Friday, January 28, 2022
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Takeaways and reactions from loss to Titans: Chiefs’ defense can’t get it right, Mahomes continues to decline

Imagine if you had a best friend who recently got into improv. They invite you to watch a show that he’s been prepping for weeks. However, his entire show is terrible, but you still have to support him because you’ve been there for him since the beginning. 

That’s how I felt watching the Kansas City Chiefs lose to the Tennessee Titans. 

Every time the Chiefs stepped on the field, they provided a lackluster performance. It got to the point where I aimlessly changed the channel to watch a more exciting game. While much of the game gave us a million reasons to worry about the former Super Bowl Champions, there was one good thing to come out of this brutal shellacking. So here’s what I learned about the 27-3 loss this past Sunday. 

Nothing will ever work on defense

Let me show you how bad the Chiefs’ defenders are playing right now. 

There was so much optimism during the Washington Football Team win last week. Especially for the defense. We saw improved communication, better execution and some takeaways. It looked like a complete unit that progressed in the right direction.

The game also started with some optimism. The Chiefs stopped the bombastic Titans freight train, Derrick Henry, on multiple downs. There was a glimmer of hope that the team would once again shut down the run-heavy unit. 

So much for all that praise, huh?

The Chiefs’ pass coverage was leaky once again. While only one receiver (star wide receiver A.J. Brown) passed the century mark in yards, eight receivers were critical in moving the chains. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill also had a solid day. His stat line includes 21/27 completions, 270 passing yards, one touchdown pass and one interception. Hell, even Henry found a way to score through the air. 

But wait, it only gets better. Let me remind you that this unit showed little to no effort throughout the whole game.

There are no simple solutions to the defense’s woes. But fans are calling for the firing of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, the release of numerous defenders and more. Hell, there were even some wild takes. 

While it isn’t time to overthrow the dynasty, the Chiefs’ organization can no longer ignore the most significant liability for the team.

Mahomes has performance issues

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ recent freefall from his high pedestal has started to haunt the offense and fans alike. Against the Titans, it got even worse. 

Facing an injury-riddled secondary, Mahomes got nothing done. Most of his throws were less than ten yards, with only three 20+ yard throws. He had 15 incompletions out of 35 total passes, which would place his completion percentage in around the upper 50s. Since week seven of 2020, he’s thrown for either 250+ yards or at least two touchdowns. He broke that streak this past Sunday. In all, he tossed for 206 yards and one interception.

(Next Gen Stats)

Ever since the devastating defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in last year’s Super Bowl, more teams have discovered methods to shut down the explosive offense. The Titans’ defense blitzed four and had everyone else cover the entire field. A simple yet effective solution to stop the former 2019 MVP. 

Even with some iffy playcalling, the star quarterback has lacked pocket presence and ball security throughout the season. His inability to stay inside and let plays progress naturally has hurt the team time after time, especially in plays like this.

Mahomes and Co. must right the ship soon. This year won’t get any easier.  If they can’t remodel the playbook, then this will be one of the most disappointing seasons to date.

Veach must hit the reset button

While many Chiefs and NFL have crowned Chiefs general manager Brett Veach as one of the masterminds of the league, this season has shown that the coronation came too early. 

Even though his draft picks in 2021 have panned out nicely, and the signing of Joe Thuney has paid off, some of his other offseason acquisitions have underperformed drastically. 

Against the Titans, cornerback Mike Hughes looked to be a liability in man coverage. Defensive tackle Jarran Reed and defensive end Alex Okafor have done little to nothing for the front seven. Taking a gamble on a 30-year-old Josh Gordon may also damage his reputation for years to come. 

Left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. has been the most prominent example of an underperformer. While it seemed beneficial at the time, Brown has yet to prove that he deserves to be the anchor the Chiefs need right now. His unproductive blocking against mediocre Titans’ pass rushers has shown that he has been a setback for the squad overall. 

Veach has to rebuild this roster starting now. With difficult opponents slowly creeping up, this may be the first time in a while when the Chiefs miss the playoffs. Getting a head start on some offseason moves wouldn’t be a bad idea. 

Again, Veach has done a solid job keeping this organization relevant for multiple years. But he still has to prove himself as the mastermind of the league and rebuild quickly. 

Now, I promised you one good thing. And I am a man of my word, so here you go. 

Nick Bolton will command this defense for years to come

Derrick Henry’s running style has haunted defenses for the past couple of weeks. In the last five weeks, he’s averaged 145 rushing yards and has ten touchdowns. For a moment, it seemed like he was going to extend his streak to six weeks. 

But Nick Bolton came to play. 

Bolton’s ability to plug the gaps at the line of scrimmage has been fascinating. He led the team with 15 total tackles and four tackles for a loss and was a critical factor in shutting down Henry for most of the day. Seeing him identify running plays so nicely has kept me mentally sane for another week. 

Let’s not forget that he also led all rookies in tackles. 

While linebacker Anthony Hitchens has called plays at the MIKE position for many years, it’s time for Spags to hand the keys to Bolton. While his coverage abilities are fluky, he makes up for it with some tremendous downfield plays. He is the future at the linebacker position, and allowing him to lead the pack early will pay off down the road. 

camtkb@umsystem.edu

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