By Hal Estep
Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce was on fire in Sunday’s Chiefs win in Oakland. He caught 12 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns. On a day where the usually dependable wide receiver Tyreek Hill was uncharacteristically dropping passes and sure touchdowns, Kelce’s contributions were critical to the win.
On the season, he has 1,082 receiving yards through 12 games. The NFL single season receiving yards by a tight end record is 1,327 yards, recorded by Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski in 2011. He could easily break that record, if he stays on this hot streak.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw four touchdowns on Sunday, bringing his season total to 41 touchdowns. Four touchdown performances have become second nature to Mahomes; this was his seventh game with four or more TD passses this season. Mahomes also led the Chiefs on the gorund, rushing nine times for 52 yards.
Kansas City narrowly escaped with the win, and the Chiefs awful defense once again allowed the opposition to draw within striking distance. Oakland quarterback Derek Carr played arguably his best game of the season, throwing for 284 yards and 3 touchdowns. Raiders running back Jalen Richard rushed 6 times for 95 yards- and averaged over 15 yards per carry.
It is December, and Kansas City has yet to address this porous defense. There are no excuses for defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. The Chiefs defense has allowed the 6th most points per game, and have been bailed out repeatedly by Mahomes and the Chiefs offense. That’s not a sustainable way to succeed once the playoffs begin.
Kansas City’s defense was incredible 4 years ago. In 2014 and 2015, it were top 5 in points per game. Every season since then, the defense has regressed and now it is one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Some may attribute that to star safety Eric Berry being injured all season, but that excuse doesn’t suffice. If Bob Sutton’s defense depends on Eric Berry so heavily that it falls apart without him, then the problem is still Bob Sutton. This problem will undoubtedly be addressed in the offseason, but until then, Chiefs fans will have to see if their offensive firepower can carry them through the regular season and be enough to advance in the postseason.
Nonetheless, there were still Kansas City players who had big days defensively. Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford had 1.5 sacks, bringing his season total to 10.5. This is Ford’s second season with 10 or more sacks.
Defensive end Chris Jones is on a tear. He had a late sack on Derek Carr, extending his sack streak to 8 games. With 10 sacks this season, Jones has to be in the conversation to be an All-Pro with his remarkable consistency.
This week’s game was understandably overshadowed by TMZ releasing running back Kareem Hunt due to a video surfacing that showed Hunt in a physical altercation with a woman in a hotel.
Spencer Ware took Hunt’s place in the starting lineup.. He carried the ball 14 times for 47 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t a particularly outstanding performance- but it wasn’t awful, either. To fill Hunt’s roster spot, the Chiefs brought back 27 year old running back Charcandrick West, who spent the first two years of his career in Kansas City. He should be a good fit, since he is more than familiar with the Chiefs playbook.
With their victory in Oakland, the Chiefs climb to 10-2. And Andy Reid’s post bye week record climbs to 17-3. The Chiefs remain in 1st place in the AFC West, but the Los Angeles Chargers are still right behind Kansas City at 9-3.
Next week, the 7-5 Baltimore Ravens come to Arrowhead Stadium to play the Chiefs. The Ravens are led by rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has won all 3 games that he has started. The game will kick off at noon and will air on CBS.
Edited by Garrett Jones | Gcjh23@mail.missouri.edu