AFC East Reporter
The Kansas City Chiefs are doing the things that dynasty teams do.
The Chiefs had to “host” the NFL’s hottest offense in a “home game” in Germany on Sunday. But all of Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel’s motions and ingenuity didn’t seem to bother Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who had plenty of ingenious moments of his own in Week 9, with exotic blitzes that absolutely stumped quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. And though Patrick Mahomes struggled to uplift his offense, the Chiefs still pulled off a 21-14 win over Miami.
The Dolphins are now 0-3 against teams with a winning record this year. They fall into the pretender category. And the Chiefs remain contenders. Miami’s offense couldn’t get things going, with penalties and an inefficient passing attack. While Tagovailoa had completed 70.4% of his passes going into this game, he completed 62% on Sunday. A great number of those incompletions came on third down, when the Dolphins were 3-of-12. Tua finished 21 of 34 for 193 yards, one touchdown and three sacks.
Mahomes said this Chiefs defense has the chance to be the best unit he’s ever played with.
“We’ll work to get this offense figured out, but until then, this defense is legit. It’s real, and everybody’s going to see it,” Mahomes said on NFL Network after the game. “I think they’ve got a chance to be the best defense in the NFL.”
The defense helped put away the Dolphins in the first half. Though Miami was putting together its first solid drive of the game with 45 seconds left in the second quarter, the Chiefs swarm-tackled receiver Tyreek Hill, who fumbled the ball. Safety Mike Edwards recovered and lateraled the ball to safety Bryan Cook, who ran it in for a long touchdown.
“It doesn’t get any better than that,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said after the game.
Maybe the Kansas City offense looks like a construction zone. But its defense? It’s a work of artful architecture, built through the NFL draft. Kansas City has started at least nine of its own draft picks in every game this season, as noted by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. With those players in place, the Chiefs have allowed 17 points or fewer to five of their opponents. Only two opponents have broken 20 points. That’s something that Mahomes can work with, even if his offense lacks a real threat at the receiver position.
Sometimes it’s like that for the best teams.
The comparisons between the Chiefs and Patriots’ dynasties are not overwrought. There is a real connection between the two franchises (at different stages of their dynasties, however), particularly when look at New England’s second run of Super Bowls, when Tom Brady spent the beginning of the season figuring out his weapons. I wrote last year that Mahomes has displayed a level of greatness that truly elite quarterbacks show. His GM keeps stripping talent on the offensive side of the ball. And Mahomes keeps putting up incredible numbers. He no longer needs a supporting cast. He creates one.
Now, I’m not going to ignore Travis Kelce. He’s the team’s No. 1 option. (It’s similar to when Brady had Rob Gronkowski.) But opponents are well aware of that. The Dolphins spent Sunday working away at Kelce with physical play at the line of scrimmage and bracket coverage downfield. Miami held him to three catches for 14 yards. It was the smart game plan from Miami’s defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio. He challenged Mahomes to beat the Dolphins secondary with anyone else.
That’s what Mahomes did. He completed passes to:
Mecole Hardman Jr.
That’s 11 different pass-catchers!
It’s a far cry from what this offense looked like with Hill. But it’s fitting that the Chiefs did exactly that — spread it around — in a game against their former offensive centerpiece. Without him, the Chiefs have managed to figure out how to generate enough production on offense. It goes back to last season, when they managed to win a Super Bowl without him. It’s even more fitting that cornerback Trent McDuffie forced the fumble on Hill (and the ensuing touchdown from Cook). Why? Well, the Chiefs took McDuffie with some of the draft capital they received in a trade with the Dolphins.
Again, that’s impressive architecture from GM Brett Veach.
No Chief recorded more than 34 receiving yards. Gray, of all people, led the team in that category. But it’s the kind of box score we’ve come to expect from this Chiefs team, which has to get weird and creative just to get points on the board. But that’s Kansas City’s specialty. Mahomes and Reid and offensive coordinator Matt Nagy are doing just enough to get the team in the win column. And actually, in a game like the one they won over the Dolphins, it was about being boring. Mahomes was largely checking the ball down, and his average depth of target was 6.1 yards. The Chiefs did what they had to do to win. And they can do just about anything with Mahomes at quarterback. Even winning with boring play.
(Take notes Josh Allen.)
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Kansas City is now 7-2. The Chiefs are No. 1 in the AFC, which was touted to be a much deeper conference than the NFC. And with that top seed comes the first-round bye. It’s still early to be thinking about the bye — unless you’re talking about a team like the Chiefs which has made a habit of getting better over the course of the season.
Kansas City’s roster, on paper, doesn’t look as impressive as what Miami has. But this is what dynasty teams do. They flatten the hype. They maximize their talent in ways that exceed expectations. And that has everything to do with the leadership: Reid, Veach, Spagnuolo and Mahomes.
Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @henrycmckenna.
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