The Kansas City Chiefs’ Offense Might Be Broken
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Pictured: Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is tackled during a Monday Night Football loss to the Eagles that showed the Chiefs’ offense might be broken.
We finally got our long-awaited Super Bowl rematch on Monday night, but it did not go as planned.
A monsoon doused the players in pouring rain all night. Taylor Swift and her parents never made the game. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs were shut out in the second half and blew a double-digit lead for only the third time of Mahomes' career.
Fine, let's focus on that last one.
The Eagles staked their claim as the best team in the league, improving to 9-1 with a 21-17 win that was anything but pretty. Jalen Hurts himself admitted after the game that Philadelphia's offense didn't even play that well. The Eagles had 161 yards all game with just nine minutes remaining.
But Philadelphia just keeps finding ways to win.
And, increasingly, the Chiefs offense appears to be finding ways to lose.
Kansas City's defense did its job and then some. The Chiefs sacked Hurts five times in the first half and intercepted him too. They held the MVP co-favorite to 150 passing yards on 21 attempts outside of one winning bomb late to DeVonta Smith. Potential OPOY A.J. Brown had a single catch for eight yards. The vaunted Eagles rushing attack ran for a pedestrian 114 yards on 4.2 YPC.
The Eagles lost the time of possession battle and ran 20 fewer plays than the Chiefs. They went 3-of-11 on third down and finished with just 238 yards. Hurts had negative EPA per play, including -0.14 EPA per play on passes as Kansas City's defense held a terrific offense to 21 points and more than did its job.
But it didn't matter, because Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense were not good enough.
Early on, it looked like the Chiefs might beat the Eagles at their own games. Isaiah Pacheco ripped off a 24-yard run early and Kansas City, not Philadelphia, was winning in the trenches both ways. The Chiefs were the team getting all the pressure on the opposing QB, and Kansas City was running with success and chewing up clock. The Chiefs scored twice in the final two minutes of the half to head into the break up 17-7.
But second halves have not been kind to Kansas City this season, and the trend continued Monday night.
Kansas City's second-half drives: punt, punt, fumble, punt, punt, turnover on downs. The Chiefs gained 25 yards or less on all but one of those drives. They scored zero points.
The Chiefs didn't score in the second half last game either. Or the game before that. This is now three straight games the mighty Kansas City Chiefs have been held scoreless in the second half.
The last time the Chiefs scored a single point in any second half was October 22.
It is November 21.
Kansas City is 3-7 straight up in second halves this season. You've probably heard the stat about Chiefs second-half unders being a thing, now 10-0 on the year. Now you know why: Kansas City can't score.
The Chiefs have scored 53 points in the second half in 10 games. Let me help you with the math: that's a whopping 5.3 PPG. The Chiefs! Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs! 5.3 ppg in the second half!! Kansas City has scored seven or fewer points in all but two second halves.
The defense, again, is not the problem. It's allowed just 8.8 PPG in second halves. You hold the Eagles to 21 points with Mahomes? You did your job and expect the W.
The Chiefs got an L.
It's tough to put this on Mahomes, even if things start with the quarterback. He made a few incredible throws late, even in rough conditions, including a perfectly lofted deep ball to Marquez Valdes-Scantling that hit his receiver in the hands for a game-winning TD but was dropped with under two minutes left. (Somewhere, Aaron Rodgers chuckles wistfully.)
MARQUEZ VALDES-SCANTLING DROPS ITpic.twitter.com/iRTkMTDHGC
— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) November 21, 2023
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Still, Mahomes wasn't mistake-free. He threw a killer interception in the red zone, just a straight up bad read trying to force one to a window that wasn't there. That's his ninth interception in 10 games, already approaching his career-high of 13.
Mahomes finished with negative EPA on a night that was supposed to crown an MVP favorite. He completed 24-of-43 passes, under 56%, for a measly 177 yards.
That's his fifth lowest yardage total in any game of his career, including playoffs and games left early. His 4.1 yards per attempt is the lowest of his career ever, in any game.
Mahomes now sits just under 262 YPG on the season, a full 22 yards lower than the lowest average of his career. He's on pace for only 32 TDs.
Let's not pretend Mahomes is anything other than the best football player on the planet, with a career record of 82-22 including the playoffs. He's still on pace right now even in a down season to lead his team to 12 wins and a 1-seed — still 44% likely, per ESPN analytics — and well in position to return to the AFC Championship Game once again, just like he has every other year of his career as a starter.
Mahomes is great. But he hasn't been great enough this season, because he's not getting enough help.
The Chiefs were straight up bad on early downs at -0.27 EPA per play, including -0.37 EPA per play on passes. In other words, every four plays the Chiefs offense ran, they actually cost themselves a point — and that took less than three plays when Mahomes passed. This from the offense that's run the league for half a decade!
