Life is good in Chiefs Kingdom as Kansas City just won their fifth straight game — right?
From the postgame talking points, you wouldn’t think so. Ryan Clark is up to his old tricks again, calling the Chiefs offense “a shell of itself” — rephrasing his “broken” comments from earlier this season — and many are wondering what’s wrong with Patrick Mahomes and this unit.
However, the fact of the matter is that KC is still winning football games so should fans be worried about the offense’s cold streak? Sports show host and NFL commentator Stephen A. Smith had a theory on what the issue is.
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Stephen A. Criticizes Supporting Cast
During a December 5 segment of ESPN’s “First Take,” Smith educated Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin on what’s wrong with the Chiefs offense. He stated:
It’s not about Patrick Mahomes, it’s about the people he’s throwing it to. Tyreek Hill had two receptions for 22 yards last night, Travis Kelce had three receptions for 27 yards last night, Travis Kelce’s got three 100-receiving yard games this year, Tyreek Hill has two. Did it ever occur to anybody that what the NFL has said is — Patrick Mahomes is a stud, Tyreek Hill is all-world, cat-quick, the cheetah, Travis Kelce is one of the top-two tight ends in all of football… people see the recipe to some degree. They said okay, this kid [Byron] Pringle, what he’s got? Mecole Hardman, what he’s got? Your running game, by the way, whatcha going [to] do? Clyde Edwards-Helaire, you understand? What are you going to do? They’re watching these guys and they’re daring you as a quarterback, even though you’re Patrick Mahomes, to target unfamiliar individuals, because you know where you usually want to go to. You want to go to Tyreek Hill, you want to go to Travis Kelce… no quarterback can look good without the people catching the ball for them.
Stephen A. may have rambled a bit here but the overarching point was actually a strong one. The offensive deficiencies are less about Mahomes than they are about his supporting cast beyond Hill and Kelce.
In other words, if you can take those two out of the equation with double-teams and coverage patterns, this unit will struggle to move the football most times. Just look at the recent receiving numbers for the Chiefs’ third and fourth options.
|Player||vs Denver||vs Dallas||@ Las Vegas||vs GB|
|Mecole Hardman||1 for 12 yards||2 for 25 yards||2 for 27 yards||3 for 20 yards|
|Byron Pringle||1 for 14 yards||1 for 37 yards||4 for 46 yards||no catches|
|Josh Gordon||no catches||1 for 7 yards||no catches||no catches|
|Demarcus Robinson||2 for 21 yards||no catches||3 for 23 yards||1 for 2 yards|
|Clyde Edwards-Helaire||3 for 28 yards||2 for 13 yards||did not play||did not play|
|Darrel Williams||3 for 60 yards||1 for 11 yards||9 for 101 yards||3 for 7 yards|
Based on these numbers, Darrel Williams might as well play wide receiver for KC in Week 14. Neither Hardman nor Pringle has separated themselves as a clear number two option behind Hill and Gordon has been a total bust.
Maybe the Chiefs should have pursued Odell Beckham Jr. on waivers after all?
The run game has not been much better as Edwards-Helaire is averaging 58.5 yards per game since returning from injury. Williams averaged less, with 56.5 per game the two weeks prior (against the Raiders and Packers). He’s averaged 17.5 per game since ‘CEH’ has returned.
Smith may be known for his bold takes but this time he might be right. If the Chiefs cannot rush for 100 yards and no receiving weapon can catch for 100 yards outside of Hill or Kelce, the offense becomes one-dimensional. That’s when defenses will begin to “dare” you to beat them in other ways.
Right now, outside of the Raiders game, Mahomes’ unit has not answered a dare with authority in quite some time.
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Offensive Line Not Helping Matters
The skill position players deserve blame but so does the offensive line. According to Pro Football Reference, the Chiefs have been blitzed 77 times this season, which is only two times higher than the league-low Arizona Cardinals (75).
Despite that, Mahomes has been hit fifth-most in the NFL and pressured ninth-most (also hurried ninth-most). So who is responsible for the poor statistics on this Chiefs O-line?
The tackle position has been an issue, with Orlando Brown Jr. leading the team in pressures allowed (30) according to Pro Football Focus. If you add up the different right tackles though, they have the starting left tackle beat.
Lucas Niang and Andrew Wylie alone account for 39 pressures allowed. Add in Mike Remmers and that number rises to 44 from the RT position on the season. Rookie Trey Smith ranks third with 29, just behind Brown.
The two standouts in pass protection have been Joe Thuney and Creed Humphrey (21 total pressures combined), but the rest of this unit has to step up.