The members of the Kansas City Chiefs staff for Full Press Coverage each give their opinions on the 2018 season. We will present various subjects, for which Braden Holecek, Shareef Alnachoukati and Kyle Senra will share their thoughts. Here is the Chiefs 2018 review.
Let’s start the season review by looking at the likely MVP winner, Patrick Mahomes and how the Chiefs passing offense evolved throughout the season. First, Mahomes has done something each and every week that leaves defenders wondering what it takes to defend him. That includes running
When you look at the entire passing offense and what makes things work, it all starts with head coach Andy Reid. Andy designs his offense to call plays in any situation that are likely to work, no matter the down and distance. Kansas City’s pre-snap motions force the defenses to freeze most of the time. The passing offense has also installed more with Mahomes this season. Back in the preseason, Mahomes mentioned the team had roughly twenty different installs in the offense. This shows that Mahomes understands the game very well for his age. That can be attributed to sitting and learning behind Alex Smith and coach Reid.
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A big reason why the passing game has flourished is that the skill players fit in perfectly with this offense’s style. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce have evolved more each season. Hill continues to be a better all-around receiver from working hard to putting himself in position to make plays. Kelce has excelled at being a reliable target for his signal caller, like some of the best tight ends in the league. Kelce has also grown into becoming one of the locker room’s top leaders. Even though Sammy Watkins has missed some time, he is working to be ready for the playoffs. Watkins’ absence has seemed to hurt the offense to a degree. With his ability to push the field, and being able to rely on his hands it will be nice to add him back in the mix for the postseason.
The Chiefs passing offense reached legendary levels in the 2018 regular season, and I wonder why that happened. Patrick Mahomes, along with the help of Andy Reid, has really given the offense a hot look. There should be no excuses for an early playoff exit yet again. In previous seasons, with Alex Smith, the Chiefs offense would become one-dimensional against good defenses. That shouldn’t happen with the 5,000-
In only his first season as a starter, Patrick Mahomes has already matched something that only two other quarterbacks have done. Mahomes threw 50 touchdown passes in 2018. That is only five passes short of Peyton Manning‘s single-season TD pass record, which he set in 2013. The only other signal-caller to accomplish that 50 feat is Tom Brady in a near-perfect 2007 season. Mahomes also managed to throw for 5,000 yards, something both Brady and Manning only managed to do once in each of their careers.
Andy Reid’s offensive system has put Mahomes in a great position to succeed. The Chiefs offense used a variety of formations and misdirection to constantly keep opposing defenses guessing. Mahomes was often set up with easy reads open receivers.
When those receivers are very talented and athletic, it certainly helps as well. Tyreek Hill has obvious speed but he also demonstrated the ability to create separation and get open. There was Mahomes’ athletic 48-yard pass to Hill on 4th and 9 against the Ravens. Mahomes rolled out and threw it over the middle. If not for Hill’s ability to get the football, that pass likely would have ended up as an incomplete or even an interception. There is also Travis Kelce whose athleticism and size make for constant mismatches against defenders. Kelce even broke Rob Gronkowski‘s 2011 record for receiving yards in a season by a tight end (only to be surpassed himself by George Kittle). The presence of both those players opened things up for other receiving options
The Chiefs defense had a rough season. But, the pass rush was one of the better parts of this side of the ball. At the end of the regular season, Kansas City finished tied with Pittsburgh for the most sacks in the league (52). That is something most fans probably wouldn’t know, with uber-talented defenses like Chicago, Baltimore and others. With the way this team is built right
Over half of the team’s sacks came from Chris Jones and Dee Ford. Jones is one of the more underrated players in the league. He sets up in different spots on the defensive line at times. His quickness and size make it difficult for most blockers to stop, and the look of him running at you must be terrifying for opposing quarterbacks. On the other hand, Ford needed to have a big season and he did just that. Ford had played in the fewest games for a single season for his career last year due to nagging injuries. He worked hard to put himself in position to succeed this season and stayed upright. With his results in 2018, Ford is likely heading for a possible franchise tag this offseason. At least that’s what has been more theorized, it is possible they could just extend him, but due to this being his first real complete season, a franchise tag doesn’t sound like a bad idea.
If anything was as impressive as the passing offense in 2018 for the Chiefs, it was on the opposite end in the pass rushing. The Chiefs hosted 2 Pro Bowl d-lineman in Dee Ford and Chris Jones. They produced, along with the help of fine veterans Allen Bailey and Justin Houston. Chris Jones’ breakout season came just after tearing his MCL in last season Wild Card matchup against the Titans. He was 3rd in the league with sacks with 15.5 and was constantly in the backfield. Dee Ford also had a long-awaited breakout season which saw him put up 13 sacks and also leading the league in pressures for EDGE rushers.
There were several issues with the Chiefs defense this season. They allowed the 9th most points and the 2nd most yards in the league. One element that the team did excel at was getting after opposing quarterbacks. Kansas City tied for the league lead in sacks in 2018 with 52.
