The Kansas City Chiefs have emerged from the cellar, but it’s not because of their offense. Patrick Mahomes and company are still not firing on all cylinders. With the defense playing much better, Kansas City needs more from its offense. Mecole Hardman’s performance in 2021 has been a head-scratcher. He’s a playmaker by nature but has made very few plays. The Chiefs need more from the second-rounder.
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense are still a work in progress
Since the start of the 2021 NFL season, something’s been off about the Kansas City Chiefs.
Since 2017, Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy’s offense has perennially been a top 10 unit in the league. However, the current offense hasn’t been nearly as dominant as in years past.
The Chiefs rank No. 14 in team offense right now, averaging 25.2 points and 391 yards per game. Currently, Kansas City is in the middle of the pack. However, they could be playing better, given the talent on the roster.
Patrick Mahomes struggled early in the season, making mental mistakes that led to costly turnovers. The 3-time Pro Bowler appeared to be trying to do way too much. With the defense playing badly, Mahomes often looked like he was playing hero ball.
The Week 10 blowout victory over the Las Vegas Raiders seemed to be a turnaround point for the Chiefs. Mahomes lit the Raiders’ defense up for 406 yards and five touchdowns en route to a 41-14 win on Sunday Night Football.
The Las Vegas game looks more like an outlier now. Mahomes has thrown zero touchdowns and two interceptions in the last two games combined.
Given how shaky the entire offense looks currently, Kansas City is lucky to be on a five-game winning streak.
Mecole Hardman’s role has decreased
Patrick Mahomes isn’t the only player on the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense who hasn’t played up to expectations in 2021. What’s going on with Mecole Hardman?
With Sammy Watkins leaving to join the Baltimore Ravens, the door opened for Hardman to step into the No. 2 wide receiver role. However, he’s struggled to find success, similar to the rest of the offense.
Hardman, a 2019 second-rounder, hasn’t enjoyed the production Andy Reid had hoped for in 2021. He’s caught 43 passes for 436 yards and one touchdown in 12 games. His 60 targets rank third on the team behind Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, but he hasn’t made much of his opportunities.
The former Georgia Bulldogs standout is a sub-4.4 40-yard dash guy. He used his speed to take the top off of defenses in college.With Reid and Bieniemy calling plays, that should be Hardman’s role in Kansas City, too. He combined for 10 touchdowns in his first two seasons, but he’s barely made any big plays in 2021.
The 23-year-old wideout is in his third season with the team, but he has yet to carve out a sustained role in this offense.
Hardman saw just nine snaps (16%) in the Sunday Night Football game against the Denver Broncos. In the previous game, he played only 12 snaps (18%). His snap counts continue to dip, which is alarming.
A player of Hardman’s skill set should thrive in this system. That just speaks to the ineptitude of the entire Chiefs offense right now.
Kansas City’s defense has picked up the slack
While the Kansas City Chiefs are the winners of five straight, it’s not because of Patrick Mahomes and the offense. Instead, the defense has finally flipped the switch.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had a rough go of it in the first half of the 2021 season. His defense was the primary reason the Chiefs were losing games. The offense was far from perfect, but the defense couldn’t stop a cold.
Kansas City’s opponents averaged 29 points through the first seven weeks. Opposing offenses had their way with the underachieving defense. The unit didn’t strike fear in anyone.
Spagnuolo’s guys have been playing lights out lately, though. Since Week 8, the Chiefs have allowed just 11.2 points per game.
With a prideful bunch that includes Tyrann Mathieu, Chris Jones, and Frank Clark, it’s no surprise that Kansas City is playing better. However, the second half compared to the first is like night and day.
The offense has continued to struggle, putting more pressure on the defense to win them games. It feels weird saying that, considering how dominant the Chiefs have been offensively in recent years.
Even though Kansas City’s defense is playing out of its mind, if Patrick Mahomes, Mecole Hardman, and the offense don’t get going, the Super Bowl is still a reach.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.