The Chiefs’ second regular season game in 2023 was characterized by four overarching observations.
TIAA Bank Field was the site of a Week 2 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars.
After a low-scoring first half that saw them go into the locker room with a slim 7-6 lead, Andy Reid’s group came out of the break and doubled its scoring output in one drive. However, both offenses struggled from there on out, which ended with a scoreless third frame. Jacksonville scored a field goal early in the fourth quarter to put pressure on Kansas City, but in the end, Kansas City did enough to win 17-9.
Four takeaways from Sunday’s game.
The defense of Steve Spagnuolo was strong once again
A week ago, the Chiefs’ defense was without its best player and managed to surrender just 14 points to a potent Detroit Lions offense. With another tough test on the schedule this week, Steve Spagnuolo’s unit was expected to take some sort of step back, but instead put together yet another stellar performance fueled by pass rush production, quality linebacker play and solid secondary work.
The Chiefs’ defense had an impressive first half, surrendering only 3.8 yards per play and successfully forcing the Jaguars to go 2-for-7 on third down and 0-for-1 on fourth downs. Trevor Lawrence managed a meager 101 yards in passing with 20 attempts, and Jacksonville’s running backs averaged a feeble 3.4 yards per carry. Despite some penalties from the cornerbacks and safeties putting them in less than ideal positions, the defense proved up to the challenge; limiting this offense to only nine points at home is an extraordinary accomplishment.
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The return of Travis Kelce and Chris Jones helped a lot
There’s no doubt that the home team would’ve won if either Travis Kelce or Chris Jones were on the field for the Chiefs’ first game of the year. There was a lot to be said about Kelce’s return from a bone bruise, as well as Jones’ return from his contract holdout, as the final margin was so close. In Week 2, both players were expected to help the Chiefs get over the top, and they did.
Kelce didn’t post the usual numbers for a star tight end, managing only four receptions for 26 yards despite being targeted nine times. That opening drive score was a huge boost, however, and Jones followed suit in his 2023 debut- recording a sack and heaping on more pressure. Both of them making life easier for their colleagues greatly contributed to the victory.
Moving forward, Kansas City needs to play smarter football
Kansas City must strive to find a balance between running and passing the ball. Just four rushes in the first half, two of which were designed, won’t secure victory. The Chiefs experienced success when they devoted time to Isiah Pacheco; this could be an example for them going forward. Executing more runs would take some strain off Patrick Mahomes and prevent the opposing defense from reading plays accurately; a better equilibrium will ensure smoother sailing for the remainder of the season.
The Chiefs had several issues against penalties in the game. Formation alignment, holding, false starts and unsportsmanlike conduct were called on multiple players, while Derrick Nnadi was docked for a neutral zone infraction, and L’Jarius Sneed and Justin Reid got too physical in the secondary. Such errors can have a detrimental effect on future outcomes if the team doesn’t improve quickly.
There was a significant decline in offensive tackles
Let’s dig deeper into the offensive tackle play. The Chiefs’ new bookends Donovan Smith and Jawaan Taylor had some less-than-stellar moments in Week 1, but overall they gave a positive impression. The players in Jacksonville on Sunday looked overmatched and out of sync all afternoon long, taking significant steps back.
Smith’s play saw questions raised about his ability to protect Mahomes for the second straight week. Taylor, meanwhile, endured one of the worst performances of his career against his former team; he was called out by referees on multiple occasions and even seemed to be benched briefly during the game. Fortunately for the Chiefs, their tackles’ poor form did not end up deciding the game – though better displays are needed from either side of Mahomes’ line.