3 takeaways from Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals
Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season is in the books. The Kansas City Chiefs traveled to face the Arizona Cardinals. The Chiefs came out with a slam dunk victory, beating the Cardinals 44-21.
Here are three takeaways from the Cardinals versus Chiefs game:
#1. The Chiefs offense looked fine without Tyreek Hill
There’s really not much to say about Kansas City’s 2022 debut, other than referring you to the stat sheet. Patrick Mahomes played like a man on a mission, throwing for 334 yards and five touchdowns through the first 41 minutes of play. This to put his team up 37-7. The wildest statistic, however, is that of their 66 total plays, they gained 33 first downs. The Chiefs basically ran whatever they wanted.
They were able to spread the defense out, with Mahomes averaging 13 air yards per attempt out of empty (four yards more than any other QB in the league last season) but then they also ran 13 or 22 personnel on over 40% of snaps on Sunday (four times of what they averaged in 2021). They went under center and got going downhill in the run game, which is where Clyde Edwards-Helaire excels (rather than making him work laterally out of the shotgun constantly) and he looked more dynamic than he ever has since coming into the league. He burst through the line of scrimmage with a great sense of urgency and was a joy to watch.
Off that, they ran more traditional play-action, along with RPOs and some quick game. While having Tyreek Hill probably wouldn’t have hurt, we saw Mahomes spread the ball around a lot more, with six players catching at least three (of 39) passes. I loved seeing more complexity in play-design and some of the little wrinkles they added to the run game especially.
#2. Without any pass-rush and this kind of corner play, it’s going to be a long year for the Cardinals defense
Looking back at the Cardinals’ success on defense over the last couple of years (while I did like some of the pressure looks by Vance Joseph and think he’s largely maximized the pieces he’s had), I always felt like the numbers may not be sustainable. They finished tenth and sixth respectively in defensive DVOA in 2020 and 2021, with the fourth-highest blitz rate league-wide in both of those years. Considering their “luck” in loose-ball situations and their pressure rates without sending a fifth defender, I expected regression.
However, with Chandler Jones gone and J.J. Watt out for this game, nobody could provide any legitimate pressure. The numbers may suggest otherwise, because they blitzed Mahomes on a mind-blowing 68.3% of dropbacks, but they didn’t get any sacks on him and hit him just six times. As guessed before the season started, their collection of inexperienced players in the secondary is really hurting them, particularly with their tendency to send extra bodies on the rush.
I know coverage numbers can be deceiving at times, but out of the nine defenders in the back-seven that played at least 20% of snaps, all but two of them surrendered a passer rating of between 95.8 and 158.3 (perfect) – and those other two weren’t much better.
#3. This was a complete coaching mismatch
Since we were just talking about them, let’s look at the Cardinals defense against Kansas City’s offense here first. In the middle of last season, Patrick Mahomes had by far the worst eight-game stretch of his career. Everyone countered the Chiefs’ explosive aerial attack by sitting back in soft coverage shells and forcing the superstar quarterback to surgically pick them apart. Mahomes was blitzed on just 14.8% of dropbacks (the lowest mark since PFF started tracking this in 2010) and he faced two-high coverages on over 40% in all but two games (their season series with the Raiders).
On Sunday at Arizona, however, the Cardinals brought extra pressure on a stupendous 68.3% and the results speak for themselves, looking at how they got shredded. Flipping things over to Arizona’s offense, outside of their one touchdown drive (when they got the ball for the second time on the day), they didn’t run more than five plays on any other possession until the fourth quarter, when they embellished the final score in garbage time.
The play-calling looked unimaginative. The two running backs who handled carries gained just 54 rushing yards on 14 attempts and averaged a miniscule 4.4 yards per pass attempt as a team. The Kansas City defense pressured Kyler Murray on over 70% of dropbacks, despite finishing tied for 13th in blitz rate. As long as DeAndre Hopkins isn’t there as the backside alert, they have to create more schematic wins offensively.
Check out my piece on the full Week 1 slate at halilsrealfootballtalk.com !
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