How The Chiefs Defense Can Not Ruin Patrick Mahomes

After three weeks of play, the Chiefs stand alone as the best team in the AFC. Their offense is simply incredible and that side of the ball appears to be primed for a juggernaut-like 2018 campaign.

The Chiefs’ offensive numbers are staggering and you surely have seen the unbelievable and historic pace that Patrick Mahomes is currently on. But this is a group effort in Kansas City. Going into Week 4, Kansas City had scored 118 points. That is 14 more than the second place Saints. While averaging nearly 40 points per game, only Arizona, Miami and Dallas ran fewer offensive plays than the Chiefs. Think about that remarkable efficiency for one minute.

Mahomes is a special talent that has grabbed his opportunity by the throat. Even with a very small sample size, it isn’t unjust to group Mahomes with Carson Wentz as the best bets to become this league’s next generation of truly elite quarterbacks. We could go on and on about Kansas City’s fantastic exploits on the offensive side of the ball. It truly is a perfect storm of coaching, quarterbacking and the supporting cast for Mahomes.

However, while the Chiefs currently look like the AFC’s top team, we must note that only the Saints and Chargers (who had the misfortune of facing Kansas City in Week 1) have allowed more points heading into Week 4. And after watching the tape, the Chargers and Steelers left quite a few points and big plays on the field in the first two weeks of the season. The reality is that Kansas City is actually quite fortunate to have “Only” allowed 92 points in their first three games. The Chiefs defense also is currently allowing a whopping 41 yards per game more than the 31st ranked NFL defense. To give that some frame of reference, the Khalil Mack-less Raiders are giving up about 100 yards less per game than their divisional rival right now. Kansas City is equally poor against the run and pass and have given up a staggering 92 first downs. That is 15 more first downs allowed than the 31st ranked defense. On third downs, Kansas City also ranks last, having gotten the offense off the field only 25.8% of the time. This is quite possibly the worst defense in the entire league.

While this team overall has led to extreme excitement when the Chiefs take the field as well as fantasy points galore in their contests, it also begs the question: In today’s NFL, can an elite offense compensate and carry a terrible defense?

Lets examine this defense for a moment. Eric Berry has been out of the lineup, but even so, Kansas City plays a high percentage of snaps with five defensive backs on the field, even on early downs and against an offense’s base personnel. In fact, in terms of snaps counts thus far on defense, the Chiefs’ top four defenders in this category are all members of the secondary and Orlando Scandrick, who was signed in late August, has also played just under 79% of the defensive snaps thus far. Getting Berry back would really help in this regard and would also help Kansas City’s dreadful middle-of-the field pass defense, assuming Berry returns to being the player we saw last…although that might be somewhat of a leap of faith at this point. Kendall Fuller, who came over in the Alex Smith trade, is the best member of this secondary, but he does his best work out of the slot and is somewhat of a work-in-progress as an outside cornerback.

There have been rumors of the Chiefs’ possibly trading for Earl Thomas. While Thomas isn’t the elite player he once was, the thought of pairing him with his former first round draft mate, Berry, is rather appealing. These two clearly have very different skill sets and Thomas did show up big in Week 3. Adding Thomas also should give this unit more big play potential as well as more stability and reliability. The Chiefs will never have a shutdown defense with their current personnel, but if they could create more big plays that might just be enough to take them where they are looking to go.

Overall, the cover men here have really struggled and that goes for the Chiefs second level defenders as well. Kansas City may have misread the value of Anthony Hitchens after signing him to pretty big money in free agency. The reality is that Hitchens is an average starter and not the force as a coverage player that the Chiefs truly need against today’s NFL offenses. Hitchens hasn’t come close to living up to his contract for Kansas City. Next to Hitchens, Reggie Ragland is much more of a throwback defender rather than a well-rounded player that can greatly help in the passing game

One of the best (but certainly not the only) ways to attack this defense is get both Hitchens and Ragland on the field together and force them to cover receiving backs and tight ends. Terrence Smith is the dime linebacker/safety. He has played 41% of the snaps, but has been a massive liability in the process. The overall coverage from this group has really been unbelievably poor and is the greatest area of concern. Again, Berry’s return might help, but over three weeks, the Chargers, Steelers and 49ers running backs and tight ends have combined to catch 45 passes for 621 yards. Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler nearly accounted for 200 receiving yards in Week 1. Allowing the opposing offense to complete 15 passes for 207 yards to running backs and tight ends on a weekly basis is losing football.

Without question, Kansas City’s defensive front is the strength of this weak defense. Justin Houston might not be quite what he once was, but he and Dee Ford still make up a formidable pair of edge rushers. But with the amount of points and amount of passing we are seeing in most Chiefs’ games, Kansas City really needs these two to mirror a duo like the Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis pass-rushing tandem for the Peyton Manning-led Colts teams. Only two defenses see a higher percentage of pass plays than Kansas City. Houston did have his best outing of the year rushing the passer in Week 3 however, which of course is promising. In fact, the Chiefs pass-rush in general stepped up against the 49ers. But it is curious and confounding how regularly Houston is being asked to drop into coverage.

Chris Jones has superstar qualities, but hasn’t made the impact he is capable of in 2018 and remains too inconsistent overall. Still, Jones has been a force against the run and certainly could put it all together. That isn’t unrealistic and really would help this unit going forward. However, the rest of Kansas City’s big men on this side of the ball have thoroughly disappointed to begin the season and none of them approach Jones’ level of talent.

The Chiefs defense is giving up 5.2 yards per rush on average. Starting tonight in Denver and then hosting the Jaguars and then again in New England Week 6, you have to think that Kansas City’s upcoming opponents will try to control the game on the ground. This would, in theory, shorten the game and keep Mahomes watching from the sidelines. While that makes perfect sense and certainly is a fine tactic, that doesn’t mean that the Chiefs offense won’t get their opportunities and capitalize on them. In fact, Reid has this offense purposely playing slow to help his ailing defense (and his young quarterback in the process) and help keep his defense from playing too many snaps. So while both teams might not be rushing to line of scrimmage and playing up tempo, that by no means indicates that Mahomes isn’t going to get his squad into the end zone with regularity, albeit on possibly fewer chances. Settling for field goals, controlling the clock and winning the field position battle will most likely get you beat against Kansas City in the end.

Can this offense (as well as Kansas City’s fantastic special teams, which can’t be ignored) take Reid’s team to the promise land? It will not be easy and one thing is for certain: It is going to be a very wild ride for what is now the NFL’s most entertaining team. If you recall, Reid’s team started last season 5-0 while averaging just under 33 points per game during that impressive starting stretch.

That being said, it is awfully difficult to win several playoff games and the Super Bowl when you have a liability as massive as the one that currently is this Chiefs defense. In the post season, it only takes one team (New England or Pittsburgh perhaps in the AFC, let alone the Rams maybe in a Super Bowl matchup) with the slightly more effective offense on that given day to derail this roaring locomotive otherwise known as Kansas City’s offense.

Monthly Plan

$ 7
Per month
  • Unlimited access
  • Desktop and mobile friendly sites
  • Billed monthly

Annual Plan

$ 3
Per month
  • Unlimited access
  • Desktop and mobile friendly sites
  • Billed annually

Share this post