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Raiders-Chiefs: Why has Kansas City’s offense regressed?

5 questions with Arrowhead Pride

Philadelphia Eagles v Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes
Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Ahead of the Las Vegas Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs Week 12 matchup, Tom Childs of Arrowhead Pride was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Chiefs for Raider Nation, brought to you by DraftKings Sportsbook.

Question: The Chiefs’ offense went from being a juggernaut to just kind of average in the span of a year. What’s been the biggest difference between this season and the past? And what’s going on in the second halves of games over the last month?

Answer: I know you guys are happy about the decline of the Chiefs offense but we’re certainly not.

The talent in the receiver room is the obvious place to start. Year after year, the group slowly got worse. Last year they lost Tyreek Hill and this year they lost JuJu Smith-Schuster. The room simply has been depleted. Now the Chiefs are in a position in which Justin Watson is the default number 1 receiver and is getting 11 targets in a single game.

We know Patrick Mahomes is great, but the Chiefs are expecting a lot from him to be able to make this particular group work — especially when they can’t even catch a ball in crucial situations.

I don’t want to pin all of the blame on the receivers though as there have been other issues too:

  • The tackles
  • The penalties
  • The red zone turnovers

All of these problems stem from a lack of accountability and bad coaching. I don’t know if it is the transition from Eric Bieniemy to Matt Nagy that has led to the downturn but there is something going majorly wrong on that side of the ball currently.

You’d also think that coaching is partly to blame for the lack of scoring in the second half of games. Teams are adjusting to what the Chiefs are trying and the Chiefs are becoming unstuck, and then seemingly cannot get themselves out of a hole.

It’s a mess.

Q: On a related note, it seems like Patrick Mahomes hasn’t had the same magic he’s had in the past to bail the Chiefs out of bad situations, at least from an outsider’s perspective. Has he regressed this season or is it more of a matter of his teammates letting him down?

A: I think it’s a bit of both. More so than any other quarterback in the NFL, Patrick gets held to ridiculous standards. That’s why I want to be careful when analyzing his performance so far. His ‘bad’ season is still very good compared to a lot of other quarterbacks.

But as you rightly pointed out, the magic has gone a little. It’s shown itself on occasion but there isn’t the weekly highlight that we are so used to seeing.

Although Mahomes would never admit it, I believe the issues he is having are largely driven by the receivers he has to work with. For weeks on end, opposing teams have thrown more bodies at stopping Travis Kelce — teasing the Chiefs to have to go their other guys. Instead of stepping up, the receivers have let the team down. This has caused Mahomes to hesitate and be as indecisive as ever. It’s painful to watch.

Q: The other side of the ball has been a different story though. So, besides Chris Jones, who’s one defensive player that you think will give the Raiders’ offense trouble?

Philadelphia Eagles v Kansas City Chiefs
L’Jarius Sneed
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

A: Can I cheat and say two?

The pair of L’Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie have been terrific. Ignore what PFF says about Sneed as he has been incredible. So far this season, the Chiefs have managed to shut down Tyreek Hill, Justin Jefferson and AJ Brown. This has all been driven by the physical play of Sneed.

He’ll be looking to add DeVante Adams to the list next.

His running mate, McDuffie has been just as good, if not better. Cornerbacks are supposed to be found out during their second season but he has got better and better with every passing week. Just like Sneed, he is a guy that Steve Spagnuolo can line up anywhere across the formation and he’ll do an excellent job.

I genuinely believe that both are playing at an All-Pro level and that their success and versatility are the reasons why the Chiefs’ defense is as good as it is.

Q: How has Kansas City’s defense been able to overcome losing Nick Bolton, especially against the run, since they seemingly haven’t skipped a beat without him in the lineup?

A: The best thing about the Chiefs’ defense is the depth that they have managed to build over the last couple of years — no position demonstrates this better than the linebacker room.

Brett Veach has not been afraid to throw resources at the position when many other teams don’t tend to. He has used high draft picks on the likes of Willie Gay Jr, Leo Chenal and Nick Bolton — and has spent money in free agency on the tackling machine that is Drue Tranquill.

The capital spent on the position has put the Chiefs in a position where they can afford to miss a guy like Nick Bolton for an extended period of time.

Schematically nothing has changed since #32 went down. I’m not too sure the Chiefs could have afforded to be without Bolton in yesteryears. Kudos to Veach and Spagnuolo for the job they’ve done with the position.

Q: The Raiders have been playing much better over the last three weeks with Antonio Pierce as head coach and the Chiefs haven’t been blowing opponents out this year, but DraftKings Sportsbook still has Las Vegas as an 8.5 home underdog. How do you think this game plays out, and are there any other bets you like?

[Editor’s note: the line moved to 9.5 after Crosby was listed as doubtful and Tom’s response.]

A: I think the Chiefs will win but I don’t think it’ll be pretty. The Chiefs now have to realize they aren’t the offensive powerhouse they once were. Gone are the days when they could march the ball up and down the field at free will.

Instead, I am looking for KC to approach this game with a steadier game plan. Run the ball and take whatever the Raiders give them. Now if Maxx Crosby is out then that may cause the Chiefs to rethink as Mahomes will almost certainly have more time than he would have had 98 been playing. But nonetheless, KC must appreciate that they are a defensive team as it stands and all the offense needs to do is not mess up.

If the Chiefs’ offense (Andy Reid) can put the game in the defense’s hands, the Chiefs should win and probably cover. However, if the Chiefs try to have a get-right game on offense, then that will only invite the Raiders into the contest more. Turnovers are momentum swingers in these big divisional games. Kansas City needs to do their utmost to avoid them.

I’m going to say Chiefs 23 Raiders 14 but I’m not confident.