Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I still can’t believe Sergiño Dest’s meltdown last night. That’s not what you want to see from a U.S. men’s national team that was already dealing with all sorts of drama.
In today’s SI:AM:
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Mahomes’s receivers are letting him down
For years, the Chiefs have been synonymous with high-flying offense. But not anymore.
Kansas City’s offense fell flat for the third straight game last night, getting shut out in the second half as the Eagles came from behind to win on the road, 21–17.
Since 2017 (the year before Patrick Mahomes took over as the starting quarterback), the Chiefs have ranked in the top six in the league in both points and yards. Twice (in ’18 and ’22) they’ve led the league in both categories. But they’ve been sputtering this year, ranked eighth in yards per game and 14th in scoring. That’s not terrible, but it’s not what we’re used to seeing from Mahomes & Co.
What has been terrible, though, is the Chiefs’ second-half offense. As Matt Verderame points out, Kansas City entered last night’s game averaging a league-worst 5.9 points in the second half of games. After getting shut out in the final two quarters by Philadelphia, that number is now 5.3. K.C. has scored five second-half touchdowns this season, the same number as the Jets.
Last night was the third game in a row that the Chiefs were shut out in the second half, and they’re now 1–2 over that stretch. They still hold a two-game lead in the division over the Broncos, but they’re part of a four-team logjam in the AFC at 7–3 and could easily wind up with the No. 4 seed.
So what’s gone wrong for the Chiefs this year? Exactly what we expected their issue would be before the start of the season. Mahomes doesn’t have the same quality of receivers, and it’s hurting the team. Kansas City’s receivers have dropped 25 passes this season, second only to the Browns (26). And no drop was bigger than the one Marquez Valdes-Scantling had last night. With under two minutes to play, Valdes-Scantling was open with nothing but green grass between him and the end zone. Mahomes threw a pass that hit him in the hands, and he dropped a go-ahead touchdown. (See the play here.) Mahomes graciously took the blame for not throwing a better pass, but the play really was Valdes-Scantling’s fault.
Tight end Travis Kelce is having an excellent season, and the Chiefs have been running the ball well (putting up 121 yards on the ground in the first half last night against a strong Eagles defense that hadn’t allowed that many rushing yards in a game this season), but the wide receivers are the obvious weak point. They tried to address the issue by reacquiring Mecole Hardman in a trade with the Jets after he left as a free agent in the offseason, but this is clearly not an issue that can be fixed on the fly.
Upgrading the receiving corps will surely be the focus of Kansas City’s offseason, but the question now is how the Chiefs will improve the offense this season with current players. The good news: They have an elite defense that is the best they’ve had in years, but it will be difficult to make a sixth straight trip to the AFC championship game with this offense.
The best of Sports Illustrated
- In today’s Daily Cover, Michael Rosenberg takes a different look at the Ohio State–Michigan rivalry, examining how each school has used the rule book to its advantage—and to jab its rival.
- With the 60th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy tomorrow, Matt Verderame looks back on the NFL’s decision to play games as scheduled immediately after the president’s death.
- Albert Breer spoke with Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito about his big game against the Commanders, living with his parents and being from New Jersey.
- Pat Forde previewed the six college football Rivalry Week games with the most at stake.
- Kevin Sweeney was impressed with UConn’s relatively easy win over Texas last night as the Huskies start their title defense.
- LSU star Angel Reese has missed the Tigers’ last two games with no explanation.
- The Steelers finally fired offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
- USMNT fullback Sergiño Dest had an embarrassing blowup last night that led to him getting sent off.
- Broncos cornerback Kareem Jackson was suspended for an illegal hit for the second time this season.
The top five...
… things I saw last night:
5. Alperen Şengün’s reaction to Stephen Curry shooting a three over him.
4. Quinn Hughes’s stick-handling, leading to a goal from a tight angle.
3. Connor McDavid’s one-timer from an even tougher angle.
2. Jalen Hurts’s bomb to DeVonta Smith to set up the Eagles’ go-ahead touchdown.
1. This beautifully synchronized fast break by Purdue.
I’m already looking forward to Saturday’s Ohio State–Michigan game, which will be the third straight edition of the annual rivalry in which both teams are ranked in the top five. Which school holds the edge in the previous 13 top-five meetings?
Yesterday’s SIQ: On Nov. 20, 2012, Jack Taylor set a new NCAA basketball record by scoring 138 points in a single game. Which small Division III school in Iowa did Taylor play for?
Answer: Grinnell. Taylor, a 5'10" guard from Wisconsin, shot 52-for-108 (27-for-71 from the three-point line) in a 179–104 win over Faith Baptist Bible College, a school from the National Christian College Athletic Association that had lost its first 10 games of that season.
High-scoring outbursts weren’t unusual for Grinnell players under coach David Arsenault’s fast-paced offense. Taylor is one of four players in D-III history with at least three 50-point games in his career. The other three all played for Grinnell.
After Taylor put up 58 points in the first half, Arsenault realized that the sophomore had a chance to make history.
“Maybe I’m shallow. Maybe I’m crazy,” Arsenault told Sports Illustrated at the time, “but I believe in giving kids moments in sports where they can feel good about themselves. Getting our best players playing at a higher level, which is going to make us better. And the best way to do that is to let them shoot for records. We understand that there is silliness here, but seriously, what we want is just a competitive team. And in order to get that, you need good athletes and fan support, and a kind of gimmicky game like this, every once in a while, gives us a real boost. It’s also a reward thing. We were just trying to break Jack out of his slump and give him a moment.”