A lesson Andy Reid taught the NFL this season is that the Kansas City Chiefs should never be written off. Chiefs made their fourth Super Bowl in five years after defeating the Baltimore Ravens.
At one point this season, the Chiefs were scuttling at 9-6, having lost four of their previous six contests. They scored less than 20 points in four of those tussles.
The Kansas City offense has not been much better since then, but the Chiefs have minimized mistakes and ground out wins to prove the doubters wrong.
The AFC Championship game was a perfect example. KC had a modest 17 points off 319 total yards, but it won the turnover battle 3-0 and minimized mistakes in a contest when Baltimore did not.
With the Super Bowl coming up in less than two weeks, the dynamic duo of Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce will enter the game as underdogs against a San Francisco 49ers team that boasts nine Pro Bowl nominees in 2023.
Mahomes and Kelce will need to have big games, but it might be the Chiefs’ weaknesses and not their strengths that end up being the difference-maker in Las Vegas.
Much of Kansas City’s struggles this season can be traced back to the offense’s inability to put up points. KC put up 21.8 points per game — the lowest total of Andy Reid’s 11-year tenure and seven fewer points than last season.
What changed? The team lost starting tackle Orlando Brown Jr. (four Pro Bowls), starting guard Andrew Wylie, and JuJu Smith-Schuster (who led KC wideouts with 935 receiving yards) in free agency.
Patrick Mahomes was under pressure on 19.4% of dropbacks last year versus 22.9% this season. He was also hit 33% more often in 2023 (56 hits received in 2022 versus 75 in 2023). With less time in the pocket, Mahomes and the Chiefs offense became disrupted.
With fewer playmakers creating separation and a new crop of receivers that did not have the same chemistry with Mahomes, the Chiefs All-Pro QB had the lowest passer rating and the second-fewest passing touchdowns of his career.
Kansas City’s offensive line will face a stiff test against a San Francisco 49ers defense filled with star power. The Chiefs will need the line to give Mahomes time in the pocket, but the team also needs its receivers to make players down the field.
Other than Travis Kelce, no pass-catcher has consistently been a threat in this Kansas City offense — especially in the playoffs.
Rashee Rice came on late in the year, averaging 86.3 receiving yards per game over his last six contests. The rookie led the team in catches and yards during this stretch.
He then opened up his playoff account with eight catches for 130 yards and a touchdown in the Wild Card Round against the Miami Dolphins. But since then, Rice has not surpassed the 50-yard mark in KC’s two subsequent playoff games.
Aside from Rice, no other Chiefs wide receiver surpassed the 500-yard mark on the year or even recorded more than 85 yards in a game. Against Baltimore, Kelce led the way with 11 catches for 116 yards.
Rice had eight catches yet only managed 46 yards while Marquez Valdes-Scantling had a pair of catches for 36 yards. Mahomes finished the afternoon at 6.19 yards per attempt, gaining just 241 yards on 39 attempts.
That kind of efficiency is not going to be good enough to take down the 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII.