The Kansas City Chiefs’ appreciation for Patrick Mahomes grew a little more on Sunday night, even when that didn’t seem possible.
The NFL’s reigning MVP was out on Sunday after dislocating his knee last week. While every NFL game seems like a life-and-death endeavor, Sunday really wasn’t for the Chiefs. They’re in no danger at the moment of losing the AFC West. They’re very unlikely to catch the New England Patriots for the AFC’s No. 1 seed. It was a chance to see life without Mahomes.
And while Matt Moore was good, and probably better than some expected, he’s not Mahomes. That’s not a news flash.
The difference on Sunday night was the quarterback matchup. Aaron Rodgers made a few special plays, including one ridiculous throw to Jamaal Williams in the back of the end zone in the fourth quarter, and the Packers escaped with a 31-24 win. They’re 7-1 this season, and the Chiefs are 5-3.
If Mahomes was out for the season, maybe there would be more worry. But Mahomes should be back very soon, and the Chiefs will happily have him back. They’re just an OK team without him. No real surprise there.
Matt Moore does a good job
Mostly, the Chiefs offense was just fine with Moore.
He got hot in the second quarter. He lofted a high pass up for Travis Kelce to settle under and grab for a touchdown. Mecole Hardman got a 30-yard touchdown from Moore. The Packers led 14-0 early, then the Chiefs grabbed a 17-14 lead by halftime.
At that point it seemed the Chiefs offense would be just fine without Mahomes. Between Tyreek Hill, Kelce, Hardman, Sammy Watkins and the stable of running backs, there’s plenty of talent around Mahomes. Mahomes is still phenomenal, but he is in a good situation. Moore had 196 yards and a 120.9 passer rating at halftime. It looked like his career night. He finished with just 267 yards as the offense sputtered a bit in the second half. A key fumble by LeSean McCoy didn’t help.
The margins of error in the NFL are small, and sometimes it comes down to one team having a quarterback like Rodgers make great plays and their opponent not having a Mahomes to match it. Even in the final five minutes, a key audible by Rodgers on a third-and-2 got the Packers into a run play that picked up a crucial first down. He’s a difference maker. Mahomes is too.
Chiefs defense lets down
The biggest play for the Packers wasn’t necessarily a spectacular one by Rodgers, but a bust by the Chiefs defense.
Aaron Jones took a short pass, got behind his blocking and immediately a seam opened up. Jones pretty easily cruised past the Chiefs defense for a 67-yard score. That came right after Kansas City tied the game 24-24. Kansas City has a great offense and a suspect defense, and that played out on Sunday night. When the Chiefs needed a stop in the final five minutes and had the Packers pinned back at their own 2-yard line, Green Bay just ran it right at Kansas City and the Chiefs couldn’t stop it. The Packers were able to pick up first downs and run out the rest of the clock. The Chiefs sorely missed linemen Chris Jones and Frank Clark and cornerback Kendall Fuller, three of their best defensive players. Still, everyone knows the Chiefs defense will determine how far the team goes in the playoffs.
Kansas City’s offense wasn’t great without Mahomes, but it was pretty good. When Mahomes returns, it will be great again. And given that Mahomes participated a bit in practice this week and wasn’t ruled out until Friday, maybe he won’t miss much time.
We knew these two things about the Chiefs before Sunday, but the loss to the Packers reinforced it: The Chiefs aren’t special without Mahomes, and even with Mahomes it will be difficult to win a Super Bowl unless the defense gets healthy and plays better.
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