How do you defend the Chiefs offence? 3 teams have tried, 3 teams have failed. Lets have a look into the NextGen Stats to see how they’ve attempted it.
The Chargers started by trying, quite successfully, to take away Travis Kelce. His average separation at 1.63yds is well below the league average. Just the 1 reception from 6 targets, the Chargers were very effective at covering him
The problem with covering Kelce is leaving Hill wide open. With an average separation of 3.74yds, Hill was quite rightly targeted 8 times leading to 7 receptions for 169yds.
Here is why Mahomes is so hard to defend against. Throws to all levels of the field. 3 out of 6 deep shots for 100 yds. 3 out of 7 intermediate for 94 yards. Stretch the defence pretty evenly all over the place.
So the Steelers, having seen Hill torch the Chargers, tried to take him out of the equation. A mere 1.81 yds separation, they paid much closer attention to Hill although it did them little good as he still had 90 yds on 5 receptions.
Here we see where the problems start. You can cover Hill closely, you can also cover Kelce reasonably closely. But you can’t afford to give Watkins 4.44 yds of space every time he catches the ball. 6 receptions for his first 100yds game as a Chief. The benefit of having a pair of WRs who would be #1 elsewhere.
Very similar to in the Chargers game, Mahomes attacked all levels of the defence. 4 of 6 deeps shots for 100 yds. 5 of 6 intermediate shots for 155yds. Again forcing the defence to respect the whole field.
Fantastic close coverage on Hill, 1.51yds of space, he did well to get 51 yds from his 2 receptions. Sherman may be old, but he can still play. At least he could before he was injured.
Lads, you just can’t give Kelce that much space. The most open of the Chiefs receivers, what were you thinking?? 8 receptions for 114 yards.
And now we come to my issue with the 49ers game. This offence functions really well when all levels of the field have to be respected. 6 deep shots but only 1 complete. 8 intermediate shots with 5 of them completed. A relatively massive 17 short passes. I would have loved to have seen a couple of deep attempts in the second half. Yes we were up by double figures but that lead was being steadily whittled away. Our offence should have shut down that comeback.
In summary, this offence just has too many weapons to cover all of them closely. If the O Line can give Mahomes sufficient time then he’ll find the most open receiver and they will have space to work with. It’s very hard to see how you can stop this, even when teams have film on it.