A Super Bowl rematch.
Maybe a Super Bowl preview even.
But it’s become quite apparent: The Chiefs have work to do in order to get back there.
Actually, it’s the Chiefs’ offense with work to do to get back there.
The defense held up its end of the bargain, but the Philadelphia Eagles escaped GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium with a 21-17 win against the Chiefs on Monday Night Football.
Lots to discuss.
Here are five observations from immediately after the game:
1. This Chiefs offense just ain’t the same
There are plenty of reasons the offense headlines the responsibly party here — Travis Kelce fumbled; Patrick Mahomes threw a bad interception; and both those plays came in the red zone. Justin Watson dropped a third-down pass in the fourth quarter. Marquez Valdes-Scantling couldn’t secure what would’ve been a go-ahead touchdown.
So it’s not just one glaring problem.
But isn’t that worse?
We’ve reached a point — past a point — in which the history of this season has to trump the history of the past seasons. This might just be who the Chiefs are. This probably is just who the Chiefs are.
They were shut out in the second half for the third straight game. Heck, they have scored one fourth-quarter touchdown all season.
The Chiefs did turn the ball over twice inside the red zone, so you might argue the scoreboard is a bit misleading.
But I’d counter with this: The Chiefs were held under 5.25 yards per play for the fifth time this season.
Why did I pick out that number? Because that was the Chiefs’ low mark in all of 2022.
They’ve fallen below it five times. In 10 weeks.
2. The deep shot
Just how strange is this season in a vacuum?
Well, the Chiefs have one of the NFL’s worst downfield passing games. I have to repeat that for emphasis: The offense with Patrick Mahomes completes the deep ball about as poorly as any team in football.
And it grew worse.
The Chiefs were 0-for-4 on passes that traveled 20 yards past the line of scrimmage, making Mahomes just 12-for-40 on such throws this season.
And the last incompletion is really going to sting. Because as bad as the Chiefs were in the second half, they still had the go-ahead touchdown in the hands of Marquez Valdes-Scantling with less than two minutes to play — a beautiful ball from Mahomes that should’ve resulted in a 51-yard score.
Except it was dropped.
A perfect pass.
A more perfect ending.
3. Kardarius Toney needs more PT
You heard me say this during the bye week: The Chiefs needed to spend the layoff accessing their personnel as much as their scheme.
And they made at least one adjustment: Kadarius Toney is back.
They sprinkled him back into the game plan — as a receiver, as an occasional member of the backfield and then as a punt returner after a hand injury to Mecole Hardman.
He’s different than any other option the Chiefs have, a unique athlete with tremendous balance, which makes him harder to bring down than his slight frame would have you believe.
A struggling offense could use more of him.
And I’ll never understand how Richie James, Montrell Washington and Mecole Hardman beat out Toney as a punt returner.
There was a reason they determined in the offseason that Toney could be their No. 1 option, and they need to figure out how to get those qualities out of him.
It starts, believe it or not, with more playing time. The Chiefs don’t have enough playmakers to leave Toney on the sideline.
4. A familiar touchdown
There was one highlight for the offense. You might have recognized the Chiefs’ first touchdown.
Or at least the action before the snap.
Why? The Chiefs ran it for Skyy Moore’s go-ahead score against the Eagles in the Super Bowl.
A different option provided this touchdown, and it looked as though that might’ve been the plan. Jerick McKinnon played the Moore role — the fake motion, only to revert back — that got the Eagles twice in February. The Eagles were expectedly ready, but the safety’s attention to McKinnon sprung up Justin Watson on a long drag behind him.
For a different reason.
5. The next step for Trent McDuffie.
We’re reaching what-can’t-Trent-McDuffie-do territory.
And the list is short.
The Chiefs probably would’ve been satisfied if McDuffie had simply developed as a cover guy this season. He is a cornerback, after all. That tends to be the leading item in the job description.
He’s been more.
McDuffie leads the NFL — the entire league — with five forced fumbles this season after prying the ball loose from quarterback Jalen Hurts on a sack. Yes, a sack. McDuffie had two of them, one as an immediate blitzer and one as a late arriver on a zone pressure.
How unusual is it for a cornerback to be atop the forced fumbles? Well, the four players with four of them are all edge rushers.