As far as juggernauts go in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs have epitomised greatness by achieving two championships in the past four seasons.
Led by a majestic quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, who continues to amaze in every way possible, the Chiefs once again began the new campaign as serious contenders.
All of a sudden, the seemingly invincible force has turned into a franchise who are discovering their flaws the hard way.
Nothing has changed in terms of Mahomes’s talent and execution levels, but the pieces around him (or lack thereof) are beginning to come to the forefront.
A 27-19 loss away at Lambeau Field to an impressive Green Bay Packers worsened the Chiefs’ record to 8-4.
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Although they are two wins clear of second-placed Denver Broncos in the AFC West, last season’s Super Bowl champions aren’t finding it easy to flick the switch so quickly.
Defensively, there is no need to panic. Before the matchup against the Packers, the Chiefs’ highest score they gave up was an impressive 24, helped by the likes of Chris Jones and Mike Danna.
Coach Andy Reid still has plenty of time on his side with five games before play-off action takes place to tighten the screws, but there are three lingering concerns that the Chiefs need to address if they hope to defend their crown.
1. Fumbling epidemic
Let’s address the elephant in the room when it comes to this Kansas City offence – fumbling the football.
According to Pro Football Reference, the Chiefs have dropped the ball 32 times this season which is more than any other team in the NFL.
If you told any fan that this factor would be a continual struggle, they would’ve burst out laughing. Over the years we’ve been accustomed time and time again to seeing Mahomes execute quick efficient drives that almost seem effortless.
The perfect example was two weeks ago in the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles when reliable wide receiver Travis Kelce fumbled the ball and gifted a turnover. With 2:18 remaining on the clock, Kelce dropped a sitter to deny the Chiefs a first down.
Mahomes’ inch-perfect pass still wasn’t enough for Marquez Valdes-Scantling to catch the football in what would’ve completely changed the complexion of the result.
After the match during the press conference, Mahomes was brave enough to take responsibility and shift the blame from his teammate.
“We just didn’t come away with the ball. I could probably throw the ball a little bit shorter. He was that wide open. You just gotta continue to try and get better and better,” Patrick Mahomes explained during the post-game press conference.
The defeat against the Packers highlighted further communication issues which are hampering the team offensively and in the wide receiver positions.
As Tyreek Hill is going about his business dominating at his explosive best, perhaps this is what the Chiefs deserve for letting go of one of their star men.
Tying into the first point regarding the number of fumbles, communication is critical for any offence to fluently function.
The lack of chemistry has been evident since September, but a standout piece of evidence came with 11 minutes to go against the Packers.
Instead of drifting out wide to compete one-on-one with the opposing cornerback, Marquez Valdes-Scantling opted to run into the centre of the field where the free safety was sitting – the complete opposite of what Mahomes envisioned for the play, and you could notice his frustration straight afterwards.
For the Chiefs to have communication breakdowns 12 games into the season paints a worrying picture of when they will be tasked with competing against the big boys come the post-season.
3. Lack of protection for Mahomes
For a quarterback to thrive in the NFL, pass protection remains paramount to find consistent passes, and avoid interceptions as well as sacks.
Even with an ordinary offensive line in front of him, Mahomes is capable of pulling a rabbit out of a hat at any given moment. However, his decision-making is being impacted not only by his lack of trust in his wide receivers but also by the protection in front of him.
Despite ranking the second-lowest in the league for sacks allowed, Mahomes is being forced to adjust accordingly and use his wheels to steer clear of traffic due to having less time to throw the ball, ultimately impacting his decision-making.
It may look like a minor detail from the outside looking in, but the rhythm of completing passes in a certain number of seconds has to be taken into consideration as it’s not smooth sailing to adjust (even for Mahomes).
Will the Chiefs be able to brush off their problems in time to reach another Super Bowl?