The Kansas City Chiefs have completed a perfect month of November. Arguably, their toughest opponent in the Dallas Cowboys did not live up to expectations. The league’s highest scoring offense could not muster any consistency against a fierce Chiefs defensive front. Meanwhile, Kansas City’s offense showed solid balance, despite not registering many touchdowns.
Some of the Chiefs defenders may have possibly had their best career games. That is saying something, given what we have already seen from a couple of impact players. We will touch more on that later. Additionally, the offense found ways to get everyone involved among the skills group.
What are the top five things we learned from the Chiefs in this win? Plus, what player’s stocks are rising or falling entering the bye week? Let’s kick it off.
Top Five Things We Learned
Getting Home With Four
The Chiefs pass rush has been wreaking havoc on opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks for the past four games now. It was likely a no-brainer to bring extra pressure against a quarterback making their first career start in Jordan Love. Yet, the ability to dominate as a pass rush out of their base defense the last two weeks seemed near impossible just over a month ago. Simply winning one on one matchups with counter moves, while outmuscling the opposing blockers is a treat to watch. At the same time, the Kansas City defensive line is taking away opportunities for quarterbacks to scramble to the outside or step up in the pocket.
Kansas City pressured Dak Prescott on a whopping 38 percent of his drop backs in this game. The Chiefs finished the day with 24 total pressures against Dallas, according to Pro Football Focus. Chris Jones accounted for a third of those by himself (eight pressures), and Frank Clark had five pressures. To boot, Melvin Ingram still has the juice Kansas City used to have nightmares of when he played for the division rival Chargers. Jarran Reed is also performing to the level that many expected when the Chiefs signed him late in the offseason.
Charvarius Ward Deserves More Credit
Much of the focus from the Chiefs secondary has gone towards L’Jarius Sneed recently. Rightfully so, as the second-year man out of Louisiana Tech has been making stops and pass breakups all over the place. Charvarius Ward is a cornerback who is just as relentless right now, nonetheless.
Ward usually gets berated for inconsistencies in crucial games when facing some of the league’s most dangerous wide receivers. However, he has made some noticeable improvements and has shut down names like Davante Adams and CeeDee Lamb in a matter of a few weeks. Ward’s body positioning on plays down the field has always been an underrated part of his game. We saw that play out in his interception against Lamb on Sunday in the end zone just before halftime. But, Ward has exuded more focus against receivers’ counter moves and more patience when running with opposing pass catchers up the field.
His length and increased physicality, both at the catch point and the line of scrimmage, have begun to get in pass catchers’ heads. That ability to throw off the opponent’s focus during their route is leaving offenses with their hands tied. When Ward is playing like this, and you have the dynamic abilities to lean on in Sneed and Tyrann Mathieu, as well as the steady incline of Rashad Fenton, you have to adjust on the fly. Ward is continuing to increase his value and worth with commanding performances like this against top offenses.
Another Fast Start
Throughout all of the hiccups the Chiefs offense has had this season, including a handful against the Cowboys, one thing has remained constant. That would be the compelling first drives Andy Reid has drawn up. This has helped Kansas City get ahead of opponents, or at least keep them in the dance, if any offensive stalls occur. It also helps when your defense is playing as red hot as the Chiefs are right now.
To open Sunday’s first offensive possession, Reid made an emphasis to get running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire involved in his return from injury. CEH received a touch on each of the first three plays. He gained 14 yards on the ground on the first two plays and caught a short pass thereafter.
Later on, Patrick Mahomes showed urgency with quick passes to Tyreek Hill and an escape from the pocket in order to pick up a first down with his legs. Finally, the Chiefs leaned on their vast playbook with extraordinary plays that have become staples. This included an end around run for Hill that picked up 33 yards and the touchdown run for tight end Travis Kelce, who took a direct snap and ran the read option out of the backfield with Hill.
Kansas City scored a total of 16 points across the first 16 minutes of game clock. Certainly, there were some frustrating turnovers and stalled drives later on. The way in which Reid and his offense start the game out consistently allows for them to get in a groove, though. Once they find that spark, the Chiefs have many options at their disposal to work with.
Running Back Usage Was Evenly Split
It is unknown as to when Jerick McKinnon got injured against Dallas. But, the Chiefs lost him due to a hamstring injury early in yesterday’s game. Even with that, the running back snaps were nearly an even 50-50 split among Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams. Williams played 53 percent of the offensive snaps (36 snaps), while CEH played 47 percent of the offensive snaps (32 snaps).
Ep 161: Lions Dissapoint; NFL MVP; Week 12 Discussion
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Edwards-Helaire got a bit more looks on the ground than Williams did. The Chiefs gave Clyde 12 carries and he accumulated a healthy clip of 5.3 yards per carry. Williams saw five carries and gained three yards per carry. In the receiving game, it was more evenly split. Targets were 3:2 in favor of Williams.
