I was eager to see what the Kansas City Chiefs offense could do for an encore in 2018, but I didn’t expect it to be quite this entertaining every week.
One year after crafting an offense that boasted the National Football League’s leading rusher in rookie running back Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs have done it again with the most exciting quarterback in football.
Through the first nine weeks of the season, Patrick Mahomes II has thrown for 2,901 yards and 29 touchdowns, leading the league in both categories. If you listen to the pundits on any given pregame broadcast, postgame broadcast, talk show or SportsCenter, they’re ready to go ahead and hand Mahomes the Most Valuable Player award for the season.
The fact that Mahomes is amazing comes as no shock though, nor the sterling performances around him of Hunt, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. What does come as a shock is that the team is 8-1 and the defense has been playing an increasingly more important role in the team’s success.
This is a Chiefs defense without stalwart linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, who were let go in the offseason, without promising young cornerback Marcus Peters, who the team dealt to Los Angeles, and without its heart and soul, safety Eric Berry, who has missed multiple games due to injury.
Yet this is a defense that you can watch every week and see marked improvements. While the Chargers and Steelers picked apart the Chiefs’ defense early in the season, Jacksonville and Cincinatti have not fared nearly as well in their trips to Arrowhead Stadium.
The loudest fans in the NFL no doubt played a role in those games, but that in and of itself isn’t enough to account for the night and day difference between what this defense looked like in Week 1 and what it looks like headed into Week 10.
The Chiefs still need an upgrade in the secondary, a need the team did not address before last week’s trade deadline. However, the pass rush is as prominent in Kansas City as it’s ever been.
Big Justin Houston is still there and Dee Ford and Chris Jones have picked up the slack where once the Chiefs could turn to somebody like Hali or, going back slightly further, Jared Allen.
The Chiefs have been one of the worst defenses this season against the run, but they seemed to effortlessly hold Bengals star running back Joe Mixon in check on Sunday Night Football in Week 8 while systematically dismantling the Red Rifle, Andy Dalton.
By the time we get to January, we could be looking at a defense good enough to support Mahomes and the other heavy artillery on the offensive side of the ball in contending for the team’s first championship since the days of Hank Stram and Len Dawson.
After seeing the Rams get torched by Drew Brees, Michael Thomas (who humorously drew the ire of the NFL’s good-time police by pulling a cell phone out from under the goal post and using it in his touchdown celebration) and the Saints on Sunday, there are no more unbeaten teams in the NFL. Maybe now we can stop hearing about how the L.A. Rams are the best thing going and see more pundits start jumping on the Chiefs’ championship bandwagon.
But even if they do, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. The defense, though much improved, is still not a finished product in Kansas City. Every week in the NFL can be like an entirely new season where you throw out everything you knew from the week before. It can all turn on a dime.
Looming on the schedule is a Week 11 game between the Chiefs and Rams in Mexico City that will be telling of just where both teams stand at the midway point.
Maybe instead of things turning on one of those dimes, the Chiefs can use one of them to take a page from Michael Thomas and make a phone call.