Kansas City Chiefs’ Legend says “Chiefs have never been more vulnerable in Patrick Mahomes era”

Patrick Mahomes reveals Chiefs plans Ahead of City Vs Buffalo game - explains the Chiefs' bounce-back mindset following losses

You don’t need to tell Patrick Mahomes.

He knows he forced the ball.

It was Christmas Day against the Raiders. Late in the second quarter, trailing 15-7, the Chiefs looked to respond to a fumble returned for a touchdown on their previous possession — the result of a poor exchange between Mahomes and running back Isiah Pacheco.

Mahomes took the snap, moved a few steps to his right and fired a pass to wide receiver Justin Watson, who had barely gotten out of his break as Las Vegas cornerback Jack Jones jumped the route and returned the interception 33 yards to the house.

I just can’t make that throw,” Mahomes said postgame.

Mahomes’ miscue felt symbolic of these Chiefs. How not even the league’s best quarterback is immune to the team’s offensive ineptitude. How he has contributed to it

Kansas City (9-6), which saw its hopes of an eighth straight AFC West title delayed for at least one more week with Monday’s loss to Las Vegas, looks like a pretender with the playoffs fast approaching.

The Chiefs are the most vulnerable they’ve been in the Mahomes era. We’ve collectively waited for the Chiefs to start looking like the Chiefs. It hasn’t happened.

It starts with their issues at wide receiver. Those have clearly impacted Mahomes’ process in the pocket. Against the Raiders, he seemed to hold the ball for an eternity, with pass-catchers struggling to get open and create separation. His average time to throw was 3.40 seconds, according to Next Gen Stats. That’s the second-longest he has held the ball in a game this season (his average time to throw was 3.43 seconds in the Week 8 loss to Denver). For the year, he’s averaging 2.97 seconds to throw, the slowest of his career.

Chiefs wide receivers have a league-leading 19 drops and a 6.6% drop rate, dead-last in the NFL by more than two percentage points, per NGS. The issues at the position have hurt Mahomes, who’s having the worst year of his career (with two regular season games left, he has 14 interceptions, already more than any other of his previous seasons), and appeared to have shaped play-calling.

Mahomes’ average pass has traveled just 6.7 air yards, lowest of all qualified starting quarterbacks (minimum of 100 dropbacks) except the Bengals’ Joe Burrow, who started the year limited playing through a calf injury and lasted just 10 games before suffering a season-ending wrist injury. Additionally, 19.7% of Mahomes’ throws have taken four seconds or longer, the highest rate in the NFL, and 25.7% of his passes are thrown behind the line of scrimmage, the fifth-highest rate in the league, according to Next Gen Stats.

The Chiefs don’t have a wide receiver who scares opposing defenses as Tyreek Hill once did, and haven’t managed to get the kind of production they did last year en route to a Super Bowl victory. Kansas City receivers have 186 receptions and 2,114 receiving yards this season, ranking 18th and 21st in the league, respectively. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore and Kadarius Toney have all been disappointments. The lone bright spot has been second-round rookie Rashee Rice, who has 74 receptions for 811 yards and seven touchdowns.

Star tight end Travis Kelce is on pace for his eighth straight 1,000-yard receiving season — he has a team-high 90 catches on 117 targets for 968 yards with two regular season games left — but he, too, has been playing far below his standard. It has exacerbated the Chiefs’ wide-receiver problems. Kelce’s 69.1 receiving yards per game is his worst mark since 2015. He has just one touchdown in the last eight games.

Kansas City is ninth and 11th in the league in yards and points, respectively. But that’s also the lowest the team has ranked in both categories in seven years.

The 2023 Chiefs offense is just good. Every other unit in the Mahomes era has been great.

In addition to pass-catching woes, offensive-tackle play and penalties have also plagued Kansas City’s offense all season.

“Every single play is somebody not doing their job, and it’s me. One by one, it’s everybody on the team,” Kelce said on “New Heights,” the podcast he co-hosts with his brother, Eagles center Jason Kelce. “And whether that’s prep, whether that’s having the confidence and understanding of what the defense is in their coverages, their gaps in the run game, how we’re picking up blitzes, how we’re running routes versus certain coverages. All of the above.

“Throughout the season, we’ve shown during drives that we can be a high-powered offense if we don’t hurt ourselves with penalties, if we’re not playing first-and-(expletive)-20 every other drive or every other set of first downs,” he added. “Just hasn’t been a well-oiled machine like we’ve been in the past, and we just got to get everybody on the same (expletive) page.”

The offensive inconsistency has come as the Chiefs finally have a championship-caliber defense.

The unit ranks second in the league in both yards and points allowed, and ninth in DVOA, which measures success on each play compared to league average, according to FTN data. The Chiefs have their highest-rated scoring defense since 2014 and highest-rated total defense since 1995.

“The ball is not always going to bounce your way, you’re not always going to win 14, 13 games every single season,” Mahomes said. “We’re still first place in the AFC West, we have to win one more game to win the division.

“We understand that it’s not going to be easy, but if we continue to work and put everything we have out there on the football field, and we win this game (Sunday vs. the Bengals) and get into the playoffs, I think we can go out there and do what we wanted to do at the beginning of the season — and that’s find a way to win the Super Bowl.”


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