Patrick Mahomes got hurt in week 7 against the Broncos; if you didn’t get a sinking feeling in your stomach watching him call the training staff over while in pain on the field, you aren’t being honest with yourself. The game was already going great, the defense showed up and started ramping up the pressure on Flacco and the Chiefs were moving the ball down the field at will. My initial thoughts after the injury were not good ones and I admit the idea of the season being over flashed in my mind. But my wife was in my ear talking about how he walked off without a limp and that everything could be fine.
Turns out she was spot on, Mahomes is now expected to miss maybe two to three games and the Chiefs have no competition for the AFC West throne. In their time of need, the Chiefs will turn to Matt Moore to lead the offense until Mahomes is ready to take the reins once again. There were many fans throwing out a bunch of ideas about trading for a quarterback until Mahomes is healthy or, even worse, bringing in Colin Kaepernick, who hasn’t played since 2016 and would need weeks to learn Andy’s playbook. None of that would make sense for a team that just needs to weather the storm until Mahomes is healthy.
Moore is a veteran of the NFL and has been a back up most of his career, but he has been with the team all season and has learned the playbook. In no way, shape, or form is Moore Patrick Mahomes or even Alex Smith, but there are some things that I think he does well and working with the best offense and offensive mind he has ever worked with will bring out the best him. It took a while for Moore to settle into the game, as is true with most guys that come into the game cold, but then he started to make some easy, quick throws that helped him get into a rhythm.
Notice that the corners are playing off the receivers on all of the plays, this seems to be a little disrespectful in my opinion. The Chiefs receivers have proven that they can get easy yards and first downs in off coverage and Moore isn’t just going to ignore that. He was able to identify the easy throws to make that would get himself in rhythm and help the offense start to move. This is something I expect to see more of, along with more jet sweeps and running the ball a bit more, in order to keep the offense on the field. But the offense will still be able to strike from just about anywhere on the field because of the weapons on offense — and Tyreek Hill made sure to remind people that he is the second most important player on this team.
This is going to be the best set of offensive weapons Moore has ever played with and they can elevate a quarterback. Defenses are going to try to stop the run first, as most teams would look to run the football more in a situation with their backup quarterback. The Broncos played with six men in the box during this play and the play-action fake made sure they stayed there. The Chiefs ran a similar play in week one with Sammy Watkins that produced the same result.
The Chiefs cleared out the right and middle of the field with Kelce and Robinson taking the attention of the defenders in that area but they run a wheel route with Hill that comes underneath the defense and acts as a drag route. With the defense in front of Hill gone, he can turn upfield and be wide open leaving Chris Harris in the dust. But let’s look to Moore who maneuvers the pocket well and stands in knowing he will get hit to drop this in over Harris to Hill in stride for the touchdown.
That’s a good throw from a backup who may not move like Mahomes outside of the pocket but has shown throughout his career that he can stand tall in the pocket in the face of pressure and make big-time throws, as seen here.
This is one of the best traits I saw when going back and watching Moore during the 2016 season. He doesn’t have a cannon but he can make deep throws, and as we saw, be pretty accurate getting the ball to where it needs to go. It will be even more important for the offensive line to come to play with Moore under center because they won’t get bailed out by Mahomes’ athleticism. They will need to give him a bit more time to find the open man, who will be there, as I expect the offense to get healthier going into the Green Bay game.
The Chiefs could possibly return Eric Fisher and Sammy Watkins to the starting line up for Moore’s first game, which would be HUGE for him against the Packers. If this offense is at full strength around Moore, he will be more competitive than people think and could very well give the Packers a run for their money on Sunday Night.
But as I said before, the offensive line needs to come to play and even if Fisher comes back healthy, the interior of the line has had some real issues and one week after another they struggle. This week it was LDT, from the start of the game he was having issues making blocks and staying on his feet. He hasn’t been himself since his injury last season.
LDT hasn’t had as many issues as some across the offensive line but he has not been the stable guard he was before his injury last season. This is just a simple footwork problem, he is supposed to be pass blocking but watch his feet. He takes steps forward first which isn’t ideal but the problem comes when he tries to correct himself the tackle just pushes him over and LDT falls on his back.
