The reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs narrowly edged out a spirited Carolina Panthers squad, 33-31, at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 9.
Fortified by the return of star running back Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers put on an aggressive offensive performance. They led the Chiefs 17-13 at halftime and fought the champs blow-for-blow in the second half.
After coming back from a two-score deficit in the fourth quarter, the Panthers had a chance to win at the end -- albeit only if kicker Joey Slye had hit an NFL-record 67-yard field goal.
Let's cast an eye over the some key takeaways from a game that was harder than expected for the Kansas City Chiefs, who at least showed they can win a slugfest.
Christian McCaffrey made up for lost time
He may have been out for most of the season with a high ankle sprain, but McCaffrey wasted no time whatsoever in getting back into top form for OC Joe Brady's increasingly exciting-looking offense: CMC finished the day against the Kansas City Chiefs with 69 yards rushing, 82 yards receiving, and crossed the line for two touchdowns.
An unfortunate subplot in this Panthers' defeat is that McCaffrey did pick up another injury (shoulder) late in the game and is listed as questionable for Week 10.
Travis Kelce: MVP candidate?
We all know chances are that this season's MVP award will go to a quarterback -- it's just the way it is -- but how 'bout that Chiefs' tight end, Travis Kelce!
The former University of Cincinnati product has been without doubt one of the most consistent performers in the NFL this season, reigning in 80 targets for 769 yards and six 'tuddies.' He is Patrick Mahomes' go-to guy in tight spots and very rarely do those big hands of his let his QB down.
Against the Panthers, Kelce averaged a massive 15.9 yards per catch and this kind of consistent offensive output is worthy of the MVP conversation in my book.
Panthers' unheralded receiving corps deserves more hype
After the retirement of star linebacker Luke Kuechly and then the departure of franchise QB Cam Newton, it's fair to say there was a sense of dread in Carolina heading into the new campaign (on both sides of the football).
But despite the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, it's hard to pick too many faults. Certainly none in terms of effort, application, or -- most importantly -- offensive talent. The Panthers have a host of exceptional playmakers on offense, none more so than in their receiving corps.
Robby Anderson was brought in from the Jets during the offseason and he has quickly formed a deadly duo with Panthers' mainstay D.J Moore. The pair are actually the most productive receiving tandem in the entire NFL (Anderson has 751 yards, Moore has 640 yards).
Add versatile threat Curtis Samuel (105 yards and a touchdown vs. the Chiefs) and fit again (kinda...) running back Christian McCaffrey into the mix, and suddenly QB Teddy Bridgewater has a ton of options out there.
2020 has come too soon for this franchise, but if they can pick up a few quality performers from the draft and in free agency, they'll be one of the teams to watch in the NFC next year.
Patrick Mahomes becomes the fastest player in history to throw 100 touchdowns
Like everyone else, I'm running out of superlatives for Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The $500 million man is (along with Seahawks' Russell Wilson) on course to break Peyton Manning's long-standing record for most touchdowns thrown in a season, and during Sunday's encounter with the Panthers, he connected with receiver Tyreek Hill to become the youngest player ever to throw 100 touchdown passes in the NFL.
Mahomes is simply the best in the league.
The Kansas City Chiefs' defense is still hit-and-miss for Andy Reid
The Kansas City Chiefs have some exceptional talents on defense, the likes of defensive end Frank Clark, defensive tackle Chris Jones, and safety Tyrann Mathieu are all capable of game-changing plays.
Collectively, they are still the weakest link in Andy Reid's team, though. DC Steve Spagnuolo's unit allowed McCaffrey 4.3 yards per carry on the ground, and gave up 331 yards through the air, adding to the growing sentiment that this Chiefs' side can be got at if the opposition is prepared to run hard and throw long.
Collectively, the D needs to figure out a way to get more takeaways (zero against the Panthers) and to stop the rush; otherwise, the train could well come off the rails when they meet the likes of the Tennessee Titans' Derrick Henry in the playoffs.Published 12 Nov 2020, 16:30 IST