Creating a system that NFL players want to be part of is an attribute worth noting about the Kansas City Chiefs.
Claiming a Super Bowl championship last season helped create such an atmosphere.
Locking in a generational quarterback to a 10-year deal worth a cool half-billion dollars required a substantial investment. Retaining other standout contributors also generates the kind of harmony that reflects positively on the organizational skills of general manager Brett Veach.
“We’ve built chemistry with bringing the same guys back, year-in and year-out, so we know where each other is on that football field,” Patrick Mahomes said while looking ahead to a Sunday matchup pitting the Chiefs (9-1) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4) at Tampa, Fla.
Complications, however, have surfaced in the Kansas City laboratory.
Not within the offense, mind you. Mahomes is clicking along at the pace of an MVP candidate, while Travis Kelce ranks third among NFL receivers with 896 yards and could threaten the NFL’s season yardage record by a tight end.
Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill generated 100 yards receiving in each of the last two games when the Chiefs needed every inch. Their defense allowed 31 points on average in those wins, requiring Mahomes and Co. to outproduce Carolina and Las Vegas.
While it has struggled in several areas defensively, Kansas City is particularly susceptible in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on 75.9 percent of those penetrations, the worst rate in the league.
“Mentally we’re kind of upset because of these last two games we’ve had,” said Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu, “but I wouldn’t say we’re down.”
Good thing, considering the Chiefs will be facing a legendary quarterback capable of big heroics.
For the Bucs, though, the focus seems to be more bent on finding ways for Tom Brady to reload.
“We’ve got guys open, we’ve just missed them,” Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said. “And there are times when coverage dictates you go to that guy. I think we can do a better job of utilizing the deep ball in our game plan.”
Brady has gone 0-for-19 in the last four games on pass attempts of 20-plus yards.
While that deficiency might seem glaring, Brady could still be adept at exposing seams underneath. Kansas City allowed a .740 completion percentage in its last two games.
The Bucs have not yet capitalized on the breakaway skills of Antonio Brown, the four-time All-Pro receiver who has played three games since he was acquired mid-season and is averaging 8.7 yards on 18 receptions.
“It’s just a matter of hitting him,” Arians said. “He’s doing a great job of running after the catch and within his role, he’s doing a really good job. It’s just when he’s gone deep, we’re not hitting him.”
Bucs cornerback Jamel Dean was placed on concussion protocol following Monday’s 27-24 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. He is questionable for Sunday’s game, along with center A.Q. Shipley and guard Ali Marpet.
The Chiefs placed wide receiver Byron Pringle (ankle) on injured reserve but could retain another wideout, Sammy Watkins (hamstring), who has missed the last five games.
–Field Level Media
Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Taco Charlton is headed to injured reserve after sustaining a fractured lower leg in Sunday’s 33-31 win against Carolina, according to head coach Andy Reid.
Charlton appeared to injure his ankle early in the first quarter on the Panthers’ opening drive. He is likely done for the season.
The former first-round draft pick began the day with seven tackles, four quarterback hits, two sacks and a forced fumble in six games.
Charlton, who turned 26 on Saturday, has 74 tackles and 11 sacks in 43 games (12 starts) with the Dallas Cowboys (2017-18), Miami Dolphins (2019) and Chiefs. Dallas made him the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Chiefs signed Charlton to a one-year, $825,000 contract in May.
–Field Level Media
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes passed for 416 yards, going 31 of 42 with five touchdowns Sunday, as the Kansas City Chiefs blasted the New York Jets, 35-9, at Kansas City, Mo.
The outcome enabled Chiefs coach Andy Reid to notch his 229th career victory, tying legendary Green Bay coach Curly Lambeau for fifth on the all-time NFL list.
After failing to score in the red zone midway through the third quarter, Mahomes atoned for that breakdown by completing passes on all six plays of an 83-yard scoring march. He connected on a 26-yard touchdown to Demarcus Robinson for a 28-9 lead.
Tight end Travis Kelce caught eight passes for 109 yards, while Tyreek Hill snagged touchdown strikes of 36 and 41 yards, the second sealing the win early in the fourth quarter.
Playing his second game since he was released by the Jets and acquired by the Chiefs, two-time All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell had six touches for 38 yards. Still, Kansas City managed 496 yards, 25 first downs and a 7.4-yard average per snap.
The Jets (0-8) saw their string of quarters without a touchdown extended to six while remaining the only winless NFL team. They generated just 221 total yards.
New York trailed by 12 at halftime and then went three-and-out on its first three series of the second half before losing a fumble late in the third quarter. Quarterback Sam Darnold finished 18 of 30 passing for 133 yards.
Mahomes completed his first seven attempts and fired three first-half touchdowns to help Kansas City establish a 21-9 halftime lead.
A push pass on a jet sweep by Mecole Hardman went for a 30-yard score before Hill gained separation in the end zone for his first TD.
Kelce snagged four receptions, including a 5-yard score, to cap Kansas City’s last scoring drive of the half with 58 seconds left.
Playing without his two top receivers, Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman, Darnold could only lead the Jets to field goals. Sergio Castillo connected from 39, 55 and 48 yards.