He was not good in the game against the Broncos, and on the Chiefs’ first drive alone he had multiple missed blocks and footwork issues. The problems along the offensive line have been the biggest issue with the offense this season in my opinion and the injuries that happened created some of those but two guys the Chiefs thought were going to be stable starters in LDT and Austin Reiter have not performed to par. As the Chiefs get healthy, I expect to see some changes as they await the return of Mahomes.
Speaking of returns, I think the return of Tyreek Hill is going to provide Mecole Hardman an opportunity to become the true number three receiver on this team. Robinson had a huge game against the Raiders and then a spectacular catch against the Ravens but has since cooled off. Hardman, however, is starting to make plays every week for the Chiefs and when you can affect the game on more than just offense, you’re bound to turn some heads.
Hardman was finally able to get a decent opportunity to return a punt against the Broncos and he didn’t disappoint. The way he is able to move within a crowded area is impressive. He sees the field incredibly well and finds the open lane to get to the edge for a big gain. His speed is second to only Hill on this team and he’s gonna break one for a touchdown before the season is over, if he’s given the opportunities.
This is one of the things Hardman excelled at coming out of college, and although he struggled during camp on returns in general, I think we are seeing the game slow down for him and he’s getting more comfortable on the team, in the offense, and in the NFL. Acclimating to the NFL is never an easy process for rookies, but Hardman is definitely settling in and making his presence felt on offense too.
This is one of the great examples of concentration and not running before you have the ball. This ball was tipped by the defensive back on it’s way to Hardman and he was able to pluck it out of the air and turn on the jets. Upon realizing Hardman was about to run by him, the safety attempts to slow down and make the tackle but Hardman’s acceleration turns defender’s angles in on themselves and he’s able to run through the tackle and get into the endzone.
Having Hill on the field at the same time puts defenses at an extreme disadvantage. Hill is the number one threat outside of Mahomes on this team and Hardman may not be as fast as Hill, but he is faster than 98% of the NFL and getting him more one on one reps in-game is only going to help his development. The more off coverage he sees, look for him to get the ball more as well. He’s been getting easy yards against off coverage and did it again against the Broncos.
Hardman currently has just seven more yards than Robinson has on two fewer receptions this season. While Robinson has been trending down, Hardman has been trending up, in my opinion. Going forward, Hill, Watkins, and Hardman should be seen as one of, if not the, most dangerous trios in all of the NFL. I know Watkins has missed a few games, but getting him back against the Packers would be huge for the team’s chances and could afford Hardman less attention.
With Moore as the likely starter versus the Packers, I expect the gameplan to look similar to what we saw in the first quarter with Mahomes against the Broncos. The Chiefs want to establish the run game but have really struggled to move defensive lines and create running lanes. The Packers don’t boast one of the best run defenses in the NFL and I imagine the Chiefs will look to exploit that. However, the quick passing game we saw previously with Moore is what I expect to see a lot more of, but the play-action game is going to be the key to that. Reid isn’t going to want to stop throwing the ball downfield and if they can catch the Packers loading the box, Hill and company could make them pay even though the Packers have a great young secondary.
Matt Moore isn’t going to set the world on fire, that’s a given. But one other thing I expect to see is on the defensive side of the ball. The fire they played with against the Broncos is something that is contagious for these guys. They want to hold on to that feeling of dominating an opponent, and if they can play with that same type of fire and physicality, it will help the offense play with the same type of fire.
It’s never a good time for your franchise quarterback to get hurt, but this couldn’t be a much better situation for Moore to come into. Fisher, Watkins, and Chris Jones are all currently day-to-day as I am writing this article. If the Chiefs get two out of three of those players back for Sunday it greatly improves their chances. If the Chiefs are going to win on Sunday, the offensive line is the key. They need to establish physicality at the line of scrimmage and get some push, it’s as simple as that. If the Chiefs do that they will be able to run the football and allow Moore to find success with the play-action pass. They haven’t done it often but the first play of the Broncos game the offensive line got push and it looked great. This is what you should look for on Sunday.
I believe they still stand a good shot of winning, even with Moore. Mahomes is the lifeblood of this team and the team is going to play for him on both sides of the ball. This could bring them together as a team and benefit them going forward.