JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In Week 1, the Kansas City Chiefs’ biggest problem on offense was that dropping catchable passes became contagious. A week later, they acknowledge that their offensive issues have multiplied.
“We shot ourselves with penalties and turnovers,” coach Andy Reid said Monday, a day after the Chiefs’ 17-9 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. “You can’t do that and normally come out with a win. You look at it on tape and things are there, but we’re going backward instead of forward. Even with a 5-yard penalty, percentages of scoring on a drive are slim.”
The Chiefs experienced such difficulties in Sunday’s game.
Although the Chiefs are 1-1, their offense has had two underwhelming performances, averaging just 18.5 points, despite featuring quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce (in the second game) and one of the NFL’s most experienced, talented offensive lines. Against the Jaguars, the unit committed eight penalties, pushing the ball backward for a total of 63 yards.
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The mental errors involved almost every member of the offense. Center Creed Humphrey had several poor, low snaps with Mahomes in the shotgun.
Before they scored their first points, the Chiefs had two giveaways in the second quarter. They called just two designed running plays in their first four possessions.
Their first possession ended on a terrible third-and-inches play that culminated in left tackle Donovan Smith holding the ball. The next drive was disrupted near midfield by a holding penalty on Smith. The third possession ended when receiver Justin Watson fumbled the ball near midfield. On the fourth possession, a frustrated Mahomes threw a deep pass into double coverage, leading to an interception by Jaguars safety Andre Cisco.
“Little things in this league make a big difference,” Mahomes said after the game. “We have to continue to get better at that stuff.”
— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) September 17, 2023
Then there were right tackle Jawaan Taylor’s pre-snap penalties. Taylor, a five-year veteran in his first season with the Chiefs, committed five penalties, becoming the most penalized player in an NFL game since 2000, according to CBS. Three of Taylor’s penalties were for false starts as he moved into his pass-protection stance early. It should be noted that the NFL rulebook says players can move as soon as the ball moves any amount and are not required to wait for the full motion of the snap.
“Mistakes happen, he’ll address it and he’ll be better for it,” right guard Trey Smith said of Taylor, who didn’t speak with reporters. “When you talk about offensive line play, it’s all predicated on getting to the spot. As a tackle with all the space, you want to get to the spot fast. He’s just being a competitor.”
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In the Chiefs’ season-opening loss to the Detroit Lions, NBC’s broadcast team pointed out how Taylor lined up too far off the line of scrimmage. As the tackle, Taylor is supposed to line up with his helmet in line with the Humprey’s waist. But on many of the Chiefs’ passing plays against the Lions, Taylor was lined up blatantly deep.
Taylor compounded his alignment and false-start issues by committing two holding penalties on the same drive in the third quarter as the Chiefs were trying to extend their eight-point lead.
“You’re going to have a lot of eyes on you when you come here, and the week before it was publicized and scrutinized,” Reid said of Taylor. “Now you put the official on red alert, and rightly so. It wasn’t like they were off on the calls.
“He’s a good player and he’s naturally quick without having to cheat. He doesn’t need to do that. He’s got to back up and start over and just slow it down. He’s plenty quick to take care of that.”
In a rare move, Reid briefly benched Taylor after his fourth penalty, replacing him with second-year tackle Prince Tega Wanogho. Taylor rejoined his teammates on the field for the start of the Chiefs’ next possession.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this before with the Chiefs, getting pulled mid drive as an OL. Let alone as a starter and the highest paid guy on the line,” former Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz wrote his X account, formerly Twitter, during the game. “I’m guessing he comes out next drive and that’s that, but I’m very surprised right now.”
Later in the game, receiver Kadarius Toney fumbled deep in Chiefs territory, resulting in a drive-killing 11-yard loss. The offense’s first successful drive was jump-started by the defense. Chris Jones, the Chiefs’ All-Pro defensive tackle, collected his first sack of the season on a fourth-down play near midfield, as he beat rookie right tackle Anton Harrison before wrapping up quarterback Trevor Lawrence in three seconds. In seven plays, Mahomes guided his teammates on a 50-yard drive that featured their no-huddle offense. Mahomes’ best pass of the half was his last, a 9-yard touchdown strike to receiver Skyy Moore.
Mahomes to Moore! @Chiefs on the board before halftime
— NFL (@NFL) September 17, 2023
When the Jaguars could’ve built a 10-point lead after Watson’s fumble, cornerback L’Jarius Sneed recovered a fumble on the next snap.
“We got great leadership, but right now hats off to the defense and the way they’re playing, keeping us in games,” Kelce said. “We love them for it. We’ve got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot on offense.”
In the middle of the fourth quarter, Kelce was open in the corner of the end zone and could’ve given the Chiefs a 12-point lead, but he had the team’s biggest drop. Before the next play started, the Chiefs moved backward 10 yards after two false-start penalties, one by Taylor and the other by left guard Joe Thuney. The Chiefs settled for a 38-yard field goal by kicker Harrison Butker.
“I was proud of the guys that they kept fighting,” Mahomes said. “You have to continue to build and build and know the process ahead. You just continue to stack wins, no matter how you get them, and try to play your best as the season goes on.”
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One of the most encouraging aspects for Reid, when he reviewed the game’s film, was how well the offense executed its final drive, a possession that took the final four minutes off the clock.
“He got back (in), we finished the game with him and we won with him,” Smith said of Taylor. “I have no worries at all. I love playing next to J.T.”
For Reid, the keys to the drive were that the Chiefs didn’t commit a penalty or turn the ball over.
The drive included Mahomes’ longest completion of the season — a 54-yard connection to Moore, who adjusted his route to become wide-open while his quarterback extended the play by scrambling to the right.
— NFL (@NFL) September 17, 2023
“Quietly, Skyy had a really good game,” Reid said of Moore, who led the team with 70 receiving yards.
Reid shared Monday that his message to his offensive players, ahead of the team’s home game against the Chicago Bears, will be simple: Stop making self-inflicted mistakes.
“I’ve got a pretty good feel of what we have, but I don’t like what we’re doing,” Reid said. “I’m not big on turnovers, and I’m not big on penalties. We’ve got too many of them right now.
“If we get those straight, you’ve got a pretty good thing going.”
(Top photo of Justin Watson fumbling: Nathan Ray Seebeck / USA Today)
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