World’s Best Preview: Inside the Chiefs

Instead of the MVP, the Packers will face a high school coach on Sunday. Plus, the fastest guy in the league, the most productive tight end in NFL history and a blitzing defense.
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More of Moore: Last year, Patrick Mahomes won NFL MVP honors following one of the great quarterbacking seasons of all-time. While Mahomes was taking the league by storm, Matt Moore was an assistant high school football coach.

The Green Bay Packers, who are a surprising 6-1, got a big break this week for their showdown at the Kansas City Chiefs. Mahomes won’t play due to the dislocated kneecap sustained last week. In his place will be Moore, a 35-year-old journeyman. For his career, Mahomes has a winning percentage of .750 (18-6) and a 4.64-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Moore has a .500 winning percentage (15-15-1) and a 1.28 touchdowns-to-interception ratio.

Moore went to William S. Hart High School in Newhall, Calif., before playing collegiately at UCLA and Oregon State. In 2007, Moore went undrafted and spent training camp with the Cowboys. After being released by Dallas at the end of camp, he was claimed off waivers by Carolina, for which he started three games as a rookie and five times apiece in 2009 and 2010. Moore started 12 games in place of an injured Chad Henne for Miami in 2011, then threw a grand total of 30 passes the next four seasons. Still with Miami, Moore started three times in 2016 and twice in 2017.

In 2018, after not getting an invite to a training camp, he returned to Hart High School as an assistant coach. He would have been coaching there again this year but the Chiefs needed a backup after Henne suffered a broken ankle late in the preseason.

“Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Moore, in a conversation with Chiefs beat reporters, said on Wednesday of playing this season. “I thought that was over.”

The pull of the locker room – and a chance to join a Super Bowl contender – tugged Moore back into action. Now, the Chiefs’ Super Bowl hopes could be riding on Moore, depending on how long Mahomes is out.

“The chance to get back in the locker room with the guys, be back in the league, Coach (Andy Reid), Patrick. You can name a bunch of guys, all those guys are reasons,” Moore said. “I was out for a year and I was happy, but there’s things you miss as time goes on. When this opportunity came, it was something I couldn’t say no to.”

Moore came off the bench to complete 10-of-19 passes for 117 yards and one touchdown vs. Denver. In a conference call with Packers beat reporters, Reid said the offense would essentially be unchanged with Moore in the lineup. Moore will lean on his experience and the week of practice after not playing last year or in the preseason this year.

“I was super-excited to sign here. Then, once I go there, I was like, ‘Holy smokes. I had no camp, no OTAs, no nothing, and there’s always that potential case where you have to play soon,” Moore said. “That was always in my mind the first couple weeks. I don’t know, I just rely on the history and the experience that I have had in this league. I’ve always been the guy typically, most of my career, who, yeah, I had training camp and all that stuff, but the reps haven’t been there. Practice hasn’t been there. As a backup, that just doesn’t happen. That’s everywhere. I just kind of relied on that it’s football and it’s concepts. You know what you’re doing and go play.”

MORE PREVIEW: PACKERS THROWING IT TO BACKS FOR A CHANGE

Cheetah: Tyreek Hill has had trouble off the field but has been nothing but trouble on the field for opposing defenses.

Hill is arguably the NFL’s fastest player and is aptly nicknamed “Cheetah” with a sub-4.3 time in the 40 at his pro day before the 2016 draft. More than just a sprinter who plays football, he’s perhaps the most dangerous player in the league. In his three-plus seasons, Hill has a league-leading 46 receptions of 25-plus yards. That includes 22 last season – six more than anyone else. With Davante Adams’ injury, Hill has taken over the top spot with 37 touchdowns since the start of the 2016 season.

It’s impossible to simulate Hill’s speed on the practice field.

“I don’t think there’s much you can do unless we let the receivers line up 5 yards offsides and go,” defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. “It’s one of the reasons why he has the production that he does because I think you practice all week against it and, all of a sudden, you get out there and it’s significantly faster than what you prepared for. I’ve never seen anybody on an NFL football field that fast before.

“I got a chance to visit the Chiefs when I was out of coaching, went down for OTAs, and it was Tyreek’s rookie year. I was watching the practice, I’m like, ‘Is this a full-speed drill?’ He looks like he was going full speed and everybody else didn’t. He was instantly on my radar and sure enough, when the fall rolled around, he exploded on the scene. I go, ‘That’s that guy I remember.’”

Presumably, Pettine will match cornerback Jaire Alexander against Hill. Alexander ran his 40 in 4.38 seconds at the 2018 Scouting Combine. The potential return of safety Darnell Savage, who ran his 40 in 4.36 seconds at this year’s Scouting Combine, will help, too.

