The Chiefs faced off against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday and were looking to avoid the deficits of last season. With many of the offensive players having close to three weeks off between games, the build-up of “rust” had many worried about giving the players that much time off. They got out to a lead early, with the Browns electing to receive the opening kickoff of the second half, and they were never able to overcome that lead. The Chiefs won 22-17 after Patrick Mahomes sustained a head/neck injury in the third quarter, holding on in the final minutes of the game with Chad Henne leading the offense. I won’t speak to the injury Mahomes left the game with because I am not even remotely close to a medical professional, but the coaching staff and those around him seem very optimistic about the prospect of him playing Sunday.
Henne was an unlikely hero of this game and one of the benefits of sitting the starters in week 17 was that he got a full week of practice snaps and a full game as starter. That played a huge part in how Henne played in the final quarter and change or so of this football game, in my opinion. They started out fast in this game, taking what the defense gave them and converting two drives into touchdowns. He may not have scored a touchdown in this game, but Darrel Williams had an impressive game averaging six yards per carry and nearly totaling 100 yards from scrimmage on the day. I didn’t anticipate Williams being the workhorse, but he was every bit of that in this game. I spoke on Dawgs By Nature last week about how it was important for Bell to have a game totaling 100 yards from scrimmage. I was right about the outcome and wrong about the player; Williams did a great job in this game, and he showed why they have so much faith in him.
We start with a rather poor decision from Mahomes to check the ball down to Williams, who had a defender steps away in coverage. I also have to credit the Browns for covering everyone else up outside of Hardman, who he wasn’t reading. The defender attempts to tackle Williams by attacking the inside hip, assuming he’s either going to spin into him or just catch the ball and be tackled. Williams spins toward the sideline, where there isn’t much room to maneuver and accelerates up the field, tip-toeing around another defender for nearly a first down.
Williams turned a bad decision into a third and short for the Chiefs offense, and that’s the kind of play he hadn’t really been known for in his time with Kansas City. This was a big coming-out party for those that felt differently about Williams. I like his skill set and with Edwards-Helaire out for this game, someone needed to step up. He took full advantage of his opportunity and ran the ball well with his chances, using the threat of Mahomes’ arm to his advantage.
The Browns were determined to limit Mahomes in the passing game, and that generally means lighter boxes for the running backs. This run is designed to be easier for the Chiefs offensive line and made simpler with the spacing of the Browns defensive line and the movement of Hardman. Fisher, Reiter, and Remmers are asked to block down while Wylie and Allegretti pull to the left. Allegretti takes the defensive end and Wylie runs at Fisher’s inside hip, allowing him to double the defensive tackle out of the way. Williams does a great job reading the giant holes surrounding this play. He presses to the C gap outside of Fisher and when the linebacker commits too far, he cuts back up inside for a good chunk gain and a first down.
This is something I’ve been looking for the Chiefs to do more of all season, in using the passing game to set up easier running lanes for the backs. They don’t need to run the ball a ton, but if a defense does what the Bills did in week six, they can run all they want to. The offensive line did a better job opening up holes and not getting immediately pushed into the backfield, Williams finished runs with power, as we all expected. He is a great compliment to Edwards-Helaire and Bell, and has gained a lot of respect from Chiefs fans after this performance.
The Chiefs passing attack, however, was really firing on all cylinders to start this game, and they knew they could attack a single high deep safety with vertical routes, much like they have done all season. Using two wide receivers on the same side of the formation to attack opposite sides of the safety has been a staple in this offense, and works a ton of the time. With as far off the line of scrimmage as the safety is, it’s easy for Hill to beat the man coverage defender and find himself in a bunch of open space. Mahomes hits him for a big gain, and then Hill does the rest. He was a force in this game and had one of the best catches of the season in the process.
