It’s fair to say that the Kansas City Chiefs are in an offensive rut ... for them.
Defenses like the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens played a lot of two-high coverages (Cover-2/2-Man), removing the big play ability of star receiver Tyreek Hill. Despite seeing preventive coverages to remove the deep pass, quarterback Patrick Mahomes still has swung for the fences. This is, in part, Mahomes overcompensating for a porous defense, but the former MVP and Super Bowl champion may have to stay within the structure of Andy Reid’s offense a bit more.
There are many things that make Mahomes great. He has a great arm, he’s one of the best extemporizing quarterbacks in the league, and his ability to make unreal off-platform throws is uncanny. But he has to realize he can’t do everything by himself, despite having an upgraded offensive line.
Coverage rate plot, but from the quarterback's perspective.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) October 14, 2021
So here's the coverages Patrick Mahomes sees relative to other QBs.
More Cover-2 and 2-Man than anyone, less Cover-1 (labeled Man1 on the plot) and Cover-3 than anyone.
(ESPN / NFL Next Gen Stats) pic.twitter.com/KIElNOAxtl
The tweet above is from prior to Week 6, but it’s a good indicator to reference the defenses that Mahomes has seen through the first portion of the season. He’s seen more two-high defenses than any quarterback in the league up till that point - man or zone.
Let’s circle back to the structure of Reid’s offense; teams are baiting the Chiefs to use quick game, thus forcing Kansas City to nickel-and-dime its way down the field.
Talked about this on Daily Wager last night -- teams are running more middle field open coverage against Mahomes than they have in years past.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) October 13, 2021
Daring Chiefs to run and/or dink-and-dunk and sustain long drives. pic.twitter.com/1SDuWsNHa6
It’s a smart defensive strategy that concedes time of possession. However, it could potentially put the defense into a third-and-manageable situation where one defensive stop could force a punt or possibly a field goal. Most of all, it helps prevent Mahomes from doing what he does best - chucking the pigskin deep to his buddies.
Patrick Mahomes posted a 6.1 Total QBR in today's loss to the Titans, by far the lowest of his career. His previous low was a 37.4 QBR in Week 7 last season against the Broncos.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) October 24, 2021
Mahomes was terrible in the Chiefs 27-3 defeat at the hands of the Tennessee Titans. Mahomes and the Chiefs won, 43-16, in the game Walder is referencing against the Denver Broncos last season. The very next week, Mahomes threw five touchdowns ... but it was against the New York Jets.
Patrick Mahomes past three games: 5 INTs, 4 TDs.— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 26, 2021
There are about 11 QBs who have been better than him this year and none of them have his advantages of best TE, best deep threat WR, good OL and one of the best play callers.
He needs plenty of work before he's called a top 5 QB.
Analysts and fans are starting to call Mahomes into question because of his turnovers and lack of offensive potency - I am not. Mahomes and the Chiefs are going to be fine, but it’s fair to criticize his recent play. The NFL is certainly a results oriented business. Mahomes has displayed insane production and playmaking ability in his career, so he’ll come out of this funk; he would love to do so against a Giants defense in prime time.
Tough stretch for Patrick Mahomes— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 24, 2021
— Leads NFL with 9 INTs (tied with Zach Wilson)
— Six straight games with a pick (longest of career)
— 16 INTs in 16 games
— 2 turnovers today
— Down 27-0 at halftime to Titans pic.twitter.com/twecOqIUW3
Sunday’s loss to Tennessee could have been a low point for the Chiefs - rock bottom, if you will. And, if that is the case, the definitions of rock bottom for the Chiefs and teams like the Giants are wildly different. Quarterbacks go through disappointing stretches. It doesn’t mean they’ve regressed, nor does it mean the league completely caught up to their abilities. Adjustments are fluid, and great players find ways to overcome adversity - Patrick Mahomes is a great player.
Mahomes leads the NFL in turnovers. He is tied for the lead in interceptions with the Jets’ Zach Wilson at nine, and he has fumbled four times.
Mahomes is third in the NFL with 18 touchdown passes, behind only Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford. He has a 67.5 percent completion rate and he has amassed 2,093 yards passing, which ranks fourth in the NFL. He’s not playing his best football right now, but he’s still been better than the VAST majority of quarterbacks in the league.
The AFC West crown is no certainty for the Chiefs. The Los Angeles Chargers are 4-2 with the Las Vegas Raiders at 5-2, leaving the Chiefs and Broncos at the bottom of the division at 3-4. The standings through seven weeks come as a surprise, but much of the Chiefs struggles are a product ofporous defense.
As for the offense, the Chiefs rank eighth in scoring, third in yards per game, fourth in passing yards per game, and 14th in rushing yards. The offense is ranked 13th overall by Pro Football Focus, just ahead of the Raiders and behind the Chargers.
Despite all the new additions on the offensive line, the pass blocking hasn’t been ideal. According to Pro Football Reference, Mahomes ranks 47th in the NFL in time to throw the football (2.2 seconds from snap to throw). He has been pressured the fourth-most of any quarterback (his play style doesn’t help him here), and he ranks third in scrambles.
Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire hasn’t been the difference maker the Chiefs hoped for when they spent a first round pick on him in 2020. He is currently on Injured Reserve, with Darrel Williams and Jerick McKinnon manning the backfield. Williams is a physical running back who can pound the rock inside, while having the athletic ability to get to the edge. He’s been inefficient with his 52 carries - he only averages 3.5 yards per carry, but he’s a goal line weapon that can pass protect, and catch the ball out of the backfield. Expect to see McKinnon get some work in the passing game, but he’ll share that role with Williams
The Chiefs have several burners at wide receiver - none more dangerous than Tyreek Hill. Hill currently has 52 catches on 72 targets for 641-yards and 5 touchdowns, three of which came against the Eagles in Week 4. James Bradberry has struggled with deep speed this season, so it’s imperative that Bradberry plays off a bit if there’s no safety help, which I don’t envision happening too often. Hill ranks fourth in the NFL in targets.
