So, the original title of this article was “The Chiefs Are Broken.” I was going to write it all last night after the game, discussing my displeasures with the Chiefs and their players/coaches. But I literally couldn’t wrap my brain around it. Yeah, it didn’t help that I was up 20 hours at that point when I was trying to structure it, but I didn’t even know where to begin, honestly.
Here’s the simple deal; the Chiefs are a broken team right now. They’re a genuinely bad football team. Whether it’s the coaches, personnel department, or the players, this isn’t a good team. They’re getting outcoached and outexecuted every single week. Last night was the climax of all the things that hurt the team in September. It was honestly one of the worst executed games I’ve ever seen a team play. Nothing worked all night, and no one was good. I mean, nobody played well.
When you have to write an article about that, it’s really difficult. I didn’t even know how to arrange it in my head. So I decided to wait a day. I would try to sleep some (I hardly did) and see if my brain could process the game better the next day. Well, fortunately, I was able to. But I decided to take this a different way. I could talk your ear (or eyes, I guess?) off about the problems on this team. The thing is, we all see them. I like to think I view the game more critically than people, but I’m not a genius by any means. You don’t need me to tell you Dan Sorensen is bad at football. Or that we’re turning the ball over too much. We can all see that. Instead, my goal here is to offer some solutions. I may have none. But we’re going to try and push forward here. Believe me when I say this; I’m not the guy who generally does this. I’m a pessimist at nature with this team. But let’s try something different for once. I hope everyone enjoys it.
So I know it’s hard to take this stance based on some of the incredible stats we’ve put up this year, but I haven’t been impressed by this offense minus an impressive performance vs. the Eagles. Things have been incredibly sloppy this year. It’s hard to explain without an in-depth breakdown into every play, but the timing of everything feels off. The offense isn’t clicking, whether it’s Mahomes having poor pocket presence, wide receivers not being in sync with Mahomes, or just simple drops and turnovers.
The turnovers are the devastating part of this and are entirely fixable. We’ve seen this version of the Chiefs turn the ball over often. Granted, we’ve never seen this volume of turnovers show up, but there’s going to be regression to the mean eventually. This won’t last forever. It’s infuriating now, but I think we’re almost out of that part of the issues now.
But turnovers aren’t the only issue. It just seems the Chiefs aren’t on the same page this year. Part of that is on Patrick Mahomes. Let’s be honest, guys; he hasn’t been great this year. I’ve been particularly disappointed with his pocket ability this year. This staff couldn’t have done more for him to fix the issue. They went out and got three incredible IOL to help solidify the middle. They’ve done that as well as you could’ve asked from them. Almost every IOL pressure comes on the feet of Mahomes. He’s just not comfortable in the pocket. Between this game and the Chargers game, Mahomes just doesn’t want to step into the pocket. He was erratic last night. He doesn’t seem to trust his tackles in any way, which may be fair. But that causes him to hitch with the ball too quickly and get serious happy feet in the pocket. It’s a serious problem.
Not to mention, Mahomes has been poor with turnovers and ball placement this year. His accuracy Sunday was terrible. He missed Kelce on an easy 70-yard touchdown. Not only did he miss Kelce, but it was also a 10-yard overthrow as well. There were multiple instances of Mahomes hitting the dirt on Dig routes over the middle to Hill and Hardman. He’s turning the ball over too much. Mahomes is still a fantastic and elite quarterback, but he’s not playing that way right now.
Luckily, I still have complete faith he’ll figure it out. Mahomes does this every year. Yeah, he’s struggling with it way more this year than in the past, but he’s going to adjust. I trust that his pocket presence will get better at some point this season because it does every year. More time and continuity with this offensive line will build up his confidence there. He’ll always be a bit loose with the ball, but the turnover issue will get better. I don’t need him to be reserved necessarily, but he’ll be a bit more careful with his feet and ball placement. He needs to figure out his pocket stuff first. Once he gets that, he’s such a good field navigator that he’ll be better with the ball. Mahomes isn’t playing great now, but if anyone will figure stuff out, it’s him. He’ll be better.
