This Chiefs Team Is A Far Cry From The Team That Suited Up In Week Five

January 20, 2022

The Chiefs will take on the Buffalo Bills in the Divisional round of the playoffs. However, this Chiefs team will look completely different than the one that took the field in October.

The Kansas City Chiefs have had quite a different season than they had had in 2020. Last year, this team didn’t have any revenge games in the playoffs. They only lost one game the entire season (two if you count the backups losing in Week 17). They played Buffalo in the regular season and the playoffs last season and dominated on both occasions.

Sure, the media still wanted to paint this picture that the Bills were going to stop Kansas City. It was all just wishful thinking, though. In the end, the Chiefs went on to their second straight Super Bowl appearance, and Stephon Diggs was left watching the celebration.

This Chiefs team stumbled out of the gate. They lost four of their first seven games, including a Week Five collapse against the fore-mentioned Buffalo Bills. In that game, Patrick Mahomes and the offense committed four turnovers. Two of those turnovers were a pick-six and another interception at the Buffalo eight-yard line. Turnovers were a big issue for the Chiefs early on in the season.

After the 3-4 start, the Chiefs were minus-10 in turnover differential, and Mahomes had already had nine interceptions. Since then, the Chiefs are now plus-5 in turnover differential, and Mahomes only had four interceptions. It’s no coincidence that they went 9-1 over that span.

So offensively, the big difference between the current Chiefs team and the one from Week Five is ball security. However, the biggest changes are on the other side of the ball. Defensively, the Chiefs will look a lot different than it did the last time they faced the Bills. For starters, defensive tackle Chris Jones was out for this game. He is arguably the best player on the defense. Plus, he has come on strong since the coaching staff decided to move him back to the inside.

Another critical piece to the defensive line that was missing is defensive end Melvin Ingram. The Chiefs made a mid-season trade to acquire Ingram back in November. He has been instrumental in the defensive turnaround this season. The defense was also without Charvarius Ward at the cornerback position. According to Pro Football Reference, Ward ranks seventh among cornerbacks in completion percentage, with 39 completions allowed on 76 targets.

Some key players were not fully acclimated to the defense yet. Linebacker Willie Gay Jr. and Safety Juan Thornhill did not start in this game. They didn’t even see half of the team’s snaps. Gay was returning from injury, so he wasn’t 100 percent. Thornhill, however, had been seeing Daniel Sorensen start in his place. In fact, Sorensen played in every defensive snap in that game. He gave up two receptions on three targets for 114 yards and one touchdown.

Thornhill is now the starter. He played in all but one snap in the Wild Card game against the Steelers. Willie Gay Jr. is back in the fold as well. He has played in over 50 percent of the snaps in every game since Week Seven. He played less in the Wild Card game, but that could be because the route was on early. Gay Jr. should be a pivotal piece against Buffalo and could be a spy against the legs of Josh Allen.

I’m hoping that the Bills think they are getting the same team from October. I’m sure they are smarter than that, though. It might not matter. The last time the Chiefs lost to the same team in a season was against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. That was Mahomes’ first year as a starter. The Chiefs won the Super Bowl two years ago by beating teams that beat them in the regular season. Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes will be ready to do it again.