Against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs will try to rise above a slump that has seen them drop three of their last five contests. Speaking before Wednesday’s practice, quarterback Patrick Mahomes reminded reporters of a similar rough stretch in 2019, his second season as the team’s starter.
“I’ve been on a team that was 6-4,” the NFL’s biggest star recalled, “and we won the Super Bowl. We have confidence every week that we’re going to find a way to win the football game. Obviously, these last few weeks we’ve lost a couple, and we understand the challenge that’s in front of us. But at the same time, all you can do is go to work every single day and get better and give whatever you can on the football field.”
Speaking before Mahomes, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid pointed to this season’s San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos as examples that hard times can be overcome — with the right adjustments from coaches and players.
“This leg’s crazy right now,” the coach stated. “It’s week to week — I think we understand that. I mentioned a few weeks ago San Francisco. When we were in Germany, San Francisco was on a three-game skid. Now they’re playing well. Denver — same thing, they’re playing well.
“You go back, and you do a better job coaching. You focus in a little bit more on players playing and doing their job. Those are things you can control, and you keep a positive attitude doing it. Learn from your mistakes and stay positive with it.”
However, this season’s slump is more concerning than those of years past due to the inefficiency of Kansas City’s offense. There is little precedent for a Mahomes-led Chiefs team needing to overcome recurring errors on his side of the ball.
The best quarterback in football is only focused on what he and his teammates can control.
“You work on the stuff that didn’t work out during the game,” Mahomes explained. “You try to adjust those things and maximize the stuff you did well. At the same time, this league’s close, and these games come down to one score, and it’s whoever executes the small things that comes out with a win.”
Despite the Chiefs’ 27-19 loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week 13, both Mahomes and Reid noted improvements from the offense, though both acknowledged having to settle for field goals on two early red-zone possessions negated those positives.
“Offensively, it was picked up a little bit from where we’ve been,” Reid argued. “You’re going to have incomplete passes. There’s going to be incompletes. [Mahomes is] trusting the guys. He’s putting it out there to them and letting them go get it. We ended up with a pretty good day, other than we didn’t score enough points. We’ve got to take care of the red zone. I’ll take the responsibility for it.”
The two wasted red zone drives weigh on Mahomes.
“I thought we did a lot of great things,” he claimed of Sunday’s performance. “If you can capitalize on those red zone [opportunities] — ball on the five-yard line, you’ve got to find a way to get in the end zone on those first two drives, and then you get 14 points. It’s a whole new football game. That’s the little things we’ve got to continue to get better at.”
Those little things this season always seem to begin with Kansas City’s underperforming wide receiving corps. Mahomes continued to defend his pass catchers on Wednesday, though he did imply discussions may be happening behind the scenes.
“They seem like they’re in a great spot,” Mahomes declared. “In the locker room, I think everybody knows that we’re all trying to go out there and be great and trying to win football games. I have a lot of trust in those guys, and I see how hard they’re working. For us, it’s about keeping it within the locker room.”
The team’s most productive wide receiver continues to be rookie Rashee Rice. Rice followed up his breakout performance in Week 12’s win over the Las Vegas by catching eight passes for 64 yards against the Packers. While his final line was solid, nearly all targets came near the line of scrimmage.
Speaking in the locker room on Wednesday, Rice discussed his first-season usage.
“Not necessarily the plan,” he said of Sunday’s shallow targets. “I have a lot of plays where I’m running shorter routes, so I get the ball in my hands as fast as possible, and then I’m making plays with the ball in my hands.”
The SMU product will be ready for when Mahomes and Reid need his role to change.
“I’ll go downfield if Pat’s going to throw it deep,” said Rice. “If he wants to throw a short route, I’m cool with that — as long as I get the ball in my hands.”
In his seventh season, Mahomes is familiar enough with the NFL’s news cycle to know that one big performance can change Kansas City’s current reputation as underwhelming on offense.
“We’re still sitting on top of the AFC West,” he observed, “and I think we have a lot of stuff out in front of us. We have to go out there and capitalize on it. I think if we can start this week with a great week of practice — and try to beat a really good football team in the Buffalo Bills — next week, we’ll be talking about how great we are.
“It’s kind of how the NFL works.”