When you turn the ball over four times, including once inside your own 15-yard line, you get flagged 12 penalties, including multiple false starts, and your offense only scores 17 points, one must wonder how the Kansas City Chiefs leveled their 2023 record to 1-1.
The NFL Gods are a temperamental bunch. When a team goes on the road, such as the Chiefs did Sunday at Jacksonville, and faces one of the best teams in the AFC, then in that game you have multiple turnovers and penalties, the chances of winning that game, would likely be in the single digits.
On Sunday, the Chiefs defeated the Jaguars 17-9 in what turned out to be a coronation day for the defense. Led by Chris Jones the Chiefs held the Jaguars to three field goals. Jones led an inspired defense that frustrated Jaguars Quarterback, Trevor Lawrence from the first series to their last. Jacksonville had their chances, including a first and goal from the one-yard line in the third quarter, but they never found the end zone in three trips inside the red zone.
The defense deserves much praise but so does Defensive Coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, for a brilliant game plan. With Chris Jones ending his holdout last week, Spags wasn’t sure how many snaps he’d be able to play. We learned quickly it would be a lot of them. Jones had a key sack on fourth down flipping field position for the offense. In the Jaguars’ final drive in the fourth quarter, he forced Trevor Lawrence to throw a backward pass that resulted in fourth and 12 in the red zone. That last gasp on offense was the last time the Jaguars touched the football in the game.
Offensively, just too many penalties by the offensive line. With the NFL changing the rules mid-week about the way Jawaan Taylor lined up during the Lions game, he was targeted by the officials. In fact, things were so bad for Taylor, that head coach Andy Reid pulled him out of the game mid-series to let him re-focus.
He would return and provided key blocks in the final four minutes when the Chiefs offense ran out the clock to secure the win. Still, the offensive line was in flux all day, with penalties, and low snaps, thanks in large part to the Jaguars front four. Still, when the chips were on the line, the Chiefs’ five-man front dominated the Jaguars’ front wall when they were needed most.
Still, based on all the negativity surrounding the turnovers, and the inconstant offense, Mahomes managed to throw a pair of touchdowns, one to Skyy Moore at the end of the first half, and Travis Kelce on the opening drive of the third quarter.
Yet the biggest throw Mahomes made on the day was his 54-yard bomb to Moore sealing the win for Kansas City. It was a typical Mahomes scramble to buy time outside the pocket to allow Moore to break free in the secondary. The Jaguars nearly sacked Mahomes twice on the play, but he kept his eyes forward waiting for Moore to clear. That pitch and catch secured the win for Kansas City in the game’s biggest moment.
Though Mahomes passed for over 300 yards, he was upstaged by the defense. The fact they dominated a massive Jaguars offensive line for much of the game, was certainly surprising. After a solid showing against the Detroit Lions in the opener, their overall play on Sunday was impressive. In the Mahomes era, he’s never had a great defense to rely upon, especially when the offense is sputtering, that could pick up that slack. It appears in 2023 he has that type of defense.
If that trend continues defensively, the offense, which at times has been mistake-riddled the last two games, has time to find its groove. On Sunday both Moore and Kadarius Toney had solid bounce-back games for Kansas City. If their growth continues and eventually Justyn Ross and Rashee Rice get more opportunities as the season moves toward winter, that should bolster their confidence within the scope of KC’s complex offense.
In the end, no team should downplay Victory Monday, and to their credit, the Chiefs battled the Jaguars in an old-school football game, where defense mattered, and the offense did just enough to seal the victory. Going forward the Chiefs might have learned a new way to win football games and when they fix the offensive issues, that becomes a scary combination for the rest of the AFC.