A 47-yard attempt as time expired in the first half was blocked by the Chiefs’ Armani Watts.
–Field Level Media
Few juicy storylines generally arise before a meeting between two teams going in completely opposite directions.
However, the Kansas City Chiefs (6-1) happened to pick up a player of note, two-time All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell, after his release earlier this season from the New York Jets (0-7).
So, there is that particular nugget in what would be considered a likely mismatch Sunday in Kansas City, Mo.
How the Chiefs deploy Bell is a work in progress since touches will also go to Clyde Edwards-Helaire, an impressive rookie drafted in the first round.
“They’ve both got the dual-threat thunder and lightning package,” said Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. “It’s just the ultimate weather storm out there.”
Bell carried six times for 39 yards last week in a 43-16 romp over Denver, while Edwards-Helaire logged eight attempts. Touches were limited for the Chiefs because snap counts got skewed by two touchdown returns, which diminished their offensive reliance.
“The offense fits (Bell). I mean, he can see his talents and what he does best show up in this offense. He could see it before he got here and then he had a chance to show it (at Denver),” said Andy Reid, who is seeking his 229th NFL coaching victory, which would move the Kansas City coach into a fifth-place tie with Curly Lambeau.
Most assume Reid can make that next move up the win chart by leading his team past the woeful Jets, though he has issued the requisite warning to his team about how “this league has been all about parity.”
The message, as usual, has been absorbed by Patrick Mahomes, despite the quarterback’s seemingly superhuman powers.
“People understand that in this league you can’t overlook anybody,” said Mahomes, who has thrown just one interception in 242 attempts this season. “If you watch the tape and don’t look at the record, you understand that this is a good football team.”
Numbers suggest otherwise.
The Jets rank last in the NFL in production (264.3 yards on average) and scoring (12.1). They managed just 4 total yards in the second half last week against Buffalo. Their defense did not give up a touchdown in that 18-10 defeat, but New York poses little threat offensively, scoring just eight touchdowns all season.
After missing two games because of a strained shoulder, quarterback Sam Darnold returned last week but passed for only 120 yards with two interceptions.
Instead of leaning on Bell, the Jets have turned to another veteran running back, Frank Gore, who has rushed for 310 yards in his 16th NFL season. Wide receiver Jamison Crowder leads the New York receivers with 29 catches, 383 yards and two touchdowns, but continues to deal with a groin injury that kept him out of the Buffalo game.
The production of wide receiver Chris Hogan, who has just 14 receptions for 118 yards and no touchdowns, is one of many disappointments the Jets are attempting to solve.
“Early in the season especially, Chris was the focal point of what we were trying to do,” Jets coach Adam Gase said. “We tried to call his number but whether it was dictated by coverage or something went wrong, it didn’t work out to get him going.”
Gase indicated the Jets would retain defensive tackle Quinnen Williams after it was reported the team was shopping around its former first-round pick.
Two offensive starters for the Chiefs, wide receiver Sammy Watkins (hamstring) and tackle Mitchell Schwartz (back), missed the first practice leading into the Jets game after sitting out the Denver win.
–Field Level Media
Patrick Mahomes was 15-for-23 passing for 200 yards and a score, Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for a touchdown, and the visiting Kansas City Chiefs trounced the Denver Broncos 43-16 on Sunday.
Byron Pringle returned a kick for a touchdown, Daniel Sorensen returned an interception for another score, Tyreek Hill had six catches for 55 yards and a TD and backup quarterback Chad Henne ran for another for Kansas City, which has won 10 straight against Denver.
Running back Le’Veon Bell, signed 10 days earlier, made his Chiefs’ debut with 39 yards rushing on six carries.
Drew Lock threw for 254 yards on 24-of-40 passing and two interceptions and also ran for a touchdown, and Melvin Gordon III rushed for 68 yards and another score but fumbled twice for the Broncos (2-4).
Denver running back Phillip Lindsay rushed for 79 yards on nine carries before leaving late in the first half with a concussion suffered when he was tackled by Sorensen.
Edwards-Helaire, who rushed for 46 yards, got the Chiefs (6-1) rolling with a tackle-breaking, 11-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to put Kansas City ahead 7-0. The Broncos got even after recovering a fumble at the Chiefs’ 37-yard line, with Lock running it in from the 2 four plays later.
Brandon McManus missed the extra point, keeping Kansas City ahead. Harrison Butker extended the lead with a 40-yard field goal, and then the Chiefs’ defense and special teams padded the advantage.
After pinning Denver at its own 1-yard line, Sorensen jumped a pass to the flat and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-6. McManus answered with a 43-yard field goal but Pringle returned the ensuing kickoff 102 yards for another score and a 24-9 lead.
Butker kicked a pair of field goals in the third quarter to extend the lead and Mahomes connected with Hill for a 10-yard scoring pass early in the fourth quarter. Mahomes extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one TD pass to 17 games.
Gordon scored from 3 yards out to make it 37-16 but Henne, in relief of Mahomes, scored on a one-yard run with 2:58 left.
–Field Level Media