I looked at three statistics from the game that could tell us more about the loss but may also shed light on longer-term issues. I started with the pass offense:
Mahomes was not sacked last night, the 19th time in his career he’s got through a game clean— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) September 8, 2023
Among those games, last night was his lowest passer rating (77.5)
This is a pass catchers & route runners tweet
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was kept clean for the entirety of Thursday night. Yet, he only earned a passer rating of 77.5 — the lowest among his 19 career games where he wasn’t sacked.
While that’s an individual stat, it speaks to the lack of places to go with the ball. Mahomes tried to wait for opportunities — his average time spent in the pocket of 3.39 seconds was longer than any game last year — but he couldn’t find much. He salvaged some of those dropbacks by scrambling at times.
It is a quantifiable way of showing how valuable tight end Travis Kelce is to the offense — not just for his own production but the rest of the unit. His absence eases the minds of opponents working in coverage while it hardens the task of Mahomes snap to snap — even if he is operating from a clean pocket.
The drops added to this ridiculously-low passer rating and wiped away any margin for error this offense had without Kelce.
L’Jarius Sneed was credited with 4 missed tackles last night (PFF)— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) September 8, 2023
He had never registered 4 single-game missed tackles in a game before, and has only reached 3 once
On defense, cornerback L’Jarius Sneed played after missing all of the preseason — and that may have come through with his tackling performance. He missed four tackles, two more than any other Chiefs defender. It was the first time Sneed accounted for that many in one game.
The negative was paired with two blitzes that got pressure on the quarterback and another tackle for loss, but the uncharacteristic performance may indicate that Sneed is not 100% back — or needed some preseason time at least.
The tackling should improve as the year progresses, as it does most seasons under defensive coordinator Steve Spagunolo. This should be an outlier for Sneed.
the Lions, who played man coverage more than any defense last season, only played it on 8.5% of their snaps tonight (via @TruMediaSports).— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) September 8, 2023
They played 2-high defenses on 1st/2nd down on over half (53.3%) of their snaps tonight. A huge uptick compared to their 2022 rate of 29.6%
To continue on the Chiefs’ ugly offensive performance, the Lions’ defense only deployed man coverage on 10 snaps or 8.5% of their plays. That means Chiefs pass-catchers were failing to get open against zone the majority of the time, which shouldn’t be as difficult to beat as man coverage.
Against zone, the routes are all about timing and using the right spacing. Neither of those things were crisp from the Chiefs’ wide receivers. Pass-catchers were drifting away from throwing windows and running into each other at times.
If receivers struggled to get open against man coverage, it’s an issue of individual physical talent. If receivers can’t find opportunity against zone, it’s more mental — and I believe this statistic indicates how uncomfortable young, new receivers still are in the Chiefs’ system.