The Chiefs' offense is more fizzle than sizzle. But their defense has kept them atop the AFC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have every reason to be enjoying their weekend off, whether that means Patrick Mahomes watching the Dallas Mavericks from courtside seats or Travis Kelce jetting to Argentina to watch Taylor Swift resume her Eras Tour.

After all, the defending Super Bowl champions are tied atop the AFC with the Baltimore Ravens. They are coming off a win over the championship-contending Miami Dolphins in Frankfurt, Germany.

And perhaps most importantly, they have done all of that over the first half of the season despite an offense that, for once, has been more fizzle than sizzle.

“It's very fixable. There's not panic. It's there for us to understand,” said Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, who returned to the role when Eric Bieniemy left in the offseason for the Washington Commanders. “We know we can be better. It is going back to the drawing board, seeing where we went wrong, not placing blame but also accepting that we have to be better.”

Imagine that: the Chiefs (7-2) needing to get better on offense rather than defense.

They've only scored more than 27 points twice, and that came against the Chargers and the hapless Chicago Bears, while what has traditionally been a high-scoring offense has been held under 20 points on three occasions. Twice those lousy performances came against the Denver Broncos, including a 19-8 loss a couple of weeks ago that snapped a 16-game series win streak.

Ever since Mahomes took over at quarterback in 2018, the Chiefs have been sixth or better in scoring and total offense. Yet they are 12th in scoring this season — thanks largely to 41 points scored against Chicago — and seventh in total offense.

Still good. But far from their usual greatness.

One of the biggest problems has been inconsistency, whether that means penalties at inopportune times, an inability to convert red-zone trips into points, or something as simple as wide receivers dropping passes that should have been caught.

“We’ve got some good things we’re doing,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, “putting up a lot of yards and so on. But getting into the endzone becomes important. Not turning the ball over. Basic fundamentals. We’ve got to take care of that.”

Their game against Miami last weekend was a perfect example.

For the first two quarters, the Chiefs looked downright unstoppable on offense. They breezed downfield on the game's opening drive, needing just seven plays and 2:57 on the clock to reach the end zone. And they added two more touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 21-0 lead over the Dolphins — currently the league's No. 1 offense — into the locker room.

They failed to score at all in the second half, the Chiefs forced to ride their defense with white knuckles to a 21-14 victory.

“I think you can see it in spurts,” Mahomes said. “You look at the first drive, the 90-yard drive we had — you can see what we can do. It is just about being consistent every single drive. Obviously penalties, me not connecting on guys deep down the field, hurt us. Luckily for us, our defense is playing their tail off and we got the win.”

Ah, yes. The defense.

They have been good enough to help the Chiefs win two Lombardi Trophies over the past four seasons, but rarely have they been excellent. In fact, in six seasons since Mahomes became the starter, they have never been in the top 10 in total defense, and one year they were the second-worst team in the league. Never have they been better than seventh in points allowed, either.

This year? They are second in the league in scoring defense and fourth in total defense.

“I knew they were going to be good," Mahomes said. “You look at the end of last year, they played some great football and no one really noticed. I knew they were going to be good. They brought back so many people — so many young guys that they were going to develop. I mean, the fact they’re all developing this fast, I don’t know if anyone could have guessed it. I knew they were going to be great as their careers went on. Good to have a lot of young guys that can play like that.”

They haven't even had everyone on the field yet. Just as the Chiefs got pass rusher Charles Omenihu back from a suspension, they lost playmaking linebacker Nick Bolton to a wrist injury that could keep him out the rest of the regular season.

Perhaps by the postseason, the Chiefs' offense won't need to rely on the defense quite so much.