Is it weird that I am nearly giddy after that loss at home? I watched that game on Sunday night and came away even more confident in this team than I was coming into it. They were without their starting left tackle and guard, lost their right guard later in the game, and played without the reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes and instead with a guy that was scouting for the Dolphins nearly five months ago. Matt Moore came into a situation that wasn’t ideal with the offensive line in front of him but did have a full arsenal of Chiefs weapons at his disposal. He played exactly as I imagined he would the week leading up to the game.
The offensive line even played better than I thought they would, yeah they gave up a couple of sacks but they provided Moore with a stable pocket for most of the night and did manage to open up some running lanes for the backs. The outcome wasn’t what we were hoping for but with everything stacked against them they put up a very good fight against one of the best teams in the NFL. They stood toe-to-toe with the Packers and outside of some questionable decisions, really could have tied the game at the end at the least. Andy Reid called a brilliant game up until he punted the game away. But this was a game that had tons of positive takeaways.
Although the game started slow for the Chiefs on offense due to some play-calling issues and miscommunications with Moore and the receivers, it felt like Reid was feeling out the Packers a bit to see how he wanted to call this game going forward and after he settled in the offense clicked and Moore was a very competent quarterback and he commanded the offense well. He did what you need backups to not do, turn the ball over. He made smart decisions for the success of this offense and it showed on the field and not in the box score.
These plays are going to do one thing, not show up in the box score as turnovers. He didn’t take a chance where there was nothing there on the would have been screen attempt and didn’t force a throw across his body to an open Watkins that could have ended badly. He sad earlier in the week that he’d love to play like Mahomes, but he can’t. He knows his limitations and worked with what he does well. That paid off in spades for this offense without their starter.
The Chiefs may not have won this game but Moore gave them a shot to win this game by being working within the gameplan Reid drew up. He didn’t try to do too much or force too much. Knowing your own limitations is not an easy thing to do and admitting that is a huge step to being a productive player when you’re forced into this kind of situation. I personally feel that Moore should be the backup for the rest of the season; he earned it with throws like this.
This is one of the things I emphasized prior to the Sunday Night game against the Packers and Moore showed it a few times in this game but none more impressive than this throw. The Packers ran a long stunt with their defensive end coming around two players into the A gap and he comes free at Moore. He stands firm in the pocket and times the throw perfectly, with anticipation, to the hole in the zone that Watkins comes open in. Then he gets walloped right after he releases the throw, but this goes for a 25-yard gain and the Chiefs would go on to score on this drive.
Moore’s ability to stand and deliver throws like this is a huge reason I was Moore comfortable with him as Mahomes’ backup than Henne. This is a big-time throw in a big situation that allowed the Chiefs to tie the game in the fourth quarter. I had faith in him coming into the game, and that faith has been verified by the way he played in this game, to be the backup going forward and Moore did enough to the safety net.
There were also a couple of reasons Moore was able to be successful other than his own stellar play. Reid called a brilliant gameplan that included a few wrinkles we haven’t seen and the offensive line stepped up even though Erving allowed two sacks. We’ll start with the line, where Reid also took some precautions and used a bit more 12 and 21 personnel to give them help to block. But even without it, they held up well in key situations.
It’s third and twelve and the Packers are going to play coverage and try to stunt to create pressure. The line does a good job holding up just long enough for the routes to develop and Darrel Williams helps as well. Moore stays clean and finds Hill on a twelve-yard curl route to get the first down.
I have been wondering if Reid was going to give the line some help, considering the injuries along the offensive line. Now that the Chiefs had lost their starting quarterback who makes tons of plays with his legs to buy time, it would be even more important to give Moore a decent pocket to work with. Reid went to two tight end sets and used Anthony Sherman a bit more to give Moore time to go through his reads.
Using Sherman and keeping Kelce in to block allowed the line to execute two doubles upfront. Usually, this would take playmakers away from the play but since the Packers were playing zone coverage the blocking gave Hill enough time to find the open space in the zone. Moore could stand in the pocket and wait for him to open up without having to worry about pressure.
This might be something Reid mixes in a few times when Mahomes comes back so that he doesn’t have to move so much outside the pocket. Protecting that knee is going to be the priority going forward. Assuming those missing along the offensive line continue to miss time it would make sense for Reid to get Mahomes protection at all costs. This franchise doesn’t want to lose Mahomes for the rest of the season because they didn’t do what they could to protect Mahomes.
Then we come to the schemed plays that Reid added for this game to help Moore succeed. I’m sure he had these tucked away for a rainy day and they worked brilliantly. This one, in particular, needed a little improvisation from Moore and he pulled it off exceptionally well.
