It’s funny how wins come along in different forms. There are the comfortable ones like last week against the Texans where you dominate the opposition pretty much from start to finish. Then there are ones like last nights win over the Chargers. In fairness to the Chargers, they gave it everything they had. The Chiefs were second best in pretty much every facet of the game except for putting the Special in Special Teams. And yet, there was a sense of inevitability in the second half that eventually Justin Herbert would make a rookie mistake and eventually the misfiring Chiefs offence would find a way to get it done.
At the end of the day they both count the same in the W column.
Let’s use NextGen Stats to take a look at how the Chargers approached the Chiefs a little differently to the Texans.
Last week against the Texans, the Chiefs receivers had separation, all of them with above average distance to the nearest defenders.
This week, the Chargers played a much tighter coverage. Separation was significantly down on the previous game. Only Tyreek Hill had above average space yet he only managed 5 receptions on 11 targets. Demarcus Robinson gets such a huge cushion from defenders in the first place that it’s hard to take his stats seriously, he routinely has 7 yards to start with. The lack of separation was made significantly more impactful due to the Chargers pass rush being in Mahomes face all day long.
Bosa and Tillery gave the Chiefs O line fits, Ingram made his presence felt too. They were far closer to Mahomes than any of the Texans managed last week. The combination of tight coverage, early pressure and some solid tackling made for a very effective game plan. Yet it still wasn’t enough because when you are playing man coverage and receivers are running downfield then the defenders have their backs to Mahomes and he used that to his advantage as he did so well late last season. The 21 yard scramble on 3rd and 20 with 54 seconds to go was a prime example.
Overall the Chiefs offence had a bad day, the run game was nonexistent after the first play that Edwards-Helaire took for 17 yards. He didn’t get more than 6 yards beyond the line after that which is remarkable since the Chargers didn’t stack the box with 8 defenders a single time. Yet 122 yards at 5.7 a pop is a reasonable stat, although that was largely thanks to Mahomes scrambling ability.
We’re going to need a significant improvement next week against the Ravens on Monday Night Football. The defence, despite it’s awful tackling and terrible linebacker coverage, kept us in the game. I wouldn’t want to bank on that against Lamar Jackson and co.