The Chiefs: Offense and Defense problem

Stefan Collins, Contributing Writer

            So, if it isn’t Mahomes, why have the Chiefs struggled so far? Mahomes hasn’t been perfect, he just hasn’t played to the standard that we fans expect him to, causing an overreaction. Mahomes is struggling more than compared to years past and has played a part in the underwhelming start to the year. A lot of this has to do with how defenses are now playing the dynamic Chiefs offense.

The 2021 Chiefs have faced over 120 offensive snaps against a “cover 2” defense through 9 games. In 16 games in 2020, the Chiefs only faced “cover 2” on 135 snaps. A “cover 2” defense is when a defense has two defensive backs cover two deep halves of the field, to provide extra help to corner backs covering receivers that run deep routes; making it easier to defend any deep passes. This has made it difficult for Mahomes to connect on passes to his reliable targets, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, a strategy which has been embedded into the team’s DNA since 2018.

That being said. A defense is only allowed to have 11 players on the field at once. When a team plays two safeties back to take away the deep ball, it almost always guarantees that another receiver will find open space. That has been the case. However, it seems as though Mahomes either doesn’t trust or doesn’t have the chemistry with his secondary options, Josh Gordon and Byron Pringle, to throw deep passes. When Mahomes does pass their way, it often results in an incomplete pass due to the receiver not being in the ideal position for Mahomes.

This may not be obvious when watching games in real time. But when the film is analyzed, it seems clear that the secondary options at receiver frequently are not on the same page with Mahomes. Therefore, he tends to take the check down option or force a pass to either Hill or Kelce. For a visual, Harris Football has broken down and analyzed several of the Chiefs 2021 offensive plays thus far. Once Mahomes develops more chemistry with the rest of his receiving core and Head Coach, Andy Reid creates and installs more “cover 2 beaters” in the passing offense, the Chiefs air attack should get back on track. The passing game should also pick up once Running Back Clyde Edwards-Helaire returns to play, giving the team a legitimate threat that defenses will need to account for. Edwards-Helaire has been on the injured reserve since week 5. According to Sporting News, Edwards-Helaire is set to return after the team’s bye week in week 12.


The Kansas City Chiefs defense has been disastrous for the most part of the first half of the 2021 season. Prior to week eight the team’s defense ranked dead last in the league. In the first five weeks of the season, the Chiefs allowed 7.1 yards per play, which is the worst mark through five games in NFL history, according to Pro Football reference. The team also allowed 3.3 points per drive, and 32.6 points per game, the most in the NFL during that span. This was the main reason why the Chiefs started the season with a 2-3 record. Since then, there has been a noticeable improvement on the defensive side of the ball.

The Chiefs, through nine games are ranked 24th in points allowed per game, averaging 25.2. From week’s six to nine, the unit has allowed 16 points per game, ranking as one of the better teams in the league over this span.

The defense did excellent in its most recent performance against the Packers, holding the opposition to zero points until the fourth quarter, when the Jordan Love led Packer’s offense scored their only touchdown of the evening. In the game, the defense excelled in rushing the passer. A lot of this was due to the return of former All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones, and Frank Clark returning to full health. Jones being on the defensive line forced the Packers offensive line to double team him, leaving other members of the Chiefs front seven to have one-on-one matchups, creating a much higher success rate for Chief’s edge rushers.

If the Chiefs defensive performance against the Packers is an omen of things to come and the Chiefs offense gets back on track as the team did in its 41-14 win over the Las Vegas Raiders last Monday; the Chiefs should have a legitimate chance at making the playoffs.