The Kansas City Chiefs are in the AFC Championship Game for the fourth consecutive season, which is a record. On the surface, this doesn’t seem out of the ordinary. The Chiefs have Andy Reid, Travis Kelce and Patrick Mahomes. Anything’s possible!
However, when you consider the franchise lost four out of its first seven games, you realize how much trouble it was in. Still, here we are talking about the Chiefs being a Super Bowl contender again. So, how did they do it this time?
A Maturing Offense
Considering the offense has been poor at times, it’s remarkable what the stats say about Mahomes and his men. For instance, the Chiefs have managed 2.78 points per drive, compared to 2.70 in 2019 when they won the Super Bowl. Yards per drive is another category that bodes well for the franchise as the guys average 42 yards per drive this season compared to 39 in 2019.
What does this mean? It means the offense is maturing. Firstly, there were plenty of holes in the offensive line in the fall of 2021, mainly due to the lack of experience. As the rookies have learned on the job, like Creed Humphrey, they have improved. Indeed, the entire offensive line is superior, ranking in the top 10 among offensive lines in the NFL.
Then there’s Mahomes. He was almost anxious at times on the field in the first couple of weeks, but he found ways to win after that, particularly an excellent throw against the formidable Green Bay Packers on Week 9. That was followed by a flawless display against the Bills during the Divisional Round game. With performances like that, it’s little wonder the sports betting market quotes the Chiefs as the +130 favorites for Super Bowl LVI. Let’s face it – Mahomes has done it before when his defense wasn’t as effective!
Adjustments to the Defense
Part of the reason why Reid’s team lost so many of its matches early in the season was the remarkably bad defense. By Week 5 or 6, the Chiefs had arguably the worst defense in the NFL, which is impressive when you think about the New York Jets and other lesser franchises. Something had to give, and it did with a string of poor performances.
Even worse, Mahomes couldn’t pull enough rabbits out of his hat to keep the train on the tracks. Thankfully, the General Manager got on the phone and started searching for trades, landing Melvin Ingram. Coincidentally, the Chiefs raised their level around Week 9, when he began to field snaps, yet it wasn’t only down to his skills.
Chris Jones, for example, moved back to his natural position on the defensive interior, where his pass-rush productivity skyrocketed to pole position by Christmas. With Frank Clark healthy, the defense outshone the offense, with everything from points per drive to first down per play percentage tumbling.
A Bit of Luck
You can’t underestimate the role of luck in professional sports. The NFL is no different, and the Kansas City Chiefs are fantastic case studies. What do you expect when you don’t end the season as the number one seed? Not a contest against a capitulating Pittsburgh Steelers with an over-the-hill quarterback.
What about when you tie the game with a field goal in the dying seconds against the Buffalo Bills? How’s a successful coin toss that gives Mahomes the ball for the victory? Even Andy Reid believes the rule needs refining. Lastly, you reach the AFC Championship and find yourself playing the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that beat the Tennessee Titans.
Nothing is guaranteed in any sport, not when the in-form LA Rams are +210 second favorites for the Super Bowl. But it’s hard not to think that the Chiefs’ name isn’t already on the trophy with the fortune they’ve had so far.
Of course, the Kansas City Chiefs had to bounce back when the chips were down, which they did. Therefore, we can’t begrudge them a little luck.