Reid has a trio of talented wide receivers behind Hill, none of whom has consistently proven to be a solid replacement for Sammy Watkins. Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman, and Byron Pringle all see targets. Robinson is quick and almost earned himself a big contract two years ago, after the Chiefs won the Super Bowl. He returned to Kansas City, and hasn’t done much since.
Robinson’s a solid rotational player who played more snaps than Hardman last week. Hardman has 30 catches on 38 targets for 289 yards and a touchdown. He was selected over D.K. Metcalf in the 2019 NFL Draft, and he’s far from a complete receiver. Hardman has speed, but struggles to be consistent. In an offense with Hill and Mahomes, one would imagine that Hardman would be primed for great production as a third receiving option, but that hasn’t been the case. Let’s hope it stays that way on Monday Night Football.
Pringle is a bigger-bodied receiver who is a good athlete, but not to the level of Hardman and Robinson. He’s more of a threat in a contested catch role near the end zone or in short yardage situations. Many envisioned that Josh Gordon would eat into Pringle’s role, but that hasn’t happened ... yet.
Gordon has only seen two targets this season in his limited action. As he gets more familiar with Reid’s playbook he could earn more snaps, but I don’t believe it will purely be at the expense of Pringle. All three of these receivers behind Hill would lose snaps in that situation.
Tight end Travis Kelce has 45 catches on 64 targets for 533 yards and 4 touchdowns while ranking fourth in the NFL with yards after the catch (272). He’s incredibly big, physical, a great route runner, and he is sure-handed. Kelce is about as dangerous as they come at the tight end position. The Giants have really struggled against tight ends this season, so I am interested to see how Graham game plans for Kelce, especially with Hill on the other side of the field.
Behind Kelce, the Chiefs use Noah Gray and Blake Bell as blockers. It’s hard for them to earn targets with all the talent on this offense, but the rookie Gray may be a bit more capable as a receiver. Watch for trick plays off the play action from 12-personnel - TE screens, TE leaks, TE to the flat, etc.
How do the Giants win?
Let me start by saying that this will be very difficult. The Chiefs aren’t playing great, and the Giants are coming off a win - but everything has to go right for the Giants to defeat the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs have been on the road the last two weeks, so the energy in that building will be more than palpable. It starts with Patrick Graham and the Giants’ defense.
I thought #Titans defensive front yesterday was OUTSTANDING vs KC— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) October 25, 2021
These complementary rushes kept Mahomes boxed in most of the afternoon... Minimal plays outside the pocket/extended
Related news: Denico Autry is an animal pic.twitter.com/07fHDsncG1
KC took 4 sacks. 2 on Brown were on him. I think the other 2 charged to Smith were on Mahomes. First one is clearly on 15, second one his back foot hits at 11 yards.. pic.twitter.com/XwaREMk4PF— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) October 26, 2021
Opposing defensive coordinators have found ways to manipulate the protection of the Chiefs and get Mahomes moving around. A mobile Mahomes isn’t great for defenses, but it is better than a stationary Mahomes. The Titans sacked Mahomes four times, and pressured him 22 times. Harold Landry, Denico Aurty, and Bud Dupree all had five pressures.
Azeez Ojulari aligns on both the right and left side of the defense. A matchup he can win with speed is against the Chiefs right tackle Mike Remmers. He was an adequate right tackle as a Giant, and he’s still that for the Chiefs. Remmers isn’t a liability, but the combination of Remmers and Trey Smith on the right side can be exploited. In order to do that, the Giants have to get the Chiefs into obvious passing situations.
The Chiefs are going to attempt to run the football. Can the Giants get the Chiefs into third-and-long situations consistently enough to allow Ojulari to pin his ears back? It’s no certainty, but if they do, T/E Stunts with Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams could help cause protection issues. If there’s an area to attack for the Giants defense up front, it’s that right side.
Orlando Brown Jr. is a massive left tackle who can be beaten with speed; however, his margin of error is almost as large as his wing span ashis length allows his feet to be a bit slower. According to Pro Football Focus, Creed Humphrey is one of the best run blocking centers in the league, so the Giants can’t allow Darrel Williams to get going. They have to shut the rushing attack down.
It wasn’t difficult to do that against Carolina, but the Giants will be in a lot of two-high coverage against the Chiefs. New York won’t have the luxury to sell out against the run, which puts a lot of pressure on the big guys up front. Graham will have to prevent the big play and try to force Mahomes to take what is being given; this will put Giant defenders in a situation where they can’t miss tackles. Give up the quick 4-yard pass, rally to the football, and live to fight another down. It’s easier said than done against this Chiefs’ team.
Struggling or not, there may not be a scarier offense to face than the Kansas City Chiefs, especially at Arrowhead, in primetime, coming off an embarrassing loss. The Chiefs want to make a statement to the rest of the league, and the Giants are the unfortunate team on their schedule in this spot. No game is unwinnable in the NFL, especially not for a team that has as much fight as New York. However, this isn’t a good spot for the Giants.
New York defeated the Panthers on the back of its defense - that will be difficult against Mahomes. But Titans’ fans said that last week. The Giants can’t make mistakes, their execution/communication needs to be flawless, and they have to capitalize on Chief errors. Monday could be a long night for the Giants. If New York want to make a statement, don’t get blown out, keep this game competitive, don’t be conservative, and try to position yourselves for late-game heroics. No one expects the Giants to win; what do they have to lose?