When things are not going well, the first reaction is to look to blame and in the case of the Kansas City Chiefs, responsibility for the misstep is shared by three main figures: coach Andy Reid, quarterback Patrick Mahomes and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
Just as until before Super Bowl LV these characters were the subject of a cascade of praise, now they must endure criticism, which comes even faster and in greater quantities, and several of them justified by the inaction that the Chiefs have shown in the face of obvious problems. on both sides of the ball.
Mahomes stands as the maximum responsible on the field for the mistakes he has made and that have resulted in a good amount of interceptions (9) and turnovers (2). The season in which the No. 15 quarterback suffered the most interceptions was 2018, his first as a starter, and in the last two, he suffered 11 combined.
Several of those interceptions, and others that the defenders have not completed, were the result of the clear pressure that Mahomes has played with this season and that is generated by the evident distrust he has in his defense.
And Mahomes is not wrong. He knows his defense in depth, he calibrated it from training camp and that is why he has tried to compensate with his arm for the lack of support from the unit coordinated by Spagnuolo.
This is where the responsibility of the quarterback and Reid lies. While Mahomes must calm down and act more coolly on the field, the head coach does not seem to have made the necessary adjustments yet to restore Mahomes’ confidence with which he played over the past three years.
Rivals have already well studied the Kansas City offense. In the NFL, sooner or later, rivals will find a way to nullify what works for a team and this is what happens to Mahomes, who in addition to the pressure generated by his defense, must also deal with the defensive schemes that they clearly limit his ability to blow up the Chiefs’ attack.
This season, defenses have played with two safeties in the back in 65 percent of the Chiefs’ passing plays, according to ESPN coverage metrics. It’s the highest number a quarterback has faced in the last five years, and by far (Matt Ryan, 51 percent in 2020).
Mahomes’ anxiety is also reflected in his presence, or lack of, in the protection bag, because although running towards the wings has been useful, this was the case when the defenses did not play him with safeties so deep to avoid explosive plays of the Chiefs.
In the current season, when Mahomes remains in the bag and throws in 2.5 seconds or less, he has 13 touchdown passes and just one interception with 86 percent of his completions. When he passes the 2.5-second barrier, those numbers drop to five touchdowns for eight interceptions and just 48 percent from completions.
It is a reality that the Chiefs’ offense is limited in terms of personnel. They don’t have a dominant No. 2 receiver behind Tyreek Hill and with two deep safeties and the freest opposing linebackers in the flat zone, Travis Kelce also doesn’t have the wide spaces behind the line of scrimmage that he used to have.
The running game, which was not already fueling Clyde Edwards-Helaire healthy, is practically non-existent in Kansas City. One less resource for a Mahomes who, for these reasons, feels the need to move a whole team forward on his own.
Much of that anxiety and pressure from Mahomes would disappear if on the defensive end, Spagnuolo goes back to basics and set aside experiments, in particular using Chris Jones, who made a name (and a millionaire contract) in the NFL. as a defensive tackle.
Although Jones played his first three years with the Chiefs at the ends of the line, it was at the tackle position that the No. 95 performed his best, yet Spagnuolo has used him in 2021 again as a wing. defensive.
The result is a Chiefs defensive front line that does not put pressure on the quarterbacks and does not stop the rivals ‘running attack and therefore the Chiefs’ perimeter, particularly safety Daniel Sorensen, has been evidenced by the weakness of your front line.
In that regard, although it took him several games to do so, Spagnuolo showed some reaction by benching Sorensen and placing third-year safety Juan Tornhill on the field, although things haven’t improved much with that modification to the field. defensive in general.
Time is running out for Reid and Spagnuolo to make drastic changes to their offensive and defensive schemes, respectively, to help Mahomes be the quarterback who made things look easy until recently.
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It’s time to pinpoint culprits for Chiefs misstep in 2021