The Kansas City Chiefs improved to 9-2 in their defeat of a very game Los Angeles Ram 26-10 in a rather, dare I say, dull affair. It never really felt like the Rams, with all of their injuries on offense, had the firepower to emerge from the quick two-score deficit in which they found themselves. There was still plenty to take away from this performance despite the lack of drama. Let’s get into it.
Chiefs Defense Came To Play
The Rams came into this game without their starting quarterback, their top two wide receivers, and several offensive linemen, so it is to be expected that the Chiefs’ defense should not have had any problems. As Chiefs fans are quick to point out, however, this team tends to play down to their competition (see Colts, Indianapolis). Fortunately, that was not the case for the defense, as they held the depleted Rams attack to less than 200 yards of total offense. They got to Rams quarterback Bryce Perkins, who was making his first career start, for three sacks, two interceptions, and a paltry 4.3 yards per attempt. Perkins looked lost on several occasions at the line of scrimmage. The play clock ran out on him multiple times, so they were forced to burn time-outs and take a handful of delay of game penalties.
The run defense was solid as well. The Rams played from behind all afternoon and could not get their running game started. The Chiefs held the two Rams running backs to 72 yards on 19 carries for less than four yards per carry. Perkins was the only effective runner for the Rams’ offense. He broke containment with his scrambling several times in the first half, but the Chiefs quickly stopped that and rendered the Rams’ offense almost entirely ineffective. It was a solid performance throughout the game by the Chiefs defense against a depleted Rams offense, but we will certainly take it.
Chris Jones Has A Legitimate Shot At Defensive Player Of The Year
Chris Jones is the most talented player on the Chiefs roster not named Patrick Mahomes. The only knock against him is that Jones tends to disappear for long stretches, which frustrates the living hell out of Chiefs Kingdom. Tonight, he recorded his tenth sack on the year and cashed a $1.25 million incentive for doing so.
Chris Jones is not just a sack artist, however. Jones has lived in the opposition’s backfield for the past month and a half. Jones has the size and strength to muscle offensive linemen around on run defense when he has a mind to it, so he sees a double team on nearly every play. Despite all of the attention he receives, Jones is still able to produce at an extraordinary level. The extra attention also frees up other defenders to make plays, especially when for the linebackers. Middle linebacker Nick Bolton is sixth in the NFL with 106 total tackles, and he is free to make those tackles because Chris Jones is occupying at least two offensive linemen at any given time. Jones may not be the favorite for NFL Defensive Player Of The Year right this second, but he certainly deserves to be in the conversation.
Isiah Pacheco Is The Chiefs Running Back Of The Present And Future
If it was not already obvious coming in to this game, it should be obvious now. Isiah Pacheco is going to be the Chiefs lead running back for the foreseeable future. The struggles of former first-round draft pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire are well documented. CEH has given several opportunities to take the reins as lead running back, but has failed to perform consistently during his three-year tenure with the Chiefs. There are glimpses of the talent that led to the Chiefs using their first-round draft pick on him in 2020, but the lack of consistency paired with the use of a precious draft asset has frustrated Chiefs coaches and fans alike. Now, CEH is on the injured reserve and someone is going to have to fill that role.
Enter seventh-round rookie Isiah Pacheco. Pacheco has dazzled the Chiefs coaching staff since he first set foot on the practice field. Pacheco was given the rock on a career-high 22 carries against the Rams. Pacheco was mostly effective in those carries, even though he only tallied 69 yards on the ground. It was the way he picked up those yards and the style with which he runs that has endeared him to Chiefs Kingdom. Pacheco has seen his workload increase every week since being named the starter. With CEH on the shelf, we should expect to see Pacheco maintaining his hold as the bell-cow running back for the foreseeable future.
Chiefs Struggles In The Red Zone
Despite the seemingly effortless 26-10 win, there were still blemishes that need to be resolved if the Chiefs want to get where they want to go. One of the more recent issues that have popped up has been scoring touchdowns in the red zone. The Chiefs were the best in the NFL entering November in that department, scoring touchdowns at a 76.7% clip. That production seems to have fallen off a cliff as they now sit in sixth, converting only 65.3% of their red zone trips into touchdowns. It seemed as if the Rams tapped into that deficiency as they held the Chiefs out of the end zone on five of their six visits on Sunday afternoon.
Against a beat-up team like the Rams, this type of inefficiency can be overcome by a standout defensive performance. Against a team like the Cincinnati Bengals, who will be hosting the Chiefs next week, that kind of performance can absolutely kill a team’s chance to win. Leaving points on the field is usually a key indicator of why the Chiefs have faltered in the past, and we only need to look back to last year against these Bengals to see what can happen. The Chiefs will be facing some high-powered offenses in the playoffs, so they are going to need every point they can get. Harrison Butker is nice and all, but I would rather see him kick extra points than 30-yard field goals.
Chiefs Special Teams Badly Needs Improvement
When the Chiefs let go of players like Dan Sorensen, Ben Niemann, and Dorian O’Daniel this offseason, the goal was to get younger, faster, and cheaper on the defense. Considering how well this draft class has performed to this point, we can say that the Chiefs have been successful in that regard. One of the drawbacks to going that route is the lack of experience necessary for special teams. The absence of Sorensen, Niemann, and O’Daniel has erased tons of experience on this special teams unit and has led to significant headaches for specials team coach Dave Toub.
Dave Toub has been under intense scrutiny by Chiefs fans for how bad his unit has been this year. Toub is legendary for his special teams prowess, and watching mistakes repeatedly appears to be incredibly characteristic of his team. The most significant difference between this year’s team and teams of years past is that there are very few, if any, special teams aces on this team. The special teams are now made up mainly of rookies that have never played the positions before and a handful of guys that are on the end of the roster. Special teams execution is critical in the playoffs, so Coach Toub will have some significant work to do to bring this unit back up to his standard.