The Chiefs are the reigning AFC champions, but their start to the 2021 campaign has left a lot to be desired. They are sitting at 4-4 and are tied for last place in the AFC West. Their defense has been one of the league’s worst, their offense hasn’t clicked and the once unstoppable Patrick Mahomes has looked vulnerable in back-to-back weeks.
So, what gives? Well, Mahomes explained before the Chiefs’ 20-17 victory over the Giants on “Monday Night Football” in Week 8 that it has to do with a disconnect between the team’s expectations and its execution.
“We expected to be in the playoffs. We expected to have another chance at going to the Super Bowl,” Mahomes said in an interview with ESPN’s Lisa Salters. “But it takes the daily process of every single day to make it there, and we’re noticing that now, that we’ve got to go back to the drawing board and put in that work.”
If they did that before their game against the Giants, it didn’t show. The Chiefs were able to escape with a victory, but their offense once again had issues. Kansas City totaled 368 yards of offense — its second-lowest total of the season — while Mahomes failed to total multiple passing touchdowns for just the 14th time in 54 career starts.
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Mahomes posted a QBR of just 19.3 during the game, the second-worst rating of his career. His worst mark — a 6.7 — came in Week 7 against the Titans.
“I know it’s kind of happening week after week these last few weeks but I think we’ll snap out of it and we’ll find ways to start executing, and when we do we’ll be a tough offense to stop,” Mahomes said of the offensive struggles after the game, per ESPN.
Part of the issue may be figuring out how to beat opposing defenses, which have taken to running a two-deep safety look against Mahomes to prevent him from attacking deep down the field for big plays. That’s part of why he is averaging a career-low 7.6 air yards per attempt, a number that ranks 24th in the NFL among quarterbacks with more than one start.
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But Mahomes is adamant that the two-deep look isn’t the problem for the Chiefs.
“We can move the ball on pretty much every coverage,” Mahomes said. “We have answers for every [defense]. But you’ve seen it every game pretty much that there’s been times when we stall out or we don’t execute or I throw the ball and I don’t hit the right spot or the receiver doesn’t see it the same way I do or penalties or turnovers.”
Mahomes has a point. Turnovers continued to be an issue for the Chiefs, and he threw an interception for the seventh consecutive game on the team’s first possession Monday. Meanwhile, the Chiefs committed a whopping 12 penalties against the Giants for 103 yards and are averaging seven per game, tied for seventh-most in the NFL.
Of course, Mahomes’ work in the pocket also has been shaky at times. He has struggled under pressure this season, completing just 38 of 92 passes (41.3 percent) for 633 yards, five TDs and five interceptions. Before this year, he had 31 TDs compared with 15 interceptions under pressure since becoming a full-time starter in 2018.
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These are issues that the Chiefs will need to address if they want to make it back to the postseason. They have the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL, as their remaining opponents in the second half of the season have a winning percentage of .657. None of their remaining opponents has a losing record.
Nonetheless, Chiefs coach Andy Reid isn’t worried about the direction of the Chiefs.
“Things aren’t as smooth right now as maybe they were [in recent years] but we’ll get it there,” Reid said. “We’ve just got to keep working.”