This was the first touchdown the Chiefs scored as well as our offensive play of the game. The Chiefs have trips out to the right of the formation, Robinson comes on the jet-sweep motion pre-snap and on the snap Hill follows for a fake shuffle pass. These motions take two defenders from the right to the left; then Watkins runs a seam/fade route taking two defenders with him. This clears out the entire intermediate and deep right side of the field, exactly what the Chiefs want. Kelce is running a delay leak route to the exact spot that is vacated, blocking for a few seconds and then getting open.
Moore is moving to his right when he sees Kelce coming open, he knows that Kelce is going to be looking over his left shoulder for the throw but Moore can’t throw it where Kelce is looking so he makes an adjustment on the move. He throws it to the right but puts enough air on it so that Kelce has enough time to locate the football and make the catch for the touchdown. That’s some impressive improvising on the move from the veteran quarterback.
The next play was something the Chiefs must have practiced a bit to get the timing down but was just as impressive. Darwin Thompson had been inactive for a few weeks leading up to this game and I wonder why he was activated, could they want him to contribute more? Is he ready to? This was a fun way to get him involved without the ball in his hands and it worked beautifully.
Thompson starts the play lined up wide to the right then gets motioned to the left. This is to identify the defense for the quarterback, if he is followed then it’s man coverage of the defense shifts to the side he goes to its zone coverage. The Packers are in zone coverage which allows this play to work out. Thompson is then motioned back to the right without fear of adding more defenders to the right. He and Kelce are going to run their routes and sit after they hit the tops of them. Watkins is running a drag underneath and that’s where the ball is going.
He is going to extend the play by running back a bit but that buys time for Thompson and Kelce to identify who they are going to block. With Watkins running back toward the line to gain this creates a logjam headed by Thompson and Kelce which sprung Watkins for a first down. The trailing defender gets caught up in the blocks and can’t get to Watkins. This was a great play design and effort from the blockers after Watkins got the ball in his hands.
The game called by Reid could have only been better if they at least went for the last fourth down. I think Mahomes could have convinced him to let him attempt it, but in this situation, they decided to punt and it was a beautiful punt by Colquitt without a doubt. But the defense had given up scores on three of the last four drives and the writing was on the wall that they most likely weren’t going to stop the Packers from getting the first down.
This has happened a few times this season now and I think the only person that might be able to change Reid’s tendencies going forward is Mahomes. As their relationship grows there is a chance that Reid might be more willing to take some chances and keep the foot on the gas when they are up in the second half, but I’m not holding out a lot of hope for that just yet.
There is one more thing that stood out to me, yet again. Mecole Hardman. He is a big play waiting to happen and he only played nine offensive snaps on Sunday. That very well could have been a cause of going to more 12 and 21 personnel packages, which is understandable, but given an option of Robinson or Hardman on the field with Watkins and Hill? I’m taking Hardman a ton of the time. Hardman has much more upside and although he isn’t the blocker Robinson is, they can use him in a variety of ways to create big plays.
Hardman starts by motioning from left to right taking the defender with him and then when he pivots and turns back around with a head of steam that puts the defender behind a few steps. They get Robinson and Kelce out to the left to block their guys and Hardman takes the touch-pass to the edge. With two blockers in front if him clearing the path all he needs to do is beat the trailing defender coming across the formation to the open field. As we’ve discussed before, Hardman turns angles on themselves and he has great contact balance. He breaks the attempted tackle and finds himself in a footrace with the safety to the endzone. Who do you think wins that race?
This is his second and last touch of the game on offense and he nearly takes it to the house again. The Chiefs take advantage of the zone defense from the Packers and get the ball to Hardman in space early. This is always a good idea. He makes defenders miss routinely and always has a nose for the open field. He almost stays on his feet through the tackle at the end but just falls. If he finds a way to stay upright that’s another touchdown on as many catches.
Hardman is showing fans, albeit in limited opportunities, that he was not a pick out of fear that Hill would be suspended. He is a weapon that is ready to contribute to this offense and has made it even deadlier than it was last year. They have yet to find themselves all healthy at the same time, including Mahomes, but when they do defenses need to be prepared. This offense will take no prisoners and be the most explosive and fast offense in the league.
It seems like an extremely upbeat article for a team that lost, right? When you look at it, the Chiefs have no real competition in the west and should have no trouble winning it for a fifth straight season. They played Sunday’s game without six starters and lost two more throughout the game and gave the Packers, one of the best teams in a loaded NFC, a good scare with Matt Moore as the starting quarterback. You could say I’m feeling pretty good about this team’s chances when they get healthy.
This most recent draft class is also looking extremely competent with a number of them getting extended playtime due to injuries, that’s going to be invaluable come playoff time. Yes, I think the Chiefs still have a great shot to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at seasons end. This offense is special and it has a chance to get even better when healthy. I hope to see a few names back in the starting lineup this week against the Vikings. By the way, I know Moore said he couldn’t do the things Mahomes could but can he throw off of his back foot?