“I know this guy’s really fast,” Alexander said. “This guy is supposedly faster than me. This will be the first one. We’ll see, though.”

Alexander called Hill a “complete” receiver because of his route-running skill and sure hands. Never one to back down from a challenge, he was eager to match up against a player who has 10 touchdowns of 50-plus yards since entering the league – three more than anyone else in the league.

“I ain’t worried about it. I ain’t worried about none of that, to be honest,” he said.

Veteran defensive back Tramon Williams said mental preparation would be the key to facing someone who can’t possibly be imitated on the practice field.

“There’s not many guys who can run like that and has the skill-set that he has,” Williams said. “You have to prepare your mind for what you feel you’re about to face. I’ve seen a lot of guys on film and they look great on film and then I show up on game day and I’ve overprepared and it wasn’t as hard as I thought. I’m a big boxing fan. What makes boxing matches great are styles. It’s the same thing. The only thing we can do is look at the film and overprepare for what we’re about to get. When game time comes, it should put us in the right mind-set of what we’re going to get.”

Top tight end: One of the big story lines for this week is how the Packers will contend with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce caught a tight ends-record 103 passes last season, and he’s got 38 catches for a tight ends-high 541 yards this season. Last week, the Packers dominated the Raiders but were dominated by their tight ends, with Darren Waller catching seven passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns.

Video: Mike Pettine on issues vs. tight ends last week

However, until last week, the Packers actually had fared rather well against tight ends. By game:

Chicago, led by Adam Shaheen: 1-of-3 passing for 6 yards.

Minnesota, led by Kyle Rudolph and second-round pick Irv Smith: 4-of-6 passing for 8 yards.

Denver, led by top pick Noah Fant and Jeff Heuerman: 5-of-5 for 57 yards.

Philadelphia, led by Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert: 9-of-11 for 81 yards.

Dallas, led by Jason Witten: 3-of-4 for 29 yards.

Detroit, led by top pick T.J. Hockenson, 4-of-7 for 21 yards.

Last week, however, was a different story, with Waller, Fabian Moreau and Derek Carrier combining to catch 11-of-15 passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns.

“Some things we certainly need to get fixed,” Pettine said. “There were unforced errors on our part from a communication standpoint. But also give them credit: They made some good calls and the guy runs good routes, and there’s times you’ve got him covered and he still has a great catch radius and will make plays. He’s a guy we knew about coming in. It didn’t surprise us. He just got paid last week and you can see why. This is a big athlete that runs well and can catch the ball. Obviously, looking at this week, that’s one of the better tight ends in the league, so we certainly have to be much better in that department.”

Aggressive on defense: Under first-year defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, the Chiefs are one of the more aggressive defenses in the league.

“He gives you a lot of exotic looks and brings a lot of pressure,” LaFleur said.

That probably won’t change against Green Bay, not with the Chiefs’ best pass rushers – defensive end Frank Clark (32 sacks the previous three seasons) and defensive tackle Chris Jones (15 sacks last year) ruled out for Sunday night. Without that dynamic duo, it might be up to Spagnuolo to try to create pressure to prevent being picked apart by Aaron Rodgers.

The problem for Spagnuolo is Rodgers is good against the blitz. According to Pro Football Focus, Rodgers’ passer rating vs. the blitz this season is 118.4 compared to 99.5 when not blitzed. While his completion percentage is an identical 64.9 percent, Rodgers’ yards per attempt is much better against the blitz (10.9 yards) vs. when not blitzed (7.3). Against the Raiders, Rodgers was 5-of-8 for 158 yards with one touchdown and a 145.8 passer rating.

“If they want to pressure, if Aaron sees it …” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said, cutting himself off while seemingly daring the Chiefs to blitz. “Last week, there were a couple pretty big plays when that happened, so we’ll see if they want to take that risk.”

The expectation is the Chiefs will blitz. It’s in their DNA. Last week against Denver, the pressure was overwhelming. Joe Flacco was 7-of-11 for 49 yards vs. the blitz but was sacked four times. A few weeks earlier in Detroit, Matthew Stafford was 6-of-12 for 61 yards but sacked twice.

“They’re aggressive,” right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. “They pressure and they do a lot of things schematically to try to get free hitters coming through. We’ve gotten pressure, there’s no doubt. Obviously, with Aaron and his ability to see things and read defenses and make adjustments on the fly, teams are a little more wary of it. But the way the Chiefs pressure, it’s part of who they are on defense. It’s like the Vikings. The Vikings have a very good package on third down and they’re going to use it because it’s a hell of a blitz package. Kind of the same thing here. They do a lot of good things, especially on third down. You don’t expect them to get out of it just because they’re playing Aaron. So, you’ve got to ready for it and got to expect it.”