Why Patrick Mahomes injury news won’t ruin Chiefs’ season — and 6 reasons it could help, too

first_img No Patrick Mahomes will make Andy Reid stick with the running gameReid has a tendency to stray away from the rushing attack and get too pass-happy at times. Whether it was the low-scoring slugfest with the Colts or the blown big first-quarter lead against the Texans, the disappearance of the run was a key factor in losing both games. The Chiefs ended up running 27 times vs. 31 dropbacks combined between Mahomes and Moore against the Broncos. Sure, the volume going up was partly because the Chiefs played with a big lead and ran often in the fourth quarter. But they also came out running well early with LeSean McCoy, which helped facilitate the passing game.The 27 attempts added to only 80 yards, but given how many chunk plays the Chiefs can get in the passing game, just sticking with the run keeps defenses honest with their coverage and blitz packages. Although they went into an offensive shell at first with Moore, perhaps shellshocked by Mahomes going down, eventually the running and short passing set up the game-clinching home-run TD to wide receiver Tyreek Hill.The Chiefs were getting too reliant on a banged-up Mahomes to bail them out down after down with his arm. This forces an adjustment toward a semblance of balance, which can be something ingrained into Reid and his offensive coaching staff to maintain when Mahomes returns to make them more versatile and explosive.MORE: Projecting Patrick Mahomes’ NBA-like contract with ChiefsNo Patrick Mahomes will make the Chiefs trust their system more with Matt MooreThe Chiefs have one of the NFL’s premier offensive systems. We’ve seen how much this helps lift a quarterback with the quasi-related schemes of the Colts and Eagles, and to some degree, this year’s Jaguars.Jacoby Brissett is looking good for Frank Reich taking over Andrew Luck, and we all know what Nick Foles did for Doug Pederson the past two years. Then there’s how rookie Gardner Minshew is executing in place of Foles under John DeFilippo.Mahomes has taken Reid’s offense to another level with his jaw-dropping improvisation. We’ve also seen how high of a floor it has with a QB staying more within the system as it produced a late career-best passing season for Alex Smith.The Chiefs can have a lot of success sticking with the script. Mahomes’ freelancing is a lot of fun to watch and, although he keeps delivering when there’s a high degree of difficulty to overcome broken plays, Kansas City had been a little off making the plays that were well designed for the taking. The Chiefs can now refocus on streamlining their offense for Moore without reigning him in, and carry that through for Mahomes’ return.WEEK 7 NFL PICKS: Straight up | Against the spreadNo Patrick Mahomes will make the Chiefs dig deep on defenseThe Chiefs’ defense found a gear absent for much of 2019 under new 4-3 coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, exploding for eight sacks against Joe Flacco and the Broncos. Defensive end Frank Clark hinted at it during his postgame comments with Erin Andrews — seeing Mahomes go down lit a fire in a much-maligned group that was missing its most disruptive player, tackle Chris Jones.Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins are coming to town next week, and there are battles the Chiefs can win up front and both teams have limitations in the receiving corps. Before Denver, Kansas City’s defense seemed to be going through the motions with no answers against run or pass in sight. Now there’s a spark that can lead the Chiefs to containing and executing with well-timed sacks and takeaways.Look at what’s happened for the Saints without Drew Brees. Their pass defense was looking terrible again, but then it stepped up big time with big plays to cool off the Seahawks in Week 4 and the Cowboys in Week 5. That momentum carried over to the Buccaneers and Jaguars games, too and suddenly the Saints are 4-0 while Brees heals, mainly because of defense.Defense is yet another area where complacency will lessen and players can respond to having more of the winning burden without Mahomes.MORE: How real is the Madden Curse?Patrick Mahomes will return to a healthier offensive lineMahomes benefited from steady and stable line play all last season. That hasn’t been the case this season, especially since left tackle Eric Fisher injured his groin in Week 2 and remains on the shelf. In Week 5, left guard Andrew Wylie also hurt his ankle, causing him to miss the Texans and Broncos games.Fisher’s recovery window puts him on track to return as early as next week for