Kansas City offense simply didn’t see enough opportunities. Early in the matchup, the game’s pace led to the unit getting only two first-half possessions. Both drives advanced inside Green Bay’s 10-yard line — but each ended with sacks that forced deflating field goals.

The offense used efficient runs and quick passes to march up and down the field on each of the team’s first four drives. Wide receiver Rashee Rice was often featured on short passes, racking up 64 yards on eight catches. Tight end Travis Kelce found room downfield on a few occasions, totaling 81 yards over four catches.

But in the red zone — where the space on the field naturally condenses — the passing windows closed up. That’s what seemed to lead to the drive-killing first-half sacks — although left tackle Donovan Smith (and then Wanya Morris) each gave way to a defender who wrapped up Mahomes. (All three of Green Bay’s sacks came in the red zone during the first half).

Early in the second half, the offense finished its drives, scoring on its first four meaningful possessions. From that point on — the last three drives — the Chiefs punted, threw an interception and ran out of time.

But unfortunately, we also saw the return of a recurring theme: Kansas City wide receivers failing to be on the same page as Mahomes. A deep incompletion to wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling can be blamed on the receiver failing to adjust his route. Later, Mahomes threw an interception when targeting wideout Skyy Moore, who apparently didn’t expect the incoming pass because he was covered so tightly.

Mahomes finished with 210 passing yards and a touchdown, completing 64% of his attempts. The interception — and the unit’s failure to finish drives — negated Mahomes’ efficient, patient performance.

Offensive Player of the Game: Running back Isiah Pacheco

The team’s lead back stepped up to take advantage of the soft Green Bay front, totaling 110 rushing yards over 18 rushes. He had a 26-yard burst on the team’s first drive that put the team at the five-yard line. Excluding his one-yard touchdown run, he earned a first down on seven different carries.

Late in the game, he committed an uncharacteristic personal foul that forced his ejection from the contest, souring one of his best games of the season.

Defense

Similar to the Week 12 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders, the Chiefs’ defense looked vulnerable and exploitable during the early part of the game, giving up yardage on strong runs on early downs and pass completions in rhythm from play action. The defense allowed touchdowns on the first two drives of the game, which gained 150 yards and 10 first downs over 21 plays.

But unlike the matchup in Las Vegas, the defense simply couldn’t settle in and lock it down. Injuries played into that: during the opening drive, MIKE linebacker Drue Tranquill left the game with a concussion, leaving special-teams linebacker Jack Cochrane to play the majority of those important snaps. In the second half, safety Bryan Cook left the field with what appeared to be a serious ankle injury.

Green Bay attacked the defense’s second level by running and throwing horizontally, putting the ball in the hands of running backs and wide receivers who were headed for the sidelines. Many times, the ball carrier won to the edge — a defensive aspect in which Kansas City has typically been much stronger than they showed on Sunday night.

When Packers’ quarterback Jordan Love did look to throw downfield, the play design usually set him up very well — whether that was through play-action or a receiver who was schemed open. This negated many of the pass-rushing wins the Chiefs’ defensive line was able to collect. Defensive end Mike Danna was able to finish one important sack in the fourth quarter; Chris Jones later finished another.

Overall, the Kansas City defense simply couldn’t control the game in the way it wanted. The Packers consistently stayed in front of the sticks, converting six of 11 attempts on third or fourth down. The back end was hampered — but still played too loose in coverage.

Defensive Player of the Game: Safety Justin Reid

The starting strong safety was the team’s leading tackler. Unfortunately, when a back end player tops the leaderboard, this is typically not a good sign. The 10 tackles Reid amassed were attempts to seal the leaks in the Chiefs’ front on running plays. Just as he has done all season, Reid brought the wood on these snaps.

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