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The early-season struggles that hamstrung the Kansas City Chiefs through October were a function of an abnormally ineffective defense and their offense’s inability to beat coverages that keyed in on stopping Andy Reid’s passing attack. Now, well beyond their past dysfunction, the Chiefs have proven they can bounce back from adversity and continue to compete against the best teams in the league.

Reid was asked about what changed in his offense’s approach to beating so-called shell coverages in his press conference on Wednesday. These coverages generally rely on the defense’s ability to get pressure on the quarterback by generating pass rush with their front three or four defensive linemen, leaving the rest of their players to drop into coverage to defend against passes at any depth. It proved particularly difficult for Reid’s offense to adjust to beating defenders in deep coverages like Cover 2, but the coach had an interesting take on what has changed since the team started to find success in November, and what it could mean for their Week 17 matchup against the Bengals.

“Teams are mixing more than what we think,” Reid said. “So we’re seeing some shell, we’re seeing some single safety, we’re seeing some man. They throw a lot of stuff at you, and this crew [in Cincinnatti] is no different. They’ve got a whole package that they really execute well. A lot of these teams that run a lot of things, they’ll mix them up and have problems with it, but this crew here does a great job there. Their defensive coordinator must be a phenomenal teacher. I’ve never worked with him, but it looks like he does a great job teaching.

“But just practicing through it and knowing how to check down, where to check down, all those things become so important. Route runners knowing how to play within zones becomes important, and being on the same page. Then, the offensive line has also got a part of that. So, it’s not one person, I’ve said that from the get-go. It’s not one person that makes you roll there.”

His MVP quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, had another take. Mahomes told reporters during his media availability that there is a balance to be struck in attacking defenses that are designed to neutralize his unique threat, especially by getting his skill position players in spots to gain yards after the catch.

“You kind of figure out answers and stuff you can do to combat and have more success,” Mahomes explained. “I think just finding that happy medium where you’re taking shots still and attacking, but at the same time, hitting guys underneath and guys are creating a lot of yards with the football in their hands. Like the running backs, tight ends and receivers. So just getting the ball out of my hands, getting to those guys for them to make plays.”

Every week brings new challenges for each team in the NFL, and Kansas City’s matchup against the Bengals is in line to be one of the better games on the schedule for the penultimate tilt of the regular season. Whether Cincinnati will elect to sell out to beat the Chiefs’ elite air assault or choose to take a more varied approach remains to be seen, but they will be up against the wall against a team as hot as Kansas City has been.


First injury report for Chiefs vs. Bengals, Week 17