It’s a formula – albeit a winning one – the Kansas City Chiefs seem to trot out week after week.
Get out to a two-score lead. The defense doesn’t finish it off. Patrick Mahomes and the offense have to come up with a crucial first down to run out the clock.
Chiefs fans who used to worry about the end of games are becoming emotionally hardened, though confident. But at what point does the offense not pick up that critical third down to close out the game?
Hopefully that won’t be in the playoffs or worse yet, in the Super Bowl.
It’s now six games and counting that KC has won by a touchdown or less after Sunday’s 32-29 victory over NFC power New Orleans. It started against Carolina (33-31) and continued against Las Vegas (35-31), Tampa Bay (27-24), Denver (22-16) and Miami (33-27). I would say the Chiefs are just wanting to keep the fans in their seats until the end, but there are no, or very few, fans at the games.
The Chiefs’ follow-the-script performance Sunday came against a potential Super Bowl opponent. Drew Brees was back for the Saints, but it took him more than a half to knock off the rust. He was downright awful in the first half as the Chiefs had the lead and later pushed it out to 29-15.
The defense actually played well for the first 2 ½ quarters, but it softened as the game went along and the game turned into a typical Chiefs shootout. It was, as usual, left to Mahomes to convert a key first down just after the 2-minute warning to wrap things up.
As far as positives, the Chiefs ran a whopping 88 plays to just 51 for the Saints. Very seldom has Kansas City had such a domination in time of possession.
Another positive was the running game, which has been moribund in recent wins. Clyde Edwards-Helaire went for 79 yards before leaving the game with a high ankle sprain, which figures to keep him out for a while. Le’Veon Bell is now the man and responded with 15 carries for 62 yards and a score. Even Mahomes ran for 37 important yards.
Mahomes was pedestrian by his rarefied standards. He missed a lot of throws – 21 incompletions – and threw for just 254 yards after going over 300 each of the last six weeks. But he wasn’t picked, though he did get sacked four times as he’s learned to throw under pressure.
The offensive line continues to be a concern. Eric Fisher, who was a game-time decision, got beat repeatedly as he was trying his best and it just wasn’t there. Mitchell Schwartz hasn’t played in two months and we don’t know if he’ll ever make it back. It’s a cobbled-together, patchwork unit that is just effective enough to allow Mahomes to do his thing, though he really took a beating on Sunday. There was a play where he got sandwiched between two defenders and I’ll bet he’s feeling that today.
The Chiefs are still the No. 1 seed in the AFC West and have their destiny in their hands. They close with home games against sub-.500 teams Atlanta and the Los Angeles Chargers, but both of those teams possess big-time passing attacks and I just get the feeling one of them is going to spring an upset.