As we’re winding down a Bears season that will have them at home during the playoffs, it might be time to start picking a team to cheer for in the playoffs. Given that the Chiefs are a Midwestern team and have ties to current Head Coach Matt Nagy, the red and yellow crew from Mizzou might be your jam. To get some intel on Patrick Mahomes and all things Chiefs, I hit up Tom Childs over at Arrowhead Pride. He was kind enough to give insightful answers to help us prepare this the Sunday Night affair.
Windy City Gridiron: I love Conan O’Brien, in part because he’s so good at self-deprecating humor. He makes fun of himself before anyone else can do it as a way to disarm other people. I’ve found this to be a useful tactic in life. So, how thankful are you that Chicago took Mitchell Trubisky off the board and allowed the Chiefs to draft Patrick Mahomes? Did you guys honestly see this level of success coming during his year backing up Alex Smith?
Arrowhead Pride: I am going to go through this whole article without taking a cheap shot about the 2017 draft, mainly because it must be painful for fans to constantly hear or read about one of the most significant misses in NFL draft history.
No. In all seriousness, no one could have seen the contrast that Mitch Trubisky and Patrick Mahomes would have in their start to their NFL careers. Nobody. Yes, some might have seen a talent differential. But to this level? I’m not buying it.
What Mahomes has achieved since entering the league is almost unheard of. To walk in and so obviously have the most physical talent at the position is something Chiefs fans could only have dreamt about. In all honesty, it clearly took the Chiefs by surprise too. If they knew for a second he would have been this good right away, then there was no way Alex Smith would have started in 2017. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?
WCG: This year hasn’t exactly gone according to plan as the Chiefs had a mid-year swoon, dropping October games against the Colts (I was there for that one), Texans (that one too...I think I’m banned from Arrowhead), and the @#%& Packers. Those losses have the Chiefs staring at the 3 seed unless the Bills can upset the Patriots this weekend. Is this team’s success solely held in the magical right arm of Patrick Mahomes? Are they healthy enough now to go on the road and take out the Patriots and/or Ravens or will this year ultimately end in disappointment?
AP: This has been the hardest year to cover the Chiefs. You would think having the reigning MVP should make for an easy ride as a fan, but that couldn’t be further from the truth in 2019. With Mahomes either playing hurt or not at all, Chiefs fans have gone through the season wondering if it is possible to donate ankles, knees and even hands. It sounds crazy, but Kansas City’s outlook on the Chiefs is directly based on the health of Mahomes.
When Mahomes went down against the Broncos, the next few games became about surviving until he returned to the lineup. The strange thing about the upturn in the Chiefs’ fortunes is that it hasn’t been directly linked to the return of the MVP, more so of this new concept in Kansas City. I believe you call it defense??
It is the rise of the Chiefs defense paired with the excellence of Mahomes that will make them the team that no one wants to face in the playoffs (please excuse the cliché). If it all breaks right for the Chiefs, then I see no reason why this team cannot go on the road and win in January.
WCG: In years past, Andy Reid’s running game has been a reliable source of production and explosive plays. This season, LeSean McCoy leads the team with 465 yards followed by a committee of players that have been unsuccessful (under 3.8 ypc). How is this committee distributing carries now and what will it look like next year given McCoy is already in his age 31 season? Is Darwin Thompson going to get more involved?
AP: The warning signs were there in the offseason that the Chiefs would sort of abandon the run game in 2019. It was during a players and fans event that star tight end Travis Kelce subtly eluded to the philosophy of the Chiefs high-octane offense:
”I think we’re going to pass the ball. When you think we’re going to run, we’re going to pass. When you think we’re going to pass, we’re definitely going to pass.”
Based on what we have seen from this group of running backs to date, it’s certainly sound logic. Shady McCoy has had issues holding onto the ball, Damien Williams is inconsistent and injury-prone, Darrell Williams is on injured reserve and Darwin Thompson is a young back with serious upside but also bad rookie habits.
In fact, it is old crowd favorite Spencer Ware that provides the greatest amount of optimism for the playoff run. Since returning to the team, the two-time Chief has provided a veteran presence in the backfield, especially in pass protection. Is the long term answer to running back on the roster? Probably not. Do they have enough to win now? For sure.
WCG: Just how important is Travis Kelce to this offense? The Bears have really struggled this season, in part due to a dearth of production from the TE position. Given Matt Nagy is running a version of Andy Reid’s offense, where would you rank the TE position in importance?
AP: In my opinion, Kelce is the player that keeps the Chiefs offense ticking over. Of course, Mahomes is the superstar and Tyreek Hill is the deep threat, but it is Kelce that causes headaches for defensive coordinators all over the league. His ability to work in space and find the soft spots in the zone is second to none, he’s as dangerous as ever with the ball in his hands and his connection with Mahomes cannot be overlooked. Sometimes, you see a completion and wonder if there is some crazy out-worldly force that’s syncing these two greats.
We saw in the 2017 playoffs against the Titans how the Chiefs offense suffers when Kelce is out of the game. Leading comfortably just before halftime, the Chiefs lost Kelce to a concussion. After leaving the game, Kansas City didn’t score another point, and the rest is history. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the same would happen to the 2019 version of the Chiefs offense because of, you know — Patrick Mahomes — but it would mean defending the Chiefs would become a lot easier for opposing defenses.
WCG: The Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu, has been all over the place this season, recording sacks, tackles for loss, interceptions and pass breakups. It appears that he’s solidified the back end and made that secondary viable. Is that the case and does Mitchell Trubisky have any chance of moving the ball through the air on Sunday Night?
AP: As I mentioned earlier, KC fans are just getting used to the idea of the Chiefs having an actual NFL worthy defense. After the disaster of the 2018 season, fans were begging for an average defense that would get the Chiefs over the hump. The reality is that the defense has exceeded all expectations.
In Tyrann Mathieu, Frank Clark and now “T-Sizzle,” the Chiefs have players with a mentality and a swagger that simply cannot be taught. The intangibles, paired with simplifying player’s responsibility, has led to a defense that is thinking less and playing faster. The results of which have been incredible. Steve Spagnuolo has created a monster that is now the driving force behind the Chiefs winning games, not just the passenger.
If the Bears are to have success in the passing game on Sunday, then there needs to be an emphasis on getting the ball out early and hoping the pass-catcher can make a play. For all of the Chiefs defensive success against receivers, they’ve been pretty woeful covering running backs. If I’m Nagy, I’m dialing Tarik Cohen’s number on more than one occasion.
WCG BONUS: Chicago fans are pretty bummed about how this year played out. Is there anything you can offer from afar that might cheer us up? Anything nice to say about Matt Nagy? Or maybe complement our defense? That usually helps. Please... we’ll take anything.
AP: Although I fully expect the Chiefs to win this Sunday night easily, I wouldn’t say it’s all doom and gloom for Chicago. From an outsider’s perspective, the underperformance of the team is directly linked to the lack of abilities of one man — Trubisky. That being said, there are some interesting free agent quarterbacks becoming available in the next month or so. Pick one of these up, and there is no reason why the Bears can’t be in and around playoff contention this time next year. The coach is there, the defense is there, some of the offensive pieces are there. But unfortunately for Bears fan, the most important position in all of sports is not.
Thanks again to Tom and Arrowhead Pride!