Before the 2021 NFL season, the Chiefs were 10-0 in September. Three games into September this year, however, the Chiefs are 1-2. What is the cause for the sudden and unexpected drop in September?
The defense is the unit getting the blame for the Chiefs’ early season losses. How different are they from past seasons, though? Over the past three seasons, when Patrick Mahomes took over for the offense, through the first three games the defense has given up an average of 23.9 points per game. In 2021, the defense has given up 31.6 points per game. That’s a touchdown difference per game which is significant given the Chiefs’ two losses this season have been by less than a touchdown.
Yardage-wise, in the previous three seasons’ first three games, the defense was giving up 274.4 passing yards and 122.3 rushing yards per game. Through three games in 2021, the defense is giving up 269.6 passing yards and 160.3 rushing yards. The defense is playing better against the pass by just five yards but they are nearly 40 yards worse against the run so far this season. Through the last three September’s, the defense has averaged one turnover per game whereas this year the defense is averaging 1.3. Very slight difference but the defense is causing more turnovers than the past three seasons.
While the defense is taking the brunt of the blame, how does the offense compare to the past three seasons? Over the previous three seasons, the offense averaged 326.5 passing yards and 113 rushing yards per game. In 2021, the offense is averaging 306 passing yards and 107 rushing yards. That’s 20 fewer passing yards and six fewer rushing yards. Not a massive difference but there is a difference. It’s also worth noting that through the first two games this season the offense had a measly 67.5 rushing yard average but their third game of the year saw them record 186 rushing yards which significantly raised their average.
Yards don’t tell the whole story, however. How has the offense been at scoring, the most important stat? In the previous three seasons, the offense was averaging 34.4 points per game. In 2021, that number has dropped to 30.6. The biggest difference for the offense is turnovers. In the previous three September, the team has a total of three turnovers(one per year) but in 2021 the team has TWICE as many as the last three years combined with whopping six turnovers. The amount of turnovers has put the defense in bad spots and inflated their numbers. While the defense certainly has not been good, the offense and their six turnovers are what has hurt this team the most and are responsible for their paltry 1-2 start.
Time to Panic?
Compared to the past three seasons, the defense is giving up 7.7 more points while the offense is scoring 3.8 points fewer. The team has gone from, on average in the previous three Septembers, outscoring their opponents 103.3 to 72 to being outscored 95 to 92 in 2021.
Has the NFL finally figured the Chiefs out? To put it simply, no. In week their week 2 loss against the Ravens, the team was within field goal range when Clyde Edwards-Helaire fumbled at the Ravens 32 yard line. The Chiefs lost by one point. In the week 3 loss against the Chargers, the Chiefs had four turnovers yet the Chargers didn’t take the final lead until there were 32 seconds left in the game.
The Ravens and Chargers both deserve credit for taking advantage of their opportunities but as history shows, the Chiefs turnover issues are an anomaly, not the norm. The turnovers are very fixable issues given that interceptions have happened due to dropped passes from the receiver and that Edwards-Helaire has never fumbled in his pro career until the last two weeks. The sloppy football on offense will be fixed and the turnovers will go down.
Despite the point total difference on both sides of the ball, as well as having an absurd six times as many turnovers compared to the last three individual seasons, the team has only been outscored by three total points. The Kansas City Chiefs are going to be just fine and will be playing football in late January.
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