Remember how often Kansas City Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon scored red-zone touchdowns in 2022?
Last season, McKinnon caught seven touchdown passes inside the red zone. Six of those were during the season’s final six games — a stretch in which he earned at least one touchdown in each matchup, collecting a total of nine. Among all NFL pass catchers, only Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce had more red-zone receiving touchdowns.
In short, McKinnon was an essential part to the league’s No. 1 offense — so when the offense re-emerged during Sunday’s 41-10 rout of the Chicago Bears, it was no coincidence that the running back scored twice. While McKinnon had just 28 yards over five touches, both of his touchdowns came in the red zone.
In fact, McKinnon played an important role in each of the game’s first three touchdown drives:
- He scored the first touchdown, catching a flip pass and running in from six yards out.
- In the second drive, he moved the chains on a third-down red-zone play, catching a checkdown and getting upfield to keep the drive going.
- He caught the team’s third touchdown, running to the front pylon and securing the pass.
So after the game — when a reporter asked him about a touchdown — McKinnon he had to get clarification.
“Which one?” he asked.
The Chiefs’ offense had punted to end its first possession before whipping off seven straight scores. The team not only converted in short-yardage scenarios, but also found space downfield in play action. It felt like a vintage performance from one of the league’s most dangerous offenses.
“Whether it’s run, pass I feel like in previous weeks, we just lacked execution,” McKinnon admitted. “And today we came out and we executed, converted third downs and were able to keep drives sustained.”
For McKinnon, it was all very familiar.
“We wanted to get back to doing what we do best — and that was being the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense,” said the veteran running back. “Our first two weeks, we didn’t look too sharp. So we got challenged by the coaches — and we challenged ourselves — and we came out today and got on the right track.”
S/O @NFLonFOX for a nice quick breakdown of the #Chiefs' 1st TD— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) September 25, 2023
This is Power Read. Mahomes reads the End man, which acts as kickout block
- If he crashes down, he hands to Skyy on jet sweep
- If he gets upfield (like he does here), flip to McKinnon
Trey pulls to lead through pic.twitter.com/HPotmk2AY4
The initial score of the game was set up very well — and was apparently something the team had prepared during last week’s practice.
“Coach Reid put in a couple plays for me,” McKinnon revealed. “So when I heard the personnel, I already knew what was going on. It was just a matter of execution... It got handed off to Skyy [Moore] all week in practice, so I had a feeling I was going to get it in the game.”
McKinnon’s fellow running backs Isiah Pacheco and Clyde Edwards-Helaire also scored on Sunday. The trio took advantage of a strong performance from the offensive line, but also the schemed preparation. McKinnon had suspected his teammates might have a fun day against the Bears.
“We said it all week,” he said. “We were trying to go for a hat trick — ‘Everybody get a touchdown.’ Runs got called early; plays got called early for us. We just maximized opportunities.”
The 31-year old enjoyed the moment with teammates, something that he does purposefully. While the veteran has now won a Super Bowl, he has also missed multiple seasons due to complications from a knee injury. He knows the highs and lows of the NFL’s grueling game.
That’s probably why you always see a smile on his face — and the faces of the players around him — and why he’s always working on dance moves.
“We just be clowning at practice,” smiled McKinnon. “So there’s just little stuff in the works. We’re just having fun with it. That’s what it is all about.”
Sunday was certainly fun for everyone involved with the Chiefs — from the fans watching to the players who were laying a beatdown on their opponent. It felt like a refreshing, re-energizing game — especially for an offensive unit that didn’t look like itself through two weeks.
But in Week 3, it did. And it was not only a reminder of how well McKinnon executes his role, but also of how much that role matters in the red zone and on third down.