After a 4-0 start to the 2019 NFL Season, the Kansas City Chiefs have now suffered back to back defeats against the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans. Is the AFC South providing the blueprint to halt the Chiefs?
The NFL’s reigning MVP, Patrick Mahomes, started the 2019 season just as he finished to 2018 one. Throught the first 3 weeks of the season, Mahomes and the Chiefs passing game was electric. In this time period, he was on pace for an incredible 6373 yards and 53 Touchdowns over the regular season. Now it is unrealistic to expect anyone to keep up with these ‘once in a generation’ figures, even in today’s pass-heavy NFL. However, over the last 3 weeks Mahomes pace has considerably dropped to a more realistic extrapolation of 4848 yards and 21 TDs.
Again over the last 3 weeks Mahomes pass completion percentage has dropped, as well as his adjusted yards per attempt – from a staggering 12.29 average over a 3 week stretch, to a still respectable 7.84 through weeks 4-6.
Now this article is not here to bash the Chiefs or their MVP QB. Mahomes has still ranked 11th, 8th and 10th amongst starting NFL quarterbacks over the timeframe in question, according to Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric. He is still one of, if not the, elite Quarterback in the game. I am more interested in how the AFC South sides – the Colts and Texans – were able to overcome the Chiefs offensive Juggernaut
Time of possession key
Although the Chiefs unblemished record lasted 4 weeks, it was in week 4 that we started to see someone really go up against the Chiefs offensive weaponry. Step forward Matt Patricia.
The Detroit Lions were incredibly unlucky to come away empty handed against one of the AFC title contenders. If not for a couple of fumbles, they may just have done so. However, Patricia and his co-ordinators enacted a game plan that the AFC South’s Colts and Texans were to follow to greater success. He kept the ball away from the Chiefs.
Week 4 proved to be the first week in which the Chiefs did not control possession. The Lions held the ball for 33:55. This game was also the first in his short, but spectacular, career that Mahomes failed to throw a single touchdown. It is over simplistic to say that keeping the ball away from Mahomes was the key to the Lions relative success – their secondary did an outstanding job of covering the Chiefs receiving weapons. Nevertheless it was a tactic that both Frank Reich and Bill O’Brien chose to employ in their success against Andy Reid, Pat Mahomes and Co.
Run the ball, and the clock
The Chiefs 19-13 loss to the Colts provider the lowest points tally they had mustered since Mahomes took the reigns from previous incumbent Alex Smith at the start of the 2018 season. It is no coincidence that the Colts racked up 180 rushing yards. Tellingly, they also kept possession for 37:15 in this winning effort. Marlon Mack led the way, gashing the Chiefs defence for 132 of those yards.
The Chiefs offensive did rack up 3 passing TDs and 273 yards through the air against the Texans. However, they were limited to a paltry 20:12 on the field offensively. Even for an offense as dynamic as the Chiefs, this little amount of time makes it difficult to rack up points. Carlos Hyde’s hard graft on Sunday afternoon saw him rack up a season high 116 yards on the ground.
The Chiefs now head to Mile High to face the Broncos. This is a short week for Thursday Night Football. If Broncos head coach, Vic Fangio, has done his homework he will surely look the AFC South duo’s game plan to try and stifle the Chiefs.
Has the AFC South providing the blueprint to halt the Chiefs? Or will we see the Chiefs ride roughshod over the competition once more?
image: arrowhead pride.com