Barbecue and high-octane offense. That's what Kansas City does.
Until this season, anyway.
The Chiefs' offensive juggernaut has largely sputtered so far and been a prevailing quandary for head coach Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes to answer in every news conference.
Nonetheless, Reid isn't panicking. Not when his Chiefs are still in first place in the AFC West during a roller-coaster 2023 NFL campaign.
"This league is crazy right now; I mean it's week to week," Reid said Wednesday, via team transcript, when asked what the keys were to finishing strong and overcoming losing two of their last three games. "I think we understand that. I mentioned a few weeks ago San Francisco -- when we were in Germany -- San Francisco was on a three-game skid, and now they're playing well. Denver, same thing, they're playing well. You go back, and you do a better job coaching. You focus in a little more playing -- the players playing and doing their jobs. Those are things you can control and keep a positive attitude doing it. Learn from your mistakes and stay positive with it."
Indeed, the aforementioned San Francisco 49ers are rolling right now, having overcome a three-game skid to once again establish themselves as an NFC front-runner. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are 8-4 and hoping to keep their chances at garnering the AFC's top seed alive.
Ahead of a Week 14 marquee matchup against the rival Buffalo Bills, though, they have lost three of their last five after beginning the year at 6-1. The first of those defeats came in Week 8. Kansas City lost a combined three games in Week 8 or later over the previous three seasons.
It's been a very unChiefs-like run, and the glaring issue is the offense, an unfathomable occurrence for a squad led by Mahomes, the reigning Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player.
A wunderkind with a miracle for an arm, Mahomes took the NFL by storm in his second season back in 2018. In 2023, the QB's 260.6 passing yards per game, 7.0 passing yards per attempt, 22-10 touchdown-interception ratio, and 95.1 rating are all last in his time starting for KC.
Those travails have come amid ill chemistry, dropped passes and overall struggles within the wide receiver corps. Mahomes, though, is taking Reid's lead when it comes to keeping a level head in a topsy-turvy season.
"I think I learn from coach Reid," Mahomes said Wednesday, via team transcript. "You always see him, and he's never too high, never too low. He is just focused on the task at hand, how can he get us in the best position to play the best football we can that day. That's my mindset, no matter if we win and everybody is loving us, or we lose and everyone is down on us. You just have to focus on how to get yourself better and prepare for that next game. I think if you do that it puts everything in perspective where you can go out there and be the best you, you can be."
Mahomes also has the experience of emerging as the best after a far worse start. Such was the case in the 2019 season, when Mahomes first became a world champion.
"I've been on a team that was 6-4 and ended up winning the Super Bowl," Mahomes said. "We have confidence every week that we're going to find a way to win the football game. Obviously, these last few weeks we've lost a couple, but we still have that mindset. We understand the challenge that's in front of us. At the same time, all you can do is go work every single day and get better, then go out and give whatever you can on the football field."
Per Next Gen Stats, Mahomes' targeted receivers have dropped 21 passes -- three more than any other QB's in 2023. The Chiefs' red zone touchdown percentage (55.6) is a drastic drop-off from the 64.1% in Mahomes' previous seasons as a starter. And Kansas City has struggled to punch it in late in games -- previously a hallmark of the offense -- as evidenced by falling short on its last three drives in a Week 13 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Reid's not panicking, though. He's preaching fundamentals and underscoring patience as his Chiefs look to navigate a most unusual campaign.
"We needed to score, and we didn't do that, so we've got to do a better job there," said Reid of the late struggles against Green Bay, "and a lot of those come down to catching the ball, throwing the ball, blocking up front. It's mostly the passing game part, so we've got to make plays when given the opportunity from all three parties on the field."