2. Is the Kansas City Chiefs defense starting to buckle under the pressure of a “struggling” offense?
Every other Kansas City loss this season has been a referendum on the state of the offense, but we can’t play that game after Sunday’s shocking home loss to Green Bay. The Chiefs scored only 19 points but did it in eight drives. One was a kneel down before the half, and the other was a desperation drive at the end of the game. So on six legitimate drives, Patrick Mahomes led his heavily scrutinized supporting cast to about 3.2 points per drive, which would lead the NFL on the season. This loss falls squarely on the defense.
That’s the first time we’ve been able to say that about Kansas City this season. While both units have been in the top 10 in most efficiency metrics, the Chiefs have been better on the defensive side of the ball. That’s provided cover for an offense that can still score in bunches but hasn’t done it consistently this season. It would always be difficult for the defense to keep up that pace for 20 weeks, and Sunday’s ugly showing against Jordan Love’s Packers may have been the first sign of slippage. It was easily the worst defensive performance of the season for the defending Super Bowl champs. The defense set season-worst marks in total expected points added allowed, EPA allowed per play, and success rate allowed. Green Bay’s offense scored on nearly every possession and was successful in both early- and late-down situations. The Chiefs defense was thoroughly outplayed.
Even after Sunday’s setback, Kansas City ranks near the league’s top in most defensive metrics. This defense is still excellent. But defensive performance is naturally volatile week to week and even more so later in the year, as attrition builds. On Sunday, the Chiefs lost two key contributors in safety Bryan Cook (ankle) and linebacker Drue Tranquill (concussion), which will necessitate major adjustments from defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo ahead of next week’s showdown with the Bills. On top of that, opponents now have more tape of Spagnuolo’s defense. As offenses get a better understanding of his play-calling tendencies, some of his tricks may lose effectiveness.
With Josh Allen up next on the schedule, the defense won’t have to wait long before its latest big test. If we get a repeat of what happened on Sunday night in Green Bay and the offense remains inconsistent, it might be time to panic in Kansas City.
D - Chiefs
Kansas City struggled on both offense and defense, and coughed up a chance to retain the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Injuries on defense didn’t help, but the offense was simply not good enough. Patrick Mahomes averaged just 6.4 yards per attempt and threw only one touchdown and one interception, and Kansas City could not find a way to create big plays. Things were difficult pretty much all night, and that’s reflected in the score line.
2. Tailback Isiah Pacheco put together one of the best games of his career.
Despite the loss, Pacheco turned in one of his strongest games as a professional on Sunday night with 110 rushing yards on just 18 carries. Ten of those attempts – or 56 percent – picked up at least five yards. The second-year tailback averaged 4.06 yards after contact in the game, marking the highest figure of any player with double-digit carries in Week 13.
It wasn’t enough on Sunday, but Pacheco’s performance was certainly encouraging, and with five games remaining, the former seventh-round pick is only 221 yards shy of 1,000 for the year.
Maybe officials wouldn’t have incorrectly stopped the clock with 19 seconds left, inaccurately stating that Valdez-Scantling got out of bounds when he clearly was wrapped up by Corey Ballentine and kept in the field of play.
Maybe an Owens shove of Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce in the end zone on Mahomes’ Hail Mary pass wouldn’t have been ignored and Kansas City would have received one more shot at a game-winner.
But instead, those calls and non-calls happened, and they hung a cloud over what should have been an impressive outcome regardless of which team prevailed.
Let’s get one thing straight before we progress, though.
Add Now: WR Kenny Golladay
The Chiefs are obviously among the select few teams that are going to be favored to lift the Lombardi at the end of the season. However, the inconsistency among their receivers is concerning. Rashee Rice seems to be separating himself, but they’ll need more than him and Travis Kelce to step up in the postseason.
There’s some irony to proposing Kenny Golladay to address inconsistency, but the options are limited and Golladay has a 1,000-yard season on his resume. If he can’t contribute on a team with Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid, then he truly is done in the league.
5 - Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · QB · +650
Why he could win: He’s Patrick Mahomes. He’s going to be in the MVP conversation as long as he plays because he’s just that good. He’s already won the award twice in his first five years as a starter, and he’s always two or three jaw-dropping plays away from jumping into the lead. Maybe the best argument Mahomes has this season is that he’s playing with a lesser supporting cast. He’s dealing with young receivers who have dropped a slew of passes and made their fair share of mental mistakes. If he can guide this bunch to the AFC’s top seed, then he’ll be in the conversation again.
Why he couldn’t: Mahomes is having a good season, not a great one. He’s trending toward career lows in passing yards and touchdowns, and those magical highlights have been hard to come by. He’s already had three games this season where he wasn’t able to deliver a game-winning drive when given the opportunity. A lot of that comes back to the inconsistency of his receivers, but he’s still the one who suffers because of it.
Final verdict: People expect Mahomes to perform magic every time he takes the field, which results in an impossible bar for him to clear for an award like this. He’s in this discussion because of his name. His numbers at this stage aren’t going to help him.
25. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: WR XAVIER LEGETTE, SOUTH CAROLINA
Player ADP (via MDS): 32.7
Player Big board rank: 32
This is crazy to read, but it’s true: the Chiefs need more firepower on offense. Tight end Travis Kelce is one of the greatest ever to do it, but he is aging. Rashee Rice has been productive as a rookie, but they need more than just those two players, even when they’re on.
Legette stands at 6-foot-3 and 227 pounds and has crazy athleticism for a receiver his size. He would give the Chiefs an advantage they don’t currently have.
Around the NFL
Leonard, a three-time Pro Bowler with the Indianapolis Colts, has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday. The Eagles later announced the signing.
Leonard visited with the Eagles on Wednesday after he initially visited with the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday. He’s decided to go with first-place Philadelphia for the stretch run as the reigning NFC champions look for a Super Bowl return.
Though it remains to be seen if Leonard will be active, he’s joining the Eagles (10-2) ahead of a massive prime-time showdown with the Cowboys (9-3) on Sunday night. He’ll be looked to bolster a rushing defense that was gashed in a Week 13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Initial tests showed that Lawrence sprained the ankle, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. He is scheduled to undergo additional testing Tuesday to determine the extent of the injury.
Lawrence was hurt when left tackle Walker Little was pushed backward and stepped on Lawrence’s ankle, which then appeared to get caught underneath him when he fell to the ground. Lawrence tried to get up, then went down to his knees and slammed his helmet on the ground in frustration. He was assisted from the field by medical personnel and needed the help of a person underneath each arm while he was walking in the tunnel toward the Jaguars’ locker room and X-ray area.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
“Isiah Pacheco wasn’t trying to punch an opponent. He was just doing his impression of that ‘Big Dom’ guy from the Philadelphia Eagles’ security.”
“The question isn’t why wasn’t pass interference called on the last throw to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The question is why would a defensive back interfere with him when he’d surely drop it anyway?”
“Taylor wanted to write one of her ‘angry songs,’ so the back judge helped create the mood.”
“Football officials screwed Valdes-Scantling like he was Florida State.”
A tweet to make you think
Chiefs wide receiver snap counts (Week 13 vs. Packers)— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) December 4, 2023
Rice - 46
Moore - 44
Watson - 40
Valdes-Scantling - 33
Toney - 12
James - 4