the Packers, and Wylie wasn’t expected to miss too much time. So while Mahomes couldn’t buy as much extra time as usual on his bad ankle, he also didn’t have the same high level of pass protection in the pocket with Fisher not watching his blindside.The Chiefs’ line has been missing cohesiveness, so while Mahomes is gone, it can re-set and jell without forcing Cam Erving or Martinas Rankin into key roles. The Chiefs will be better equipped to keep Mahomes upright and healthy when he gets back.Patrick Mahomes will still be at his best for the PatriotsThe NFL scheduling gods did give the Chiefs a break with Mahomes’ injury, too. OK, so we won’t get Mahomes vs. Rodgers next week, but we still will get Mahomes vs. Tom Brady in Week 14, two weeks removed from that bye. Before the Patriots, the key is at least splitting with the Packers and Vikings at home, then take care of the struggling Titans and Chargers. The Raiders present a great tuneup game for Mahomes post-bye at home in Week 13.The Chiefs already beat the Ravens, and despite the losses to the Colts and Texans, they should end up finishing ahead of the AFC South winner in the standings. There’s absolutely no danger at 5-2 to lose the suddenly weakened AFC West, especially with a road win against the Raiders in hand. Despite the early optimism that the window won’t extend beyond that, with the team having a bye in Week 12, keeping him out a little more than a month would seem to be a more prudent approach.NFL QB POWER RANKINGS:Russell Wilson takes over No. 1 after Patrick Mahomes injuryThe Chiefs know they won’t have Mahomes for upcoming consecutive games at home against strong NFC North opponents, the Packers on Sunday night in Week 8 and the Vikings in Week 9. Then it’s two very winnable road games — at the Titans and at the Chargers — regardless of whether Mahomes plays.There’s a natural big talent dropoff to 35-year-old journeyman Matt Moore, as the Chiefs can’t expect to have the same kind of dynamic downfield passing with Moore starting. But Mahomes’ relatively minor blemish and his short-term absence is overall a blessing in disguise to Kansas City’s long-term AFC playoff aspirations.Although the Chiefs won’t be better for a bit, here are six reasons why they will come out stronger from Mahomes’ injuryPatrick Mahomes will get a real chance to let his ‘other’ injury healMahomes already was compromised health-wise going into the Broncos matchup. He was playing through a nagging ankle injury that limited his mobility, and therefore limited his ability to make his dazzling athletic pass plays off script. Ideally, he would have not hurt his knee, too, and would have had the “mini-bye” coming off a Thursday game to accelerate getting closer to 100 percent.But as Mahomes recovers from a knee injury through which he can’t play, he gets a much longer stretch to nurse his ankle to full strength, which is critical to having him operate like he should. In 2016, the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson also had an early-season ankle injury. Although he played in all 16 games, per usual, his scrambling became a non-factor and it was by far his least-efficient passing season in the NFL.The endgame is making sure Mahomes is fully loaded with his immense physical tools come December, January and, hopefully for the Chiefs, February. The Chiefs now know he’ll be completely good for the season’s final stretch. The AFC overall has few good teams, and the Chiefs still are the distant second-best team to the Patriots, with or without Mahomes. His absence will make them work to become a stronger, more complete team so they’re better positioned to contend for the AFC championship.Everything still comes down to getting over and past New England for Kansas City. Should the Chiefs lose little to no ground without Mahomes, that’s the game they must win to have another shot at home-field advantage in the playoffs.The Mahomes and the team we saw before Week 7 weren’t looking like they could get that done seven weeks later. The fact Mahomes will be back at the ideal time when it all counts the most is the biggest blessing of them all.center_img Chiefs fans feared the worst after quarterback Patrick Mahomes suffered a knee injury on a quarterback sneak that knocked him out in the first half of Thursday night’s eventual 30-6 win over the Broncos. Those fears were alleviated only a little by a Friday MRI that confirmed only a dislocated kneecap — and not a season-ending break or tear.It still means Kansas City will be without the reigning NFL MVP for at least three weeks. last_img

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