KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s hard to know for sure what Kansas Chiefs team will show up Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium against the New York Jets.
Will it be the team who rolled through 11-straight wins at the end of last season? The comeback kids who fought to rally against San Diego? Or the team that misfired on all fronts last week against Houston?
All three possibilities are certainly on the table. The Jets bring one of the league’s most efficient offenses to Kansas City, and a defense with a strong front seven on defense.
Coach Andy Reid says the Chiefs know what to expect from the Jets.
“Our guys know what’s coming here,” Reid said. “They know it’s an explosive team, both sides of the ball with the Jets.”
But what do the Chiefs expect from themselves this week?
There appeared less talk about starting fast this week and more about playing fundamentally sound and with more emotion. Both those elements seemed missing in Houston last week, so the Chiefs may be on the right track.
1. The Jekyll & Hyde passing offense
The Chiefs offense looked as beautiful at the end of the San Diego game as it looked hideous the rest of the season thus far.
Here’s a breakdown of the two faces of Alex Smith through two games:
During final 21 minutes and overtime against San Diego: 24-of-32 passing, 75 percent completion rate, 252 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, no sacks, 138.2 passer rating
Other 99 minutes of the season: 30-of-53 passing, 57 percent completion rate, 297 yards, no touchdowns, one interception, seven sacks, 64.7 passer rating
Nothing can dress up those numbers.
The Chiefs firmly believe the real version of their passing offense is closer to the work of art against the Chargers. The Chiefs expounded on many theories this week — lack of execution, poor communication and bad luck, among others. The most likely explanation is a bit of everything.
Against a Jets offense that can move the ball, the press rests on Smith and the offense to do the same, preferably before the team shoots itself in the foot, as Reid would say.
2. Defensive sub packages
The Jets spend most of their time in multiple wide receiver sets — no team in the NFL uses four-wideout formations as much as the Jets do. Add in Matt Forte as a threat from the backfield, and the Chiefs expect to spend a lot of time in nickel and dime formations.
The Chiefs already spend much of their time in sub packages as it is, with cornerback Steven Nelson coming in as an extra corner or safety Daniel Sorensen playing a run-stopping role. That package may expand this week as the Chiefs face the challenge of defending more receivers than normal.
“They can spread you out and do a good job running the ball,” Sutton said. “It’s very similar to the three-wide sets, in the sense that the tight end, in many offenses, is a big wideout.”
With Philip Gaines limited in practice Friday and listed as questionable, that may lead to more snaps for rookie defensive back Eric Murray.
“We’ve had to come up with a lot of stuff to counteract those four wide receiver, five wide receiver sets,” Murray said. “It’s not unusual, but it’s hard to deal with. I think we’ve got enough DBs to handle what they do.”
Sorenson said the Jets have a physical receiving corps for the Chiefs to match up against.
They’re big bodies, they’re physical and they can go up and catch the ball,” Sorensen explained. “Just staying disciplined, having good eyes and not getting beat on double moves. Playing tight coverage like we always do.”
3. The revenge of Revis Island
The latest “hot take” holds that Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, once the most shutdown of shutdown corners, remains a shell of his former self after a rough start to the season.
That’s not a commonly shared opinion among this teammates and opponents, including Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.
“I think a lot of that’s been overblown,” he said. “I know there’s been two deep balls caught on him — one I’m not sure if you can totally put on him. That’s not what the media sees so some of it’s a little overblown.”
Jets coach Todd Bowles said teams have simply made good plays against Revis.
“Anytime you get run past, it’s physical,” Bowles said “One was of them was busted coverage, and the other, the guy was just fast. He ran by him, made a great play and he had his eyes in the backfield too long.”
4. The Marcus Peters experience
Peters had a roller coaster game against Houston, posting two interceptions and four passes defended while flagged for two penalties.
Yet add the pluses and minuses and metrics such as the ratings by Pro Football Focus say Peters had one of the team’s best performances.
Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has no interest in reining in Peters’ passionate play.
“Marcus is an intense competitor, and that’s one of the reasons that he’s played so well in the National Football League,” Sutton said. “I don’t think you ever want to take that away from him.”
Linebacker Derrick Johnson loves the fire Peters brings to the defense.
“He’s my kind of guy,” Johnson said. “He’s an emotional player. That’s the pros and cons of being an emotional player. But Marcus Peters is going to help us win the games. I’m all-in with what that guy does on the outside.”
Peters is still learning on the job, with just 18 career games under his belt. Sutton says Peters does not do everything right. He’s still learning to play with emotions while not allowing them to get the best of him.
“I mean I’m just being honest, that’s hard when you’re that kind of individual,” Sutton said. “When I’m competitive, and I’m fired up and that, it’s just a challenge. He’s just got to learn to do that.”
Sutton also says Peters needs to play with more consistency.
“Anytime you’re playing like we do, and you’re sitting out there by yourself, there’s going to be times guys catch passes on us, and we understand that,” Sutton said. “But at the same time, we can’t give up those long ones and that’s what you’ve got to battle with.”
5. Cairo Santos gets 54 … now he wants 59
Cairo Santos recorded a new-career best 54-yard field goal on Wednesday — yes, Wednesday.
His field goal to open the second quarter against Houston initially appeared in the box score as a 53-yard field, even though the video evidence indicated the kick came from the 44-yard line.
On Wednesday, after an appeal from the Chiefs, the distance officially changed to 54 yards.
Special teams coordinator Dave Toub is happy for his kicker.
“We knew it was 54 yards when he kicked it,” Toub said. It came out that it was a 53-yarder and our people did a good job of checking on it and getting it changed to 54 yards, which it should have been.”
Now that Santos has a new career-long, he has his target on 59 yards. Nick Lowery holds the mark for longest field in team history with two successful kicks from 58 yards.
“If I get the opportunity, I’ll be right next to coach Reid telling him, ‘Let me kick it,'” Santos joked. “I’ll get it there.”