Chiefs must avoid letdown against overmatched Cardinals
The Kansas City Chiefs feature the NFL’s highest-scoring offense, are tied for the best record in football and sport a perfect record at home.
Up next for quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs is a home date with the struggling Arizona Cardinals, the lowest-scoring team in the NFC whose only two victories have come at the expense of the two-win San Francisco 49ers.
On paper, it shapes up as one of the biggest mismatches in recent years, with oddsmakers in Las Vegas installing Kansas City as a prohibitive favorite as high as 16 points.
Amid such chatter, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is wary of a letdown by his team, which has rebounded from its only loss — a 43-40 setback at New England — by ripping off three straight victories and averaging a robust 37.3 points during that run.
“Guys are going to be asked that question a lot,” Reid told reporters this week. “That’s just part of this game. You always hear that. You can let spreads, you can let all these things, trap game, all these terms that pop up and things that happen come into it.”
The temptation to overlook the punchless Cardinals is one obstacle for Reid and his staff. Just as worrisome is to keep his players from looking ahead to one of the most anticipated games of the season — a prime-time Monday night matchup in Mexico City against the one-loss Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 19.
“If you can honestly focus on the process and discipline yourself enough to do that, that normally takes care of things,” Reid said. “It at least makes it an even game in that area where you’re not going to let distractions get in the way.”
Mahomes leads the league in touchdowns (29) and passing yards (2,901) and will be bidding to tie Drew Brees’ NFL record of nine consecutive 300-yard games. Mahomes also can join Hall of Famer Steve Young as the only players in history with five straight games of at least 300 yards and three scoring passes.
With a bevy of offensive game-breakers that include running back Kareem Hunt, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce, even first-year Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks understands there is only so much a defense can do to contain Mahomes and Co.
“I don’t think you can stop those guys completely,” Wilks said. “You’ve just got to hope you can slow them down.”
The Cardinals average a league-worst 233.3 yards and rank 31st in scoring at 13.8 points per game, so attempting to match a Kansas City offense that is churning out an average of 433.4 yards and 36.3 points appears futile. However, Mahomes noted that Arizona is a stingy seventh in pass defense (224.6 yards).
“They have Patrick Peterson at corner,” Mahomes said. “They got dudes everywhere on that defense. For me it’s going to be a great test to get to go up against these guys. We’re going to try to be ourselves and keep what we have going, going.”
The Cardinals’ best chance of hanging with the Chiefs is to play keep-away from Mahomes. Kansas City’s defense certainly is vulnerable, ranking 31st (427.4 yards) overall and 25th against the run (124.8).
“I think their defense is pretty good. I know the numbers don’t show it,” Wilks said. “The great thing about what they have, they have a very explosive offense to be able to compensate and score points. So, we feel like there’s an opportunity in the run game. Hopefully, we can run the football against these guys, and hopefully, there’s going to be an opportunity in the pass game as well.”
Arizona needs to lean on running back David Johnson, who has scored five touchdowns but has rushed for more than 59 yards just once in eight games. Production from the ground game would lessen the burden on rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, who echoed his coach’s sentiment that Kansas City’s inflated defensive stats are misleading.
“I think a lot of those numbers are a little bit deceiving because they’re up by 30 in half their games,” Rosen said. “So, a lot of times they’re just playing back. They let the offense do what they want to do, try to bend not break, hold them to field goals.
“I think they’re like 32nd in pass defense, but I don’t think you should read into that at all. They’re a very good football team with a very good defense. A lot of that is just because their offense is scoring so many points.”