But Mahomes isn’t the only issue here. Andy Reid deserves a ton of blame here too. Here’s the deal; teams aren’t playing super complex stuff vs. the Chiefs. They’re showing 2-high safeties every snap and will either stay in that shell or rotate down to 1-Rat (Cover 1) when the Chiefs go condensed. And it’s perplexing the Chiefs right now. Teams have largely taken away the explosive play from the Chiefs this year, and there’s been no adjustment to it. Teams will show light boxes every play, but the Chiefs aren’t killing them for that. There’s absolutely no reason the Chiefs aren’t averaging 7+ yards every single run. Seriously! All the cornerbacks are 10-yards off on every play, and the safeties are 20-yards deep. The linebackers are dropping back every single play. They should be the best running team in the NFL easily, but they aren’t. How is this possible? Reid needs to get this running game going consistently. If teams are going to sit with their guys that far off the ball and present lightboxes, you will have to succeed running the ball. Teams aren’t changing their strategies. They’re asking us to run. So do it.
Not only that, the route concepts just have to be better. It seems every solution this team has is just having wide receivers work back to the ball or something short over the middle. There are no intermediate threats working well. Teams are sitting back in the zone and just rallying to everything underneath. Reid’s only solution seems to be throwing the ball short, but teams are doing an excellent job tackling in space this year. You have to hit that 15-20 yard window well. This offensive line is giving enough time for Mahomes to step up and hit those windows. We have to hit them. If they’re going to present middle of the field open out of 2-high, attack it. When they do rotate down into Cover 1, that’s when you can hit the explosive plays. But it’s still primarily 2-high. We have to attack the intermediate part of the field way more.
Luckily, these are all easy solutions. Reid just needs to adjust more. He will need to run the ball more, or at least be more successful with it. The Chiefs need to make teams pay for all the soft coverage they’re playing. They also need to attack the middle of the field more. That’s where Josh Gordon can hopefully help. Use his big body and catch radius to dominate that area of the field. Let Kelce work more over that area as well. And yeah, the turnovers and pocket stuff are obviously significant. But it’s about making easy adjustments to what teams are doing and executing better. This group has way too much talent to be this inconsistent. Reid needs to get in his bag more vs. what teams are doing, but I really do believe they’ll get there.
So I offered solutions for the offense. None of them are that drastic. It’s minor tweaks here and there, and just overall better execution that will help the unit. But defensively?
I have nothing, guys.
This defense just has nothing going for them. They suck on all three levels. They can’t get any pressure with a four-man rush, even though they’re paying a combined 45 million dollars for two defensive linemen. The linebacker unit is so bad at literally everything. The secondary isn’t good enough in man coverage to compensate for our ineptitude to get pressure with four. It’s easy to blame Spags and the staff, and they deserve plenty of blame for the roster construction of this defense. But in terms of play-calling, I’m not sure what he can do.
Let’s try to analyze things a bit deeper here. Starting with the defensive front, there’s not a real solution here for me. The group just sucks. I know the easy answer for fans will be moving Chris Jones back inside, and I think we’re going to see more of that going forward. Now that Frank Clark is playing again, they don’t need the same amount of snaps from him out there. But I don’t think that fixes everything for this defense. Yes, Chris Jones is a dominant inside player (although he’s been very unimpressive there this year). But teams are going to slide to his side of the field and neutralize his impact. The only way this gets any better is if guys opposite Jones are starting to win their one-on-ones, notably Jarran Reed and Frank Clark. Reed’s the real disappointment here. I didn’t love Reed’s 2020 tape at all, but I expected so much more out of him this season. But he looks lost on the field. Reed was never a splash pass rusher, but he’s providing this team nothing. I don’t even want to talk Frank Clark. I’m just so over the whole thing. He’s terrible, y’all. You got me. This group hit Josh Allen once on Sunday. They aren’t getting any pressure, and while Jones helps, he doesn’t fix this front. They’re bad.
