The last week of the regular season is here. The Kansas City Chiefs are once again the Kings of the West! It didn’t come smoothly, and it didn’t come easy, but now that the Chiefs have won eight straight AFC West Titles, they have locked up the third seed in the AFC and will likely host either the Buffalo Bills or the Miami Dolphins on Wild Card Weekend.
Let’s quickly rewind and touch on the positives from the Bengals game. The Chiefs were able to move the ball on the ground quite effectively. Isiah Pacheco registered 130 yards on 18 carries and routinely smoked a decent Cincinnati defense. He added 35 yards and a score on passing plays designed for his skillset.
Speaking of passing, Patrick Mahomes was on point for most of the game. He went 21-29 for 245 yards and a touchdown with no picks. His QBR was 109.1 for the game. Rashee Rice was his target of choice. Rice got 127 yards on five receptions on just six targets. Unfortunately, Marques Valdes-Scantling dropped two of three targets. Honestly, it’s clear now the Chiefs will part ways with MVS by trade or release in the not-too-distant future.
Another good thing was Mahomes was only sacked twice. The offensive line held up remarkably well, considering Bengals DE Trey Hendrickson’s pass-rush ability. Hendrickson only got to Mahomes twice with one sack and one pressure. CB Mike Hilton got to Mahomes once on a cornerback blitz for a sack. Other than those two sacks, Mahomes experienced direct pressure only four more times.
Special teams were the absolute heroes of this game. AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, Harrison Butker, was on fire all game. He hit six straight field goals and a PAT for 19 points out of the 25 scored by the Chiefs. This team possesses one of the best kickers in the league, which isn’t an exaggeration. If it weren’t for the underinflated K-balls in New England, he would be perfect this season. Butker is 31-33 on field goals and 37-37 on extra points. He is currently number two on the list for field goal percentage, all-time, at 89.041%!
I’m not sure Andy Reid is convinced that playing Marty-Ball in the playoffs will be his cup of tea. Former head coach Marty Schottenheimer’s mantra was “Hit ‘Em in the mouth and win by one.” His offensive scheme was always about a power-running game. Schottenheimer ran the backs hard in the postseason, but that didn’t always work as it did in the regular season. Sadly, he always fell short in the Divisional and Conference Championship rounds.
This is where Reid’s position collides with the run-first philosophy. Reid’s West Coast Offense has always been high-octane passing, getting huge gains, and scoring quickly. When you have the talent to optimize that scheme, then it works. When you don’t, what’s left? I think many coaches give up and wait until next season. Reid does not want to waste a prime year of Patrick Mahomes. Reid is trying to force it, and by proxy, so is Mahomes. They are both competitors. So don’t be surprised if they run more in the playoffs.
With the correct talent to optimize, you can find a compromise. This is where a power running game can help give Brett Veach and the brain trust at One Arrowhead Drive that time necessary to get more tools for Mahomes and still have a compelling product on the field.
The Chiefs still have time to get this thing right. The only problem is they will only get one chance to prove it. Based on all indications from Andy Reid, the starters will rest for this game. That means the JV team will be facing the Chargers starting lineup. Without another game to try out the run-first offense, the Chiefs will have to try it in the Wild Card round. The question remains: will they even try it?
My instinct tells me Reid will return to his old ways and try to force a passing game that has been non-existent for most of the season. The whole “old dogs, new trick” adage applies here, but the Bengal’s game plan was very effective.
Facing the Los Angeles Chargers for the last time this season, QB2 Blaine Gabbert gets the nod as starter for this tilt. He’ll probably play the first half unless he gets into trouble, and then maybe we’ll see QB3 Chris Oladokun get a few snaps. Oladokun will be elevated for this game.
In summary, I won’t try to statistically compare the teams because this game is a statistical outlier. What I will do, though, is give Chiefs Kingdom a pep talk of sorts. Look, we have become accustomed to winning around these parts. When that isn’t happening, we feel like the sky is falling. Trust me, that won’t happen. Could we end up being disappointed when the playoffs finally end? Perhaps, but Understand this: Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid will be here for many years.
Remember, after Tom Brady won his first two Super Bowls, the Patriots went ten years before winning four more. We have many years of exciting football to come to Kansas City, and God willing, I’ll be here for all of them!
Chiefs 21, Chargers 10