Many details to attend to for Andy Reid, some will have a solution this season, others …
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A lot has gone wrong for the Kansas City Chiefs during this unexpected season of the NFL 2021. A 27-3 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday brought them to a 3-4 record and their chances of a fourth straight trip to the AFC Championship Game or a third straight place in the Super bowl seem remote.
What happened? These are some of the things that are afflicting Chiefs:
Not the usual Patrick Mahomes: Mahomes has at least one turnover in each of the last six games and multiple turnovers in each of the last three. Some of the interceptions have come on passes deflected by a Chiefs receiver, but Mahomes is not without blame. He has tried to force passes into cover and threw interceptions rather than simply trying to avoid a sack. Mahomes said after the game against the Buffalo Bills two weeks ago that he would reassess his decision-making process in light of turnovers. If it has, it has not been shown. On Sunday against the Titans, he posted a 6.1 QBR, by far the lowest of his career. His previous low was 37.4 in Week 7 last season against the Broncos. It can be fixed? Mahomes started the season with a nearly 5-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He hasn’t been prone to fumble during his career, so he’s able to lock it in. However, he has to stop forcing pitches, something he might not do given how quickly the Chiefs’ defense gives up points.
The Chiefs have a shortage of defensive talent: Since rebuilding their defense after the 2018 season, the Chiefs have invested primarily in offensive players. His 2020 first-round draft pick was a running back, Clyde Edwards-Helaire. They traded their 2021 first-round pick for an offensive tackle, Orlando Brown. His big-money free agent signing this year was a center, Joe Thuney. In all, between the draft, a trade and free agency, the Chiefs acquired six offensive linemen and left the defense mostly intact. The Chiefs have only two former first-round draft picks on defense, neither of whom were selected by Kansas City. Those players, cornerbacks Mike Hughes and DeAndre Baker, were discarded by their former teams for little to no benefit. Three recent defensive picks in the top three rounds, defensive linemen Breeland Speaks and Khalen Saunders and linebacker Dorian O’Daniel, have not been worth the investment. It can be fixed? Not this year. The Chiefs will have to ride with what they have.
His pressure on the quarterback has been poor: the Chiefs have invested a lot in one area of defense in recent years, and that’s the defensive line, where Chris Jones and Frank Clark play. But both have been limited this season by injuries and are not producing when they play. Jones missed two games and hasn’t had a sack since getting two early in the season. Clark missed three games and has yet to catch. The Chiefs had one against the Titans. They had seven before the game, the fewest after six games since 2011. They were 28 in the win rate on ESPN’s Pass Rush, beating their blocks in 2.5 seconds just 34% of the time. It can be fixed? With Jones, Clark and other complementary players, the Chiefs should push the quarterback a lot better. But if it hasn’t happened in seven games, it’s unlikely it will happen this season.
Investing in the offensive line hasn’t consistently paid off: the Chiefs have protected Mahomes, but Tennessee’s game was bad. Tennessee charged just once in 44 dropbacks, yet was pressured 18 times. Opponents have commanded the blitz against Mahomes only 13% of the time this season, but pressured him 35% of his attempts. Brown, who played primarily right tackle before being traded to the Chiefs by the Baltimore Ravens, is trying to establish himself at left tackle. He’s had times where he’s played well, but did poorly against the Titans. It can be fixed? The Chiefs, who start with two rookies and two other linemen who were not with the team last year, should improve as the season progresses.
So can the Chiefs make the postseason? The Chiefs, at 3-4 but with five divisional games remaining, are still in the AFC West race. The problem for them, as it has been all season, is not their record or divisional position, but the way they are playing. They could make the playoffs, but they won’t without making some big improvements in these areas and others.
The Chiefs have had a tough schedule. Five of his seven opponents are strong postseason contenders.
But things don’t get much better in that regard. Three of his next four opponents, the Packers, Raiders and Cowboys, rank first in their respective divisions.
It is up to the Chiefs to fix the problem. They have shown little in the first seven games to suggest that will happen.