Chiefs prove they have championship mettle, yet also have plenty of issues
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Jets in spite of themselves on Sunday night in New York.
Patrick Mahomes was at his worst (until he was at his best). Penalties continued to be a problem, including one that resulted in a momentum-swinging safety.
Wide receivers were incapable of getting open, a persistent problem through the first four weeks of the season. And what had been their strength — their defense, of all things — struggled against, of all people, Zach Wilson, the Jets quarterback whom many fans wanted to see benched a week ago.
Perhaps that is the mark of a championship team, though: The Chiefs overcame all that for a 23-20 victory.
Or perhaps it is a sign of a championship team that has a whole lot to fix.
“It’s football. It’s the NFL. Not everything is going to be easy,” said Mahomes, who threw for just 203 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. “You have to find a way to win different ways and I’ve learned that over my career.”
The Chiefs (3-1) certainly proved that last season.
You see, the perception is the Chiefs have won seven consecutive AFC West titles, hosted five straight AFC title games and been to three Super Bowls in the past four years because they are a high-scoring juggernaut that simply mows over the opposition.
The reality is Andy Reid’s group simply finds ways to win. They went 14-3 last season by winning half those games by six points or fewer, and they trailed the Eagles 24-14 at halftime of the Super Bowl before rallying for a 35-31 victory.
“I think to be a world champion you have to be able to win a lot of different styles, and every game is going to be different,” said Chiefs linebacker Drue Tranquill, who watched Kansas City from the opposite side as a member of the Chargers last season.
“Last week, we jumped out to a big lead against Chicago and we were able to hold onto that,” Tranquill continued, “and kind of make them one-dimensional on offense. This week, we jump out to a big lead, suddenly their defense blows up, gets a safety. We’re on our heels. Pat throws a couple interceptions. They get a couple turnovers playing good ball on defense and now we’re forced in a tough game, close game there in the fourth quarter.”
Sounds as if Tranquill believes both things are true: The Chiefs are a championship team because of their ability to win ugly, yet they have a whole lot of issues to work out if they want to defend that Super Bowl title.
“I’ve learned in my six or seven years, you can win pretty, but you have to win ugly, too, in order to win Super Bowls,” Mahomes said. “For me, even though I hate it while it’s happening, I felt like it makes you better in the end if you win games like this, where not everything’s going perfect. So, we did that last year and we’re going to try to do that again this year, and then try to keep getting better so we’re playing our best football at the end of the season.”
Isiah Pacheco ran 20 times for 115 yards, and while a big chunk came on a 48-yard touchdown run, many were the tough, got-to-have-them variety in crucial situations. He has proven to be the ideal running back for Reid’s offense.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Chiefs did not get enough pass rush from their front seven against New York. They rarely pressured Wilson, who threw for 245 yards and two scores, and one of their two sacks came from Mike Edwards on a safety blitz.
Trent McDuffie continues to develop into one of the league’s top cornerbacks. He was frequently tasked with Jets star Garrett Wilson, who hauled in nine passes on 14 targets but was limited to just 60 yards.
The entire Kansas City wide receiver group has been an abject disappointment. Their inability to get open, let along produce big plays, has repeatedly hamstrung drives. Kadarius Toney had the only two catches by any wideouts in the first 40-plus minutes in New York, and the group finished with seven catches for 65 yards in all.
Nick Bolton missed his second game with a sprained ankle. The linebacker’s ability to get the defense into the proper alignment was sorely missing Sunday night, along with his uncanny ability to fill gaps and track down pass plays in the flat.
200 — The Chiefs had 200 yards in the first quarter Sunday night, their fourth-best offensive output in a first quarter since 1991. Problem was they managed just 201 yards the entire rest of the game.
The Chiefs complete a two-game road swing next Sunday against the Vikings, whom they’ve beaten three of the past four times they have played. Minnesota (1-3) defeated winless Carolina on Sunday for its first win of the season.
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