Mahomes was terrific on late downs, converting 8-of-17 third downs and 2-of-3 fourth downs, or this probably looks even worse.
The offensive line hasn't been good enough. The Chiefs brought in two new bookend tackles, and neither has been up to snuff. RT Jawaan Taylor in particular has struggled. He leads the league in penalties for offensive linemen and added multiple flags to his tally tonight at pivotal times.
The run game had its moments tonight, and Pacheco certainly runs with vigor, but the Chiefs entered Monday night ranked dead last in Rushing DVOA over the past six weeks. Even what felt like a moderately successful night running the football left Kansas City at -0.12 EPA per run on early downs.
And then there are the lackluster pass catchers.
The entire narrative changes if Valdes-Scantling catches that bomb late. The Chiefs go up three, maybe hold on to win, and are set up to coast to the AFC's 1-seed with no opponent left on the schedule above .500.
But MVS dropped the W, much like Chiefs receivers dropped the W in the season opener against the Lions while everyone watched. Kansas City's final play of the game, fittingly, was a perfectly placed Mahomes ball that hit Justin Watson in the hands on 4th-and-forever and bounced harmlessly through them. It was Kansas City's league-high 26th dropped pass of the season.
Travis Kelce is this team's WR1, but whether it's because of the nagging injury or simply age and mileage catching up to him, Kelce is not playing at a level this season to be the engine of the offense. He leads all Chiefs pass catches with 64 receptions, nearly double any teammate, for 641 yards and five scores.
Kelce is still Mr. Reliable on 3rd-and-6 and near the endzone, but that 10.0 yards per catch is the lowest of his career by a mile. He's never even been below 12.2 YPC. There are just too many six-yard button hooks and not enough yards after the catch.
Rookie Rashee Rice is a better YAC guy and ranks second on the team with 36 catches. No one else on the roster has more than 22 catches in 10 games. Again, let me help you with the math. No other Chiefs player is catching more than two passes a game. It's just Taylor Swift's ailing boyfriend, a rookie WR you'd have never heard of if he wasn't on the Chiefs, and a bunch of journeymen.
These are the guys the Chiefs are entrusting to get the job done, and it's becoming increasingly clear that they cannot. A few years ago, Mahomes stopped chucking the ball downfield so often because defenses schemed to take away the deep ball. Now his receivers just aren't open down there anymore.
Look at that list again; how many NFL teams have a worse receiver room? The Giants, the Patriots, maybe the Packers. Got anyone else? It's ugly. Tyreek Hill ain't walkin' through that door. Last year's 78-reception WR JuJu Smith-Schuster ain't walkin' through that door.
The Chiefs offense has real, serious problems, the sort of problems that couldn't get solved during a bye week, the type that might not find answers on this roster at all this season.
Don't forget, this hasn't exactly been a stellar Eagles pass defense this fall. Dak Prescott shredded this secondary for 374 yards and three scores a few weeks ago. Sam Howell dropped 397 and four TDs on them the week before. Kirk Cousins got them for 364 and four TDs. Mac Jones — Mac Jones!! — hit them with 316 yards and three touchdowns in the opener.
Patrick Mahomes and the might Chiefs tallied a measly 177 passing yards and failed to score a single point in the second half.
The sky is not falling in Kansas City. The Chiefs have won a lot of games and will win many more. But there will be many questions asked after Monday night's failure.
The Chiefs, for once, have a Super Bowl defense.
Can Kansas City find an offense to match it?
NFL Week 12 Power Rankings
Editor's note: With the holiday this week, Brandon's power rankings won't be running as a separate column. Instead, they are listed below.
- Philadelphia Eagles (Last week ranking: 1)
- Baltimore Ravens (4)
- San Francisco 49ers (3)
- Kansas City Chiefs (2)
- Dallas Cowboys (6)
- Miami Dolphins (7)
- Detroit Lions (5)
- Houston Texans (9)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (12)
- Cleveland Browns (10)
- Buffalo Bills (13)
- Minnesota Vikings (8)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (15)
- Denver Broncos (16)
- Seattle Seahawks (14)
- Cincinnati Bengals (11)
- New Orleans Saints (21)
- Indianapolis Colts (20)
- Las Vegas Raiders (17)
- Los Angeles Chargers (18)
- New York Jets (19)
- Green Bay Packers (28)
- Los Angeles Rams (24)
- Atlanta Falcons (23)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (22)
- Chicago Bears (29)
- Arizona Cardinals (27)
- Tennessee Titans (26)
- New England Patriots (30)
- New York Giants (32)
- Carolina Panthers (31)
- Washington Commanders (25)