Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs’ Offense Finally Feels Vulnerable Because Of the Defense

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan (USA TODAY Sports)

There’s bound to be some finger-pointing over the Kansas City Chiefs’ shocking 2-3 start to the season, and many fans are directing their blame at the shaky offense. While they have seemed out of rhythm at times and turnovers are piling up, that side of the ball isn’t the problem. The Kansas City offense is feeling added pressure because of how poor the defense has been.

In 2019, the Chiefs’ defense ranked 10th in the NFL in points allowed per game at 20.2 per pop. Last year it was more of the same, ranking 10th and giving up 22.8 points per game. This year has been an utter disaster. Kansas City ranks dead-last through five weeks, giving up 32.6 points per game.

Points allowed isn’t the be-all-end-all statistic. But it’s a good, barebones way to take the pulse of a defense. If you’re giving up over 32 points per game, a lot of things are going wrong.

With Patrick Mahomes at the helm and Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce by his side, no deficit has ever felt insurmountable. Who could forget the Divisional Round playoff matchup against the Houston Texans in 2020? The Chiefs trailed 24-0 in the second quarter before mounting an incredible comeback to win 51-31. That’s the most extreme example during the Mahomes era of the Chiefs’ offense constantly feeling like they have a shot, but plenty of other games have been similar. The difference this year is that this offense can’t rely on its defense to consistently make stops.

In the recent past, even if the defense was sputtering a little, the offense could count on Steve Spagnuolo’s group to come up with that one key stop at a big moment. This year they haven’t been able to.

With a little over a minute left against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2, John Harbaugh rolled the dice in a major way, going for it on a 4th and 1 from his own 43, up 36-35. Lamar Jackson would run for two yards, and victory formation followed right after. That was a game the Chiefs led 35-24 at the end of the third quarter. Sure, the offense could’ve done more, but putting up 35 through three quarters has always been a recipe for success in the past. This time around, the Ravens put together two touchdown drives while Kansas City’s offense felt the pressure to do even more.

After a Mahomes interception late in the fourth quarter of a 24-24 tie the following week against the Los Angeles Chargers, Justin Herbert pieced together a quick 59-yard drive in a minute and 10 seconds to put the Chargers up for good, 30-24. The offense had a chance for a rebuttal but needed to go 75 yards in 32 seconds with only one timeout. They couldn’t pull it off.

Andy Reid was asked just this week if the Chiefs are considering changes on the defense for a group giving up the most points of any team in the NFL. The savvy veteran head coach didn’t tip his hand but didn’t tear down the idea either.

“We look at all that, I would say,” said Reid of possible defensive lineup changes. “Every game, win or lose, you want to try to get the best guys that you’ve got in position to do their job and make you the best you can be as a team. And so we’ll keep looking at that, and if something needs change, then we’ll change it. We’ll be pretty real with those kinds of things.”

Those changes could range anywhere from replacing Daniel Sorensen at safety to a complete overhaul of the current blueprint. One thing is for sure, the offense is losing its juju because of the shakiness on defense.

This isn’t a deflection for Mahomes and Co. They certainly need to be better too. However, this is still an offense that’s fifth in points per game (30.8), fifth in passing per game (292.2), and seventh in rushing 128.2). Yards and points haven’t been much of an issue. The issue is the deflating feeling of knowing this defense hasn’t been getting stops and that even scoring 35 might not be good enough on any given week.

So far this year, the defense has given up totals of 29, 36, 30, 30, 38. There’s a case to be made that it’s an achievement for any team to have a 2-3 record with those numbers. The offense has countered with totals of 33, 35, 24, 42, 20. The difference this year is that, unlike in years past, this offense never feels like they’ve done enough.

Mahomes isn’t spreading any blame around. Per Bleacher Report, the goal is simple for him: Try to score every time.

“We try to score every single time we touch the football. That’s how it’s been my entire career here, and that was the precedent that was set before I even started here. That’s kind of how I have my mindset going into every single game is that, when we get an opportunity to go out there and have success and be successful, we have to capitalize on that. It has nothing to do with whatever is happening on the other side of the ball. It’s just our job as an offense on this team.”

It’s nice of Mahomes to say this, but reality paints a different picture. This offense is feeling the pressure to score on every drive because they don’t know if the defense will ever make stops. In the past, they could count on that unit to step up at crucial points or in more significant moments. This year, it’s been a tornado of problems.

There’s still time for Kansas City to figure things out. But let’s not be foolish and call a spade a spade: The issues start with the defense.

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