Chiefs at Lions
► Kickoff: 1 Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit
► TV/radio: Fox/760
► Records: Lions 2-0-1, Chiefs 3-0
► Line: Chiefs by 6
View from the other side
Blair Kerkhoff covers the Chiefs for the Kansas City Star. He breaks down the Chiefs for The Detroit News, answering four questions heading into Sunday’s game against the Lions. You can follow him on Twitter @BlairKerkhoff.
► Question: Pretend you're a defensive coordinator in charge of slowing down the Chiefs’ offense, particularly quarterback Patrick Mahomes. What is the main focus of your game plan?
► Kerkhoff: Tough one. The last team to slow the Chiefs was the Patriots in the first half of the AFC championship game when Chiefs were held scoreless. The Patriots double teamed Tyreek Hill, limited Travis Kelce and made Sammy Watkins and others beat them. The Chiefs put up 31 in the second half but had to play catch-up. Mahomes is good on the run, but bringing the extra defender and disguising it likely remains the best way to slow him and an offense that has scored at least 26 points in the last 21 games (and in all of Mahomes' starts).
► Question: Speaking of defensive coordinators, the Chiefs made a switch this offseason, moving on from Bob Sutton after six years and hiring Steve Spagnuolo, who won a Super Bowl in the role with the Giants. What have been the hallmark differences with the change?
► Kerkhoff: The scheme as changed from a 3-4 to a 4-3. It's allowed the Chiefs to become slightly better against the run, but more important than the scheme change is the overhaul in personnel. Only three who started the AFC title game were part of the starting defense in the opener. Players like Frank Clark, Alex Okafor, Emmanuel Ogbah, Damien Wilson, Breeland Bachard and Tyrann Mathieu were elsewhere last year. So the adjustment was two-fold – Chiefs to a new defense and players to a new team. But there has been improvement over last season.
► Question: How have the Chiefs adapted to the absence of Tyreek Hill?
► Kerkhoff: Tyreek Hill is such a unique talent. Three years in the league, three Pro Bowls and he's become so valuable that the Chiefs have all but removed him from return teams. But he's only played about one quarter this season. Since he went out with the shoulder injury, the Chiefs haven't missed a step. Against Jacksonville, Sammy Watkins was huge, at Oakland it was Demarcus Robinson, and last week rookie Mecole Hardman slipped past the Ravens’ secondary for an 83-yard score. The