The Kansas City Chiefs defense carried them to a 9-0 record, but it has let them down over the past two weeks in losses to division opponents. The Chiefs allowed 68 combined points to the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers, and now they need the offense to be productive to win games.
The offense was very productive against the Chargers, and yet the Chiefs still lost. Even before pass-rushing outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston left the game with injuries, the defense was well on its way to allowing more than 17 points for the second game in a row.
With five games left, the Chiefs will most likely make the playoffs, but probably as a wild-card team. They will either back their way in or their offense will carry them in, because the defense isn’t going to dominate like it did for the first nine games without Hali and Houston.
The Chiefs offense just isn’t capable of carrying the team on a consistent basis. To say so would be to ignore the fact that the team played at home against a horrible defense and that the production from the offense was long overdue. If the offense could have carried the team, there is no reason it would have been caged for 10 games.
The pass rush has been the key to the success of Kansas City’s defense, and the two stud rushers could both be out for several weeks. According to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports, Houston has a subluxed elbow and Hali has a mid-inside ankle sprain. They will undergo MRIs to determine the extent of the injuries.
A subluxed elbow is the same type of injury that New York Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley suffered a month ago. Kerley had the bye week to recover and has still missed the past two games. According to Rich Cimini of ESPN, Kerley just started catching passes with two hands on Friday.
Texans defensive end J.J. Watt had a similar injury to Houston during the preseason last year but was able to return in Week 1. Watt had a great season and wore a large brace, but he acknowledged to the Texans' official website in April that the injury affected him early on because all the ligaments in his elbow were torn.
Hali’s ankle sprain is even trickier because the healing time can vary from days to weeks to months.
That’s a huge talent gap that the Chiefs will have a very hard time closing on defense.
The Chargers came into the game against the Chiefs as one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Particularly notable was the fact that San Diego had allowed a league-worst 6.5 yards per play and forced just seven turnovers in its first 10 games.
Is the Chiefs offense capable of carrying the depleted defense?
The Chiefs offensive output was only possible because of terrible defense—not because it’s all the sudden become capable of carrying the team. It’s a huge mistake to expect them to continue great offensive production over the final five weeks.
As much as the Chiefs needed to open up the offensive game plan, no one was expecting them to score 38 points. Likewise, no one should even expect them to routinely score over 30 points when they averaged just 23 over the first 10 games—offenses don’t improve that much overnight.
In the end, the fact that the Chiefs will be forced to win games with their offense could be good for them if the defense gets back to full strength in the playoffs. They have been winning games with the same recipe all season, and now they have five games to try to learn a new way.
It’s going to be a rocky final five games for the Chiefs, but their struggles may end up helping the team in January when it gets even harder to win games. Quarterback Alex Smith has made some big throws the past two weeks, and the offense was impressive against the Chargers—just don’t expect them to start carrying the team.