More importantly, both running backs were used in roles that displayed their strengths, while also working to hide their weaknesses. Edwards-Helaire has proven against the Cowboys and in the past that he can be counted on to ice the game when the Chiefs are leading. Moreover, Williams was used to keep drives alive on got to have it downs. His prowess as both a pass catcher and pass blocker should not go unheralded among this offensive group.
Run Defense Just As Vital To Defensive Turnaround
Lost in the defensive resurgence of the Chiefs, is the much more stout run defense. The pass rush and pass breakups are always exciting. However, the run defense has been an area that has been Kansas City’s Achilles heel for a good few years. That includes even some of the better stretches for the Chiefs defense during that time span.
Over the last six games, the Chiefs’ run defense has mostly allowed less than four yards per carry in each game or under 100 yards rushing in each game. This includes facing physical offensive line groups like Dallas, Green Bay and other top blockers on the Raiders, Giants and Washington Football Team. Not to mention holding Derrick Henry to a measly three yards per carry, and limiting the amount of explosive runs for others like Ezekiel Elliott, Aaron Jones and Josh Jacobs. On Sunday, the Cowboys’ rushing attack was unable to get any consistency rolling all day long. Other than a 31-yard run on a trick play for Tony Pollard, Zeke and Pollard only combined for a pedestrian 3.4 yards per carry on the other 15 rushes.
Kansas City’s run defense has seen a tremendous stretch from rotational defensive lineman Derrick Nnadi. His ability to control gaps and stonewall interior offensive linemen allow for the linebackers behind him to decipher and work through traffic quickly. Anthony Hitchens looks refreshed since returning from a tricep injury. All Nick Bolton and Willie Gay continue to do, is feel more comfortable and execute their jobs singularly well. Gang tackling, plugging all gaps, better tackling form and improved pursuit angles have all helped the Chiefs continue to shut down the run.
We mentioned earlier how Jones finished the day with a mind boggling eight pressures. His 3.5 sacks against the Cowboys trumped the three sacks he had in eight games on the season entering Sunday. Meanwhile, Jones made one of the league’s best guards (Zack Martin) look absolutely foolish on multiple occasions. He simply had no answer for Jones’ power and finesse mix. The same goes for La’el Collins, Tyler Biadasz and Connor McGovern. Outside of the pass rush, Jones helped surge some key run stuffs and tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage, which led to a game-ending interception for Sneed.
Charvarius Ward And L’Jarius Sneed
Ward showed an increased energy and had no fear going up against an explosive play threat like Lamb. His interception in the end zone may be the play that is most remembered. Yet, Ward had some key reps where Prescott was forced to fit the ball into perfectly and ended up missing by a wide margin.
Sneed continues to fill multiple roles for the Chiefs defense. He made some tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage on quick passes that left Dallas lifeless. Due to sheer determination and strength, he has been able to surprise opposing skill players with his tackling prowess. The sticky coverage and awareness in space is just simply routine at this point.
The return for CEH was going to be heavily monitored for a multitude of reasons. Could he create plenty of chunk gains on the ground against a sturdy and instinctive Cowboys defensive front seven? What was his role or usage going to be? Additionally, was Edwards-Helaire going to show any lingering pain or issues with his knee? The performance may not have been the best of Clyde’s career. Though, there were enough runs where Edwards-Helaire kept drives alive and where he sliced through tight spaces to keep the Chiefs pace to where they wanted it. It was a satisfying comeback overall for CEH, displaying that he can be a vital piece for this Kansas City offense.
The Offensive Line
Mahomes felt a bit more heat than he had in a few weeks. The Cowboys registered three sacks and seven quarterback hits. It could have been much worse in that regard, obviously. Nevertheless, there were a few different issues that stood out other than the pass blocking.
Penalties killed drives and put the Chiefs in challenging downs and distances. Confusion and miscommunication on blocking assignments took away openings and holes that appeared to be there for multiple big plays. Most of all, the team had no answers for rookie Micah Parsons. His power at the point of attack and speed left the Chiefs blockers looking embarrassed and Mahomes frustrated.
It was not the best day for Harrison Butker. He missed an early extra point. On the 51-yard attempt that he missed, the kick was one of the worst misses of his career. Butker was wide right by a significant margin. Generally, he is pretty dependable on those longer kicks. The timing of that miss was also major, given it was still a 10 point game with most of the fourth quarter left to play. Butker made up for it with a tremendous pooch punt. Yet still, those missed kicks could be more fatal in closer games down the stretch.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs articles throughout this week. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.
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