Pass-rush pressure is rarely caused by one individual as Dee Ford and Justin Houston both demonstrated relentlessness off of the edge. However, the one player who really stood out was Chris Jones. 15.5 sacks is an impressive feat, but setting an NFL record is even more significant. Jones recorded a sack in 11 consecutive games, breaking the previous mark of 10.
If quarterback is the most important position in football than pressuring the QB is the most significant defensive aspect of the game. A good pass rush can cover up deficiencies at other positions. For the Chiefs, defensive pressure may be the element that is needed to overcome the best teams in the playoffs.
Andy Reid has done a great job and players have long loved to play for him. His ability to consistently get his guys fired up and ready to play sounds easier said than done, but he does a great job of it. Reid’s offense, led by Mahomes, scored the third most points in a single season in NFL history and he has his guy for the future.
As for OC Eric Bieniemy, this was his first year in that role with the team. He has the benefit of working with Reid and also a smart guy in quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka to help him with the Mahomes side of things. Bieniemy has a gift of being able to motivate players and his name is hot among the head coaching candidates.
It’s safe to say that Chiefs fans have not been a fan of DC Bob Sutton this year. But at times, his defense has come through. Sometimes the slight on Sutton is he doesn’t run enough different looks. But in the regular season finale, he changed some things up and it paid off. We’ll see how the defense performs in the playoffs as a whole.
I totally think Andy Reid deserves some amount of credit for what he did this year. Let’s not forget, Mahomes wasn’t going to do what he did in 2018 with every coach. Reid was able to find the perfect plays and concepts for Mahomes which really helped him flourish.
As for Bob Sutton and the defense, this was a meh year (as it always is). The return of Chiefs legend Eric Berry didn’t seem to change much in the defense’s performance. The only thing that has the D going is the pass rush, nothing else has been up to standard in that group.
Andy Reid’s prowess as a leader and a play caller
I referenced the exploits of the pass-rush earlier, and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton certainly deserves credit for that. However, the other elements of the defense struggled. Blown coverages and allowing big runs were not uncommon for the Chiefs, even late in the season. At times, the pass rush was able to mask the rest of the defense, but that was not always the case.
Perhaps the most impressive coordinator this season is the one of is often unheralded. David Toub led the Chiefs special team to the #1 spot on PPF’s 2018 special-teams rankings. Yes, having a talented player like Tyreek Hill is great. However, when a player like Tremon Smith has immense success, then the coaching system deserves credit. Toub played double-duty in 2018 as he added Assistant Coach to his job title. The fact that Toub had additional responsibilities and his special teams unit still excelled is a testament to his hard work.
To Win the Super Bowl, the Chiefs must…
… Stop the run (BH)
The Chiefs have been good, but there is one thing that can still improve in order to achieve a Super Bowl win. I am going to focus on the defense. The part that really needs to improve is the run defense. I know the pass defense wasn’t great, but if the Chiefs are winning and their opponent is forced to throw, they have a good enough pass rush to tee off on the quarterback. When they are in close games though, the run defense has been giving up five yards per tote or more. Any of the other AFC playoff teams have a good enough rushing attack or an above average offensive line. Where the Chiefs have struggled in run defense is hesitating and being driven back. This forces the backside defenders to have to run down the opposing runner at most times. They improved against the Raiders in Week 17, so if the defense is energized like that, then maybe things will be good enough to get by.
… Power through with Williams (SA)
I know it’s cliche but it’s January football. Let’s face it, the Chiefs run game hasn’t been the same since Kareem Hunt was released. The first thing I would do is involve Darrel Williams more in the offense. He fits that playoff football strong power back that can nearly simulate what Hunt did. This keeps the offense comfortable in the cold and most importantly, it helps Mahomes deal with the playoff environment in Arrowhead. Running effectively takes off the pressure the QB from having to do everything in the offense.
… Control the clock (KS)
Even though the Chiefs scored the most points in the NFL this season, they were 26th in Time of Possession (TOP). Their 565 points scored were 130 more than any team not named the Rams or the Saints. Yet, they held the football less than half of the time with of TOP per game of 29:11. While that speaks to the incredible efficiency of the Kansas City offense, it also exposes a weakness: the inability to run out the clock when nursing a lead.
Yes, the defense has struggled in 2018. Being on the field less often would certainly help that unit perform better. The best way to do that is to run the football. Patrick Mahomes exploiting the shorter and intermediate routes would also be advantageous. The Chiefs offense has to learn how the control the pace of the game and they have to do it quickly. They face an explosive Colts offense in the Divisional Round. To help beat great teams, Kansas City will need to limit the amount of time that their defense is on the field.
Thank you for reading. On behalf of the Chiefs team at Full Press Coverage, I wish you all a wonderful 2019. Hopefully that includes a deep playoff run by Kansas City.