Chiefs vs. Packers - By the Numbers
KCSN's Craig Stout takes a closer look at a few numbers following the Chiefs' loss to the Packers on Sunday night
6.9 - Intended Air Yards for Patrick Mahomes in 2023
The Kansas City Chiefs offense has had their struggles throughout the 2023 season. Their efficiency has been poor, it’s led to fewer points per drive, and their poor play has been the direct result of multiple losses this season. While the pass-catcher conundrum has been discussed to death, it shows up time and time again – and it did yet again against the Green Bay Packers.
The Chiefs moved the ball well through the first three quarters of the game, but couldn’t convert on their first two red zone drives due to penalties. During the fourth quarter, the Chiefs found themselves behind the sticks and having to force the issue a bit more, which led to an untimely interception and an end-of-the-game failure as the clock ran out.
This lack of efficiency shows up most when the Chiefs encounter penalties, dropped passes, and missed calls – multiple in the fourth quarter – as they struggle to rebound and get the drive back on track. The way that the Chiefs offense operates with short passes, screens, and the run game means that they cannot regularly find themselves behind the sticks and expect to get out. Mahomes has an average intended air yards of 6.9 in 2023. That is currently 6th-worst in the league, with Daniel Jones, Mac Jones, and Tyson Bagent around where Mahomes ranks. In 2022, Mahomes’ 7.5 intended air yards were middle of the pack.
The Chiefs offense has been built out of the short passing game, and it hasn’t evolved. That’s made it easier for defenses to sit on the passing game, collapse on short targets, and keep the Chiefs behind the sticks when they do run into adversity. Third and long scenarios used to feel “easy” for Mahomes and company to get out of. In 2023, they feel almost impossible.
There’s no magic fix for making the offense better, short of executing to a level of perfection that simply isn’t achievable with the current offensive personnel. While the run game was able to get things going against the Packers, when challenged in the fourth quarter to go out and make a play against a stacked box, the offense couldn’t. For an Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes offense, it’s foreign territory – and likely isn’t getting better until they make major overhauls in personnel and coaching approaches.
35% - Chiefs Defensive Success Rate in the Base Defense
Last week, the Chiefs Defense didn’t start well against the Las Vegas Raiders. They were able to right the ship and turned into a key part of the comeback victory, and most assumed that they had just a small blip in an otherwise terrific 2023. Unfortunately, it may have been a primer for what was to come against the Green Bay Packers, as the Chiefs defense finally played a poor game from start to finish in 2023.
Some of these issues stem from major injuries to safety Bryan Cook and middle linebacker Drue Tranquill – filling in for starting middle linebacker Nick Bolton – that forced Mike Edwards and Jack Cochrane into bigger roles for the defense. However, the issues existed early on in the game, as the Chiefs had the worst success rate of any quarter this season in the opening stanza against the Packers.
The more concerning element – other than the injuries – that reared its ugly head on Sunday was how Matt Lafleur and the Packers offense found success. Like several teams this season, the Packers leaned into heavy personnel (primarily 12 personnel) and attacked the Chiefs with a balanced ground and air attack. The effectivity of the run game only increased as new players entered the game replacing the injured defenders, and a less-than-stellar footing made some of the Chiefs stud run defenders late to fill their gaps. The Packers wisely continued to utilize it, and the Chiefs’ base 4-3 defense finished the game with just a 35% defensive success rate.
The Chiefs defense is good, but this is one of the few cracks in the armor that has shown up for multiple weeks. Teams like the Bills, Patriots, Raiders, and Chargers still on the schedule could make an easy pivot to these heavy-personnel attacks to try to capitalize on one of the few weaknesses. Ideally, the return of Bolton and Tranquill can help with the communication, alignment, and execution in the base defense as the year closes out, but until everyone is fully back up to speed, the Chiefs base defense may be one of the few elements that fans don’t want to see on the field regularly.
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