Chad Henne was coming back for his first full drive as the quarterback and what better play to call than a shot play to Hill against man coverage. Things that get overlooked about Tyreek Hill: everything that isn’t his speed. He’s a top three receiver in the NFL, and this is another reason why. He times the jump beautifully and goes up to get it, Ward does a good job to counter with a rip as Hill is coming down, but that shows us something most people forget. The concentration to stay with that ball all the way to the ground, including trapping it against his leg to ensure the catch. He’s incredible at it, and this is just another feather in his cap. The route he ran to win the game is unguardable against man coverage, period. He’s that good.
This game was full of plays that were made at the right time, that needed to be made when they were. Travis Kelce is such a big part of that, many times he’s just in the right spot at the right time to make that play, and it’s one of the reasons Mahomes and Henne alike go to him when they need to make a play. The Chiefs were up 7-3 and on their second drive they were on the ten-yard line, Mahomes runs for seven yards down to the three, but there’s a holding penalty which makes it second and 19 in an area where the Chiefs have had issues converting for touchdowns. Then, Kelce goes and does this. As I told my wife, that penalty gave the Chiefs more room to work.
This whip route from Kelce is so disgusting and unfair that I ask young children to look away. Kelce draws Denzel Ward in man coverage, and let’s just say he’s having nightmares about a couple plays he had to cover Kelce. His physicality in the stem of his route is a staple of his, and he knows Ward doesn’t have the strength to match it. He uses a slight push at the top of his route and Ward is thrown off balance, then Kelce whips around and Ward’s got no chance. He falls to the ground and Kelce is open, free to the end zone. He hurdles one last defender and catches a ride on Hardman’s shoulders into the house. Such a great route and finish from the best to ever do it.
I thought Hardman had a decent game with his involvement, he looked explosive and decisive. Pringle had a couple of targets, and he worked to make the most of them, but this game was won on offense with the usual suspects and Darrel Williams. There are two plays left that we’ll look at, and I’ll start with the play that won the game for the Chiefs. I tell you what, I had no clue the Chiefs were going to snap this football, they did a great job selling the “run down the clock” method and I ate it right up. Henne deserves a statue or something for this sell job.
This play and the run on third and 14 will live on in all Chiefs fans’ hearts as long as they live. As I mentioned, the sell job on this play is truly spectacular, and he might even have a career in acting after all of this. The real winner here is Hill; as soon as they identify man coverage by bringing Williams in from out wide, it’s all over. When they snap the football his jab step forward to the left makes the corner bite and swipe at air. Hill is so quick that he created five yards of separation after the catch in the process. It was amazing to witness.
This was one of the most memorable plays I’ve ever seen and Reid made the gutsiest call of his entire career with the game on the line, I loved every minute of it. He’s gotten so much better in these situations, as seeing the five-wide approach with Henne at quarterback made me smile. That’s how they should address most situations, it creates a better opportunity for the running backs as well. One of his best calls ever. Now we get to follow it with one of the more creative “you got Mahomes’d” plays I’ve seen from the young quarterback, this was a great show of concentration and decision-making.
This was a bad start to the play from Mahomes as he doesn’t look the ball into his hands. The ball flips up into the air, and Adrian Clayborn finds himself free to Mahomes, with the possibility of not only preventing a touchdown, but getting the ball back to their offense with no harm done. Mahomes silences all of that with concentration and decisiveness. He locates the football and then Hill, and just pushes the ball to him after corralling it as Clayborn closes on him. All of this happens in a matter of seconds and Mahomes escapes a disaster of a play. Even though it was only a gain of a yard, it’s way better than the alternative.
I expect Mahomes to be available on Sunday when the Chiefs take on the Bills, and he’s going to expand on the start he had in this game. The offense was fresh, explosive, and on the verge of blowing the Browns out had Mahomes not gone down. I loved what I saw from Hill, Kelce, and Williams in this game, which that makes me excited for the hopeful return of Edwards-Helaire and Sammy Watkins on Sunday. They can add another level to this offense and I can’t wait to see them at full strength. With our attention on the Bills now, I want to hear your thoughts on the game against the Browns and who you think is going to have the biggest game on Sunday, not named Mahomes. This is going to be a lot of fun and I look forward to your comments!