Chiefs 31, Washington 13: Insta-reaction from a capital ‘W’ in Washington

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The Chiefs won here today, and that’s swell for them and their families. And publicly, they can make this game whatever they want.

The can talk about how winning games in the NFL is hard, and they won’t be wrong. They can talk about the offensive line playing well and cutting turnovers in the second half and, all things considered, the defense’s best performance of the season after some interesting tweaks to the lineup (most notably Juan Thornhill for Daniel Sorensen) and play calls (most notably some pressure generated by more blitzes).

That will all be true. The Chiefs beat Washington 31-13 on Sunday, and it still feels weird to be critical after wins. The Chiefs closed strong, and deserve credit for that. But most of the performance left as many questions as answers.

The Chiefs have earned these high expectations, and while they stopped the slide of the last month they did not give fans reason to believe the problems are fixed.

Patrick Mahomes is often the first one praised, so let him be the first one called out here: the two worst interceptions of his career are in the last four games, including a haymaker of a terrible idea poorly executed just before halftime against Washington, and this is a curious look for the man who has vowed to make better decisions.

Before we go further, let’s at least acknowledge some positives before the final score:

The offensive line played well. The Chiefs produced some pressure despite Chris Jones missing another game with a wrist injury. Mike Remmers started for Lucas Niang at right tackle and did well. Same with Thornhill taking over the free safety from Sorensen. Darrel Williams ran hard, and scored two touchdowns.

So, the Chiefs can cobble together some lipstick on this thing but when they break it down to the studs they’re going to know that too many of the same old problems still apply.

On offense, three more turnovers show tey are far too careless with the ball, and now that we’re more than one-third of the way through the season we are well beyond the point where this is an aberration and not this group’s consistent behavior.

The defense got better, but it’s hard to know how much was about the Chiefs and how much was about Taylor Heinicke getting zero help from his receivers. Too many defenders have developed the habit of going for the hero tackle — knocking someone down with their shoulder, instead of wrapping up.

Too much of this team can still be accurately illustrated by scenes like Tyrann Mathieu just before halftime, screaming in the general direction of teammates and coaches and throwing his helmet down in frustration.

The Chiefs have been dogged by a brutal early struggle, but the Washington game represented the NFL’s version of a three-game break — at Tennessee next week, and home against the Giants after that.

Whether by design or coincidence, the changes in personnel and scheme can be workshopped in the gap between the Bills game last week and the next difficult stretch: Packers at home in week 9, then at the Raiders and Cowboys at home before the bye.

All of the Chiefs’ most important goals are still in front of them, even if you take the position that the first-round bye and even division title are out of reach.

They can still rally their way to 11 or 12 or even 13 wins, and even if that’s enough to host playoff games their talent is enough to be a wild card team nobody wants to see.

That’s still all possible, and there were glimpses of better days against Washington.

But when you measure by quality of competition, it’s clear that one win has not solved all of the Chiefs’ problems.

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