Sunday’s Week 2 matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Jacksonville Jaguars was expected to be a high-scoring affair between two of the NFL’s best offenses. Instead, the game may have been best characterized by this sequence at the 11-minute mark of the second quarter.
Last five plays of the Chiefs-Jaguars game: Chiefs fumble, Jaguars fumble, Chiefs botched snap, Chiefs false start and Chiefs interception.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) September 17, 2023
Hot and humid conditions led to sluggish outings from both teams on Sunday. While Kansas City eventually mustered enough points to win the game 17-9, the team’s leaders were left unsatisfied by their performance, specifically on the offensive side of the ball.
“Obviously, too many penalties,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said during his post-game press conference. “Too many missed cues. But there is stuff that we can learn from. Got a lot of zone coverage. Just having to find ways to execute versus zone and driving the length of the field. Going back to the basics, the fundamentals.
“I was telling (Chiefs executive vice president of communications) Ted [Crews], you play bad and win, it’s a lot better than playing bad and losing. I was glad we found a way to get a win at the end of the day, but a lot of stuff that we have to get better at. “
The Chiefs’ offense struggled to establish a rhythm at the start of the game. They finished the first half with 151 total yards of offense, two turnovers and seven penalties, accounting for 56 yards. It took the Chiefs until 30 seconds remaining in the half to score their first points of the game on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes to wide receiver Skyy Moore.
“It’s hard for us to see, for everyone to see because we’ve been such a prolific offense for so long and we’ve started fast,” Mahomes noted about the Chiefs struggles in the first half. “But if you don’t execute at a high level in this league, you’re not going to have success. You’re not going to score touchdowns and have sustained drives. That’s stuff we have to get better at.”
The second half, however, looked better for Kansas City’s offense.
They built off the momentum of their first-half touchdown by establishing the run game with second-year back Isiah Pacheco. After receiving one carry in the first two quarters, Pacheco set the tone with an angry 31-yard run to start the third.
He would finish the game with 12 rushes for 70 yards as the Chiefs found success with a more balanced approach to their offense.
“Offensively, Pacheco, offensive line picked it up,” said head coach Andy Reid after the game. “Pacheco did a nice job with it after the line picked it up. We had some good things happen in that second half. Pat had a couple nice plays too, along with the receivers.”
Mahomes also acknowledged the importance of Pacheco and having a balance with the play-calling.
“You have to take what’s there,” Mahomes explained. “We had a couple run plays called, but they — heavier boxes that threw through some of the advantage throws on the outside, RPO type stuff. I missed some.
“That is what I was saying. There are some missed reads by me. I got to handle the ball. But, yeah, we’re going to get the run game going. I think you saw in the second half it was getting going better even though it was tough four, 5-yard carries — obviously the big one — are important.”
While still very early in the season, the theme amongst the players and coaching staff is that the offense has a lot of room for improvement. The return of All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce – who finished the game with four catches for 26 yards and a touchdown – definitely helps with that process, but the Chiefs’ offense has to be more disciplined and execute better if they want to return to their championship form.
“Still early in the season,” Kelce said reassuringly. “What you guys just saw is the second game bringing all the new pieces together. We’re going to keep building, keep growing. We got great leadership, but right now, hats off to the defense and the way they’re playing and keeping us in games. We love them for it, and we got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot on offense.”