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Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City Chiefs face test of resolve after difficult start to season

This is Patrick Mahomes. This is Andy Reid. This is Kansas City. The Chiefs will be fine… right?

For a long time watching the Chiefs was an oasis of serenity as they navigated battle with an invincibility like that of a Jedi knight shrugging at stray Stormtrooper shots. At the rare sight of conflict, an equilibrium was around the corner; any chinks in their armour were swiftly veiled, any setbacks were bullishly quashed. Their narrative was inevitable behind Mahomes, Reid and co.

Their supremacy has been somewhat diluted this season amid an elongated version of the mistake-ridden, power-drained performance that saw them trail 24-0 in the second quarter of their Divisional Round playoff against the Houston Texans in January 2020.

Even then, the Texans knew their cushion wasn’t enough. A Mahomes pep talk and seven touchdowns later and a 20-point margin victory belonged to the Chiefs as they marched towards Super Bowl glory. That’s who they were, it’s who they might still be. Stay tuned on the latter.

For the first time in a long time they have dared to blink on offense in a league designed to be resistant to any hint of invincibility. They are 3-4, yet to enjoy a win streak and entering Monday Night Football in the wake of a 27-3 defeat to the Tennessee Titans, which marked just the second time they have failed to reach the end zone in a game with Mahomes under center following on from their Super Bowl LV defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It says plenty about the bar Mahomes and the Chiefs have persisted to raise that amid all the grumbling they still rank third in total offense with an average of 419.3 yards per game, eighth in scoring with 26.9 points per game and fifth in offensive DVOA, which calculates a team’s efficiency based on down-and-distance of each play.

“Things happen in this business, a fluid business obviously,” said coach Reid. “You’re going to have ups and downs, and so you keep pounding through it. If you’re willing to attack the issues, you can get it changed around in whatever direction you want. This is anybody-this is any of these athletes.

“They’re amazing people and very gifted. So, that’s how Pat (Patrick Mahomes) operates, he’s not going to hide or shy away from anything. If there’s a problem, he’s going to attack it and work to fix it. So, as coaches we’re here to teach, and that’s what we do. Any guidance that we can give them, any of the players, we try to do that. That becomes important. We’ve all got to raise our game up as coaches and as players.”

A test was coming and this, branching off their Super Bowl loss to the Bucs, is that test. The test of unity and composure that probably doesn’t need Tyrann Mathieu labelling the fanbase ‘toxic’ on social media – a remark he has since apologised for.

Having given up a tied-fourth-fewest 16 turnovers in 2020, the Chiefs currently lead the league with 17 after eight fumbles and nine interceptions, including at least one pick across six successive games in the longest streak of Mahomes’ career.

A ‘you stop Mahomes, you stop the Chiefs’ mantra has equated to a league-leading rate of two-deep coverages and a further reduction in blitzes in a collective effort to eradicate the Tyreek Hill deep-overs and crossers that became a chunk-play staple of Reid and Eric Bieniemy’s offense.

Taking the top off a defense has become trickier as teams challenge the Chiefs to be patient while stringing together long, exhaustive drives. Naturally, the instincts to let rip will always come out. The task isn’t to ignore them, but perhaps rather to temper them.

“I think that’s probably, more than anything, collectively as an offense, what we’ve been trying to do,” said offensive coordinator Bieniemy on whether players were trying to force the issue at times. “We want guys to let their personalities show. Be yourselves. Relax. Go play football. This game is meant to be fun. When our guys are having fun, when they’re relaxed, when they’re playing for a purpose, when they’re accountable to one another, that’s when we’re at our best.”

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NBC’s Football Morning in America journalist Peter King believes the Kansas City Chiefs are going through a very worrying time after their 27-3 defeat by the hands of the Tennessee Titans in week 7 of the NFL

Pressure on an answer to the ‘life outside of Hill and Travis Kelce’ question had loomed for some time, the only surprise is that it took defenses so long to truly devote play-design and game-plans to swarming them. A remodeled offensive line is meanwhile still in the teething stages after enduring its worst performance of the season against the Titans. They are merely the obstacles a search for longevity and sustained dominance entails.

“They’re obviously going to focus in on Travis, they’re going to focus in on Tyreek (Hill), they’re such playmakers, they’re going to kind of get that as they have these last few years,” said Mahomes. “It’s about me findings those opportunities, when they have good matchups to get them the ball and give the other guy’s chances to make plays.

“I think we did better with that against Washington than we did in Tennessee, and so we’ll kind of go back to picking and choosing when to give them chances to make plays and letting other guys have chances.”

And yet Hill has 52 catches for 641 yards and five touchdowns after seven games, while Kelce has 45 catches for 533 yards and four touchdowns after seven games. Then there is a slight drop off with Mecole Hardman next up on 289 yards followed by Byron Pringle on 243 yards. So sure, there is always potential for expansion for offense, even in one as creative as that of Reid.

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Highlights from the Week 5 matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2021 NFL regular season

The offense will be fine. Mahomes will be fine. They’re too good not to be. It’s on the other side of the ball where the more pressing concerns lie.

Kansas City’s defense ranks second-last overall, 27th against the pass, 28th against the run, 27th in scoring and second-last in DVOA, while having registered an NFL-worst eight sacks despite pressuring at the 12th highest rate.

“We have to finish plays,” said edge rusher Frank Clark. “We’ll get to the quarterback, but a lot of the time we’re not making the actual play, we’re missing a sack, some guy is falling off, allowing the quarterback to slide off, that was like the third game in a row as a defensive line we haven’t had sack production.

“You watch games and you see teams have six or seven sacks in a game as a defensive line unit. It’s inspiring because those are the same things you want to do every week. So of course, it’s on my mind as a leader of the defense, we’re struggling as a defense, and if we don’t figure it out sooner than later, it’s going to be a longer season than it was already.”

It’s not the time to panic or overthink, though. Not against a New York Giants team that, while offering nothing in the way of playoff-calibre football, will relish the shot that awaits them tonight.

“I feel like we still have confidence,” said Mahomes. “I mean, we understand we’re not playing football the way we want to (and) we’re not winning the games we feel like we can win. But I think we know it’s still out in front of us.”

Week Eight in the NFL concludes on Monday night when the New York Giants (2-5) take on the Kansas City Chiefs (3-4) at Arrowhead live on Sky Sports NFL from quarter past midnight.

Source:

www.skysports.com

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