“Awe-inspiring” has been the best description for Patrick Mahomes at times. “Confounding” has been the watchword on other occasions, the perplexity coming from trying to work out how on earth the reigning Super Bowl MVP and his dynamic offense can possibly be stopped.
But if we are looking for a descriptor of “fun” to cast upon the Kansas City Chiefs, there may be no more appropriate time to do it than now.
To clarify, the Chiefs aren’t currently having much fun, which is precisely what makes it fun for the rest of us to watch.
Kansas City is presently locked in an uncomfortable little struggle that serves to make them more compelling than ever. The start to the season hasn’t been pretty by any means, following an opening-game defeat to the Detroit Lions by escaping with an uncharacteristic 17-9 scuffle against last year’s AFC playoff foe, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“I don’t like what we’re doing,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters. “I’m not big on turnovers and I’m not big on penalties. We have too many of them right now. We can’t have the mistakes.”
It had reached the point where there wasn’t much new to learn about the Chiefs. We know what Mahomes is capable of — the rapid feet darting through indescribable openings, the body-contorting, space-bending throws, the calm nerve and time-defying ability to move the ball and rescue his team from perilous deficits.
The assumption that the defending Super Bowl champions would stroll back to a repeat reign, carrying home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, may still hold true, but they have some serious stuff to figure out or else Mahomes may be playing the first AFC road playoff game of his career this year.
What started with the stunning exodus of Tyreek Hill to Miami before last season has been highlighted by the increasing reality that paying Mahomes requires concessions elsewhere.
This week, the Chiefs restructured the two-time Super Bowl champion’s deal to move him past the likes of Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow to now give him a league-high $210.6 million during the next four seasons.
Yes, it’s fair for Mahomes to wonder what he’d actually earn in a non-salary-cap league, but the cap’s existence requires pain elsewhere and it leaves Mahomes throwing to young or recycled wideouts including Skyy Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Kadarius Toney, whose drops sabotaged the effort against Detroit.
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In addition to offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s move to the Washington Commanders, Mahomes also lost a key protector when Orlando Brown departed for Cincinnati and replacement Jawaan Taylor flubbed through the opener with four penalties.
Meanwhile, Mahomes’ larger-than-life primary target, Travis Kelce, nursed a bone bruise and missed the first game before returning to catch four balls, including a touchdown, against the Jaguars.
His resumption of normal service was welcome for Reid, and Kelce, smiling his way through questions about whether he’s dating pop star Taylor Swift, always seems to have the right mood to serve as an antidote to pressure.
Kelce had the media chuckling when he admitted he had asked Swift to come watch him “rock” the Arrowhead Stadium stage just as she did while he watched her perform previously.
It was a good line, but the Chiefs started their campaign more attentive to their defensive line, which was missing All-Pro Chris Jones for the first game before he ended a holdout and signed a one-year, $19.5 million deal, returning to notch 1.5 sacks against Jacksonville.
Jones’ absence showed just how thin the Chiefs defense is, and there is a general sense around the team that there will be a cohesion process to work through for a few weeks due to him being absent over the summer.
While none of these alarms are viewed as fatal flaws, there is a sense that for the first time in a long time, we are talking more about the ways where the Chiefs might be shaky than the myriad facets in which they are dominant.
Many fans hail the type of dominance the Chiefs usually flex and see Kansas City games as must-see TV.
Another segment — especially the Chiefs’ AFC foes — pine for the day when a great program deteriorates to a significant level. Right now that’s not yet the case; it is just at the stage of scouring for innovative ways to solve its problems.
Perhaps there is no reason to expect a blip this weekend, but it actually says quite a lot that the winless Chicago Bears — even those hapless Bears who’ve lost 12 consecutive games dating to last season and lead the league with 26 missed tackles — feel like they possess the teensiest shot of an upset.
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With Chicago quarterback Justin Fields telling reporters this week that he feels “robotic” due to coaching patterns and the Bears positioned as 12.5-point underdogs for Sunday’s game (4:25 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app) logic suggests this is the kind of comfortable matchup to allow Kansas City’s to fix some of its problems.
“Trust your talent. Trust your instincts,” Mahomes advised Fields while talking to reporters this week.
Of course, trust would be a prominent word on the tip of Mahomes’ tongue. He’s built a career around earning his team’s trust and trusting in Reid’s methods.
He knows many are wondering if the Chiefs can be trusted as favorites to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
And that bit of doubt? Well, that’s what makes Kansas City appointment viewing, even more so than before.