But that’s not the biggest issue with this defense. The biggest problem comes with the linebackers and Dan Sorensen. Teams are just continually attacking them every play in base. Teams are just coming out in 12 personnel and dominating us. That forces us to counter with base, and teams are just easily picking on our linebackers and Sorensen. It’s all play-action or stuff to the flats. Nick Bolton and Anthony Hitchens are just so slow reaching the flat. Neither has any zone instincts at all, which allows easy stuff over the middle on Yankee or rollout concepts. Sorensen can’t cover any tight end in man coverage, which is killing us if we want to be aggressive with a man blitz. Tight ends have absolutely obliterated us in man coverage this year, and it’s not going to stop.
So play less base, right? Okay, but then we get gashed in the run game. If you’re countering with base, someone has to be in the run fit. Those guys are currently Daniel Sorensen and Tyrann Mathieu. Well, neither of those guys can deal with that at all. Tyrann has refused to tackle all season now, and Sorensen is an active liability every play. Suppose you want us to get light to deal with all the tight ends and explosive plays, cool. But then we’re getting run on every single play for 10-12 yards. We can’t have both ways, unfortunately.
And yeah, it’s easy to say just take out Sorensen and the linebackers off the field. I wish we could! But besides the fact that we have a lot invested in these players, there aren’t good players on the bench! I would kill to see someone besides Sorensen, but who’s it going to be? I wish I could say Juan Thornhill full-time, but that’s just not happening. Juan hasn’t been good this year either. Even if we just do that, we still have Sorensen on the field almost every rep because of how much we play three safeties. Maybe we just put Mike Hughes into the slot more and ride with Thornhill and Mathieu deep every play, but then you lose the versatility of Mathieu. Believe me, nothing would delight me more than less Sorensen, Bolton, Hitchens, and Niemann. But we simply don’t have the guys on the roster to do it. They’re going to play a ton, regardless of what we do.
There’s no easy fix for a defense that can’t rush the passer, cover the middle of the field or flats, or play man coverage behind it. That doesn’t even mention our total ineptitude to tackle. We’ll have the Spagnuolo conversation later, but no defensive coordinator is fixing this. We’re old, expensive, and there’s a lack of fire and motivation. Sorry guys, I wish I had more. I tried racking my brain for it. Maybe play 4 CBs next to Thornhill and Mathieu in the dime. Maybe more Willie Gay and Jones inside. But honestly, I don’t think it matters. Sorry. We need a total overhaul in 2022.
Conclusion: Will It Get Fixed?
Here’s a simple reality; the Chiefs aren’t a Super Bowl team. I’m not saying anything controversial here. You can’t win with the defense we have. It requires a level of perfection offensively that is impossible in the playoffs. Good teams will do just enough to limit this offense, and we can’t do anything defensively to help solve those issues. We’re at best (And I mean best) the 4th best team in the AFC. The Chargers, Ravens, and Bills are all better than us. We have to start accepting it now. This isn’t our year.
But can we fix the issues to become a playoff team? Yes. It all comes down to execution. We need to stop turning the ball over. Mahomes has to be better in the pocket. Reid has to do more to help this offense out with his play-calling. But I feel they’re going to get that sorted out soon. While Reid isn’t doing a good job, he can’t sit on his hands forever. There will be some help coming soon.
But defensively, I have no solutions. They’re old, slow, and confused. They can’t rush the passer, stop the run, defend the middle of the field, or stop explosive plays. This defense needs a complete overhaul to solve the issues. We’ve stuck with a lot of these guys for years now, and it caught up to us. We don’t have the depth or young talent to fix it. This defense isn’t getting better, y’all. We have to accept it.
So anyway, it comes down to expectations. Can the Chiefs right ship, win 11 games, and be a good 5th-seed? Yes. I would bet get to some version of that team eventually. But can the Chiefs fix the team enough to be a Super Bowl team? Frankly, the answer is no. This defense is broken. We can’t be perfect offensively every week. You can’t make the Super Bowl every year. Some years are going to be hard. We’ll be a playoff team. But anything beyond that seems impossible at the moment. I want nothing more than to be proven wrong, but the leaks on this team are too big. Our Super Bowl window is closing. There will be a ton of work this offseason. But for now, the execution needs to be better. The question is, will the players actually fix it. I wish I had confidence. But I don’t. Please prove me wrong, Chiefs.