It’s now been five opponents up and five opponents down for the Kansas City Chiefs to start the 2018 season. The latest victims to get steamrolled by the offensive juggernaut were the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that was in the AFC Championship a year ago and entered Sunday with the fewest points allowed in the NFL.
A 30-14 win for the Chiefs retained Kansas City’s spot as the No. 1 scoring offense in the NFL — though the Saints could change that Monday. But the game dropped the Jaguars’ defense to No. 4 in points allowed.
It really wasn’t Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense that blew out the Jaguars in Week 5. At least, not directly. Even when Mahomes had his worst statistical game of the season, just the threat of a Kansas City avalanche seemed to take Jacksonville’s offense to a place it couldn’t compete.
In the first five weeks, Kansas City opponents have thrown 235 passes — or 47 per game — compared to 103 rushing attempts — or 20.6 per game. The Chiefs have successfully dragged each of their opponents into trying to win a shootout, and Mahomes has come out on top every time.
The Chiefs are almost always ahead
The Denver Broncos are the only team to have a lead against the Chiefs in 2018. They’re also the only ones who didn’t get boat raced from start to finish, and they had a good chance at beating Kansas City at the end.
Unlike the Chiefs’ other four opponents, the Broncos kept them out of the end zone on their opening possession. With the game close early, Denver stuck to a balanced game plan. The Broncos finished with 33 passing attempts and 22 rushes, but Denver’s final drive had eight consecutive passes to finish. They might’ve pulled off the win if Case Keenum wasn’t struggling so much in 2018.
Jacksonville is typically among the most offensively balanced in the NFL. Even with Leonard Fournette only playing in two of the first five weeks, the Jaguars still entered Week 5 with the 12th-most pass attempts and 15th-most rushing attempts.
So how in the world did they get sucked into a game where the wildly inconsistent and turnover-prone Blake Bortles threw 61 passes, while running backs T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant, and Brandon Wilds combined for 13 carries? (Grant suffered a season-ending injury on his only carry of the day, but giving Yeldon only 10 attempts was a surprising choice.)
After a well-balanced opening drive ended in a punt for the Jaguars, the Chiefs scored a touchdown with a 10-play, 73-yard drive. The Jaguars had three deep pass attempts and a sack on their next possession that also ended in a punt, and it all went downhill from there.
As the Chiefs kept pulling away, Jacksonville kept passing to try to catch up. And Bortles messed up every step of the way. He finished with a career-best 430 passing yards, but his four interceptions kept the Jaguars from ever threatening to come back.
Because that’s the second thing the Chiefs do well ...
Patrick Mahomes usually avoids mistakes
For the first time this season, Mahomes threw an interception Sunday. Then he did it again.
Mahomes finished with 313 passing yards, no touchdowns, and two picks — easily his worst performance of the year. Had Bortles not doubled him up with four interceptions, and a fumble for good measure, maybe it would’ve mattered.
They weren’t fluky interceptions that deflected off the hands of receivers, either. Both of Mahomes’ interceptions were misses that showed the Chiefs quarterback is human after all. The first was an overthrow across the middle of the field, and the second was fired into double coverage, well behind his receiver.
But they didn’t really affect the game. Bortles fumbled immediately after Mahomes’ first pick, and the second came in the fourth quarter when the Chiefs were already up 30-7.
Besides, running into a couple hurdles against the Jacksonville defense was to be expected. It was the toughest unit Mahomes has faced so far, and allowed the Chiefs to score only two offensive touchdowns.
Banter between Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill and Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey garnered attention during the week. But a 36-yard play for Hill down the left sideline was probably the Chiefs’ best offensive highlight of the game.
QB Patrick Mahomes ➡️ WR Tyreek Hill pic.twitter.com/lndqfaIGyO— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) October 7, 2018
Aside from that, Ramsey and the Jaguars did well to keep Hill to four receptions for 61 yards on the day. They also forced a couple mistakes from Mahomes — something no other team has been able to do in 2018. In the first four games of the year, the Chiefs had just one total turnover, a Chris Conley fumble late in their win against the Steelers.
And the Jaguars still lost because they made costlier errors.
Unless more teams get takeaways like Jacksonville did and then make the Chiefs pay for it, it’ll take mistake-free football to beat the Chiefs.
It’ll take a calm, collected approach to beat the Chiefs
A lot of the mistakes teams have made against Kansas City have been self-inflicted. The Jaguars didn’t have to ask their notorious interception thrower to pass 61 times. They fell behind early, took deep shots instead of committing to the run, and it snowballed from there.
It wasn’t that success on the ground was hard to find, if the Jaguars had kept trying to run. The Chiefs defense is last in the league in rushing yards per carry and the Jaguars averaged 5.9 on the few times they opted to keep the ball on the ground. Yeldon finished with 53 carries on his 10 attempts.
So how do you stop the Chiefs? Stop falling into their trap.
- Stick to a balanced offensive game plan, even if Kansas City strikes first.
- Avoid mistakes, because Mahomes probably won’t give you many gifts.
Do those, and the Chiefs’ porous defense will give you enough opportunities to pull out a win in the end.
So which team has the veteran calm to pull that off? How about the Chiefs’ Week 6 opponent, the New England Patriots?
Tom Brady is still throwing touchdowns at age 41, the rushing combination of James White and Sony Michel is starting to gel, and the Patriots have forced an average of two turnovers per game.
The Mahomes-led Chiefs have passed every test with flying colors, including a matchup against the vaunted defense of the Jaguars, which gave the Patriots fits in a 31-20 win in Week 2.
In 2017, it all went south for Kansas City after a 5-0 start, and avoiding the same fate in 2018 begins with a Sunday Night Football game against New England. Just don’t expect the Patriots to shoot themselves in the foot the way the Chiefs have baited their opponents into doing so far.