Sam Mellinger

Chiefs 38, 49ers 27: Insta-reaction!

Chiefs head to locker room after home opener win over 49ers

The Kansas City Chiefs head to the locker room after 38-27 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the home opener at Arrowhead Stadium.
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The Kansas City Chiefs head to the locker room after 38-27 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the home opener at Arrowhead Stadium.

Well, obviously I’m going to write about that play. That ridiculous, absurd, magician, unfair, disrespectful play.

The words are coming, probably about a thousand of them, and hopefully you’ll forgive me for stopping here and saving most of it so I can get more perspectives and voices from the singularly most impressive moment of Patrick Mahomes’ career with the Chiefs so far.

For now, this is basically what it’s supposed to look like, right? Or, at least, what it was supposed to look like in the best possible scenario?

Five touchdowns on five possessions by four different players — and that was just in the first half.

The Chiefs had one of the great offenses in football last year. They were sixth in the league in scoring, and the first NFL team to have a receiver, tight end, and running back each go over 1,000 yards.

That team broke 30 points just twice. This team has done it each of the first three games.

There are a lot of ways to describe how next-level this offense has been, including the fact that either the league’s leading rusher or a receiver making a million per game is the team’s No. 4 option, but here’s my favorite:

Sure as shoot looks like Andy Reid has so many plays he knows will work that he is choosing them based on which player needs a pick-me-up at which moment.

In the opener against the Chargers, the goal-line stuff was called in a way that put Mahomes in position for a rushing or passing touchdown.

In the second game against the Steelers, they fed Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins both early and often.

And in the third game against the 49ers, they gave Kareem Hunt two easy 1-yard touchdown runs on the first two possessions.

In each case, whether deliberate or not, the success provided benefits beyond points — Mahomes’ confidence in the opener, Kelce and Watkins hadn’t been involved much, and Hunt had been shut out.

It won’t always look like this. Won’t always be this easy. At some point, the Chiefs will play from behind, or Mahomes will have a bad day, or a defensive coordinator will try something innovative — my advice would be to convince the OC to grind out the clock, and overwhelm the Chiefs’ line with pass rushers.

But, you guys, this is three times it’s looked like this in three opportunities.

This is the new normal, as bat-spit crazy as that feels for anyone who’s watched the franchise over the years.

OK, on with it. As always, please check back soon for the game column. It will have voices and perspectives and coherent sentences that aren’t always available instantly.

*The Chiefs’ offense is better than the defense is bad, at least so far, but you can see where the defense is going to be a problem. The offense goes touchdown-touchdown-touchdown-touchdown-touchdown on its first five possessions, but even with some certainty about what’s coming the defense is overmatched enough to give up 17 consecutive point.

*So, this week’s edition of Pat Mahomes Can Actually Be Even Better is that he wasn’t awesome with deep passes.

The most obvious was an underthrow to Tyreek Hill, who had beaten Richard Sherman’s Achilles heels by a few steps deep. The ball just hung a bit in the air, and Sherman recovered, at least enough to get away with the same subtle, split-second pass-interference play he’s been getting away with for years.

There were others, too. One to Conley. One to Watkins. Maybe this is nitpicking and, actually, that’s not accurate. OF COURSE this is nitpicking. It’s just, well, it’s two things. He missed on two possible long touchdown passes last week in Pittsburgh, and he’s been virtually perfect in every other way so the misses stick out.

*Dee Ford had a sack, and I tried to warn you.

Someone will probably pay him too much money this offseason, but for now, Ford’s best is so desperately needed. Justin Houston has been better each week — ineffective against the Chargers, better against the Steelers, and difference making against the 49ers — and if Ford can match with a consistent threat from the other side the Chiefs have their best chance at fielding an NFL defense.

Ford truly is set up well for a career year. He’s stronger, better technically, motivated by a contract year, and is likely to have a lot of obvious passing situations to take big swings.

You can pick apart a lot about the Chiefs’ defense. They need to get better everywhere, basically, but a lot of the problems are easier to manage if they can get more of a pass rush.

Consistent wins from Houston today are really encouraging. So, too, are the threats from Ford.

*The easiest way to beat the Chiefs right now is to isolate the linebackers in coverage.

This is not to say it’s the only way, but if you’re looking for an easy 12 or so, get your running back or tight end one-on-one with Anthony Hitchens or Reggie Ragland.

This a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing with the Chiefs, because with the large free agent contract for Hitchens they’ve committed themselves to keeping two linebackers in most sub packages. That helps against the run — “We gonna stop that run,” Hitchens memorably said — but also means the offense has two marks with the intermediate stuff.

At some point, this defense is going to gag away a lead, particularly if the Chiefs continue to go conservative when the get up.

Again, some of this would be squashed if the Chiefs had more of a pass rush, but come on, you people have Patrick Mahomes to cheer for you can’t have everything.

*One last thought, at least for the moment. The Chiefs now begin what is probably their most difficult three-game stretch — at Denver on Monday night, home against Jacksonville on Oct. 7, and at New England on the the night of Oct. 14. The defense and especially the offense will be tested in new ways.

We’ll talk about this more as we go on, but that game in New England is particularly tough. The Patriots will be coming off three relatively easy games, including a half-bye week after playing the Thursday before. That’s a lot of time for Bill Belichick.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go into the locker room and ask everyone I see some form of, “Remember that play, where Mahomes was scrambling around like Tecmo Bo, and then threw the touchdown to Conley in the back of the end zone? That was awesome.”

Sam Mellinger

Sam Mellinger is a Kansas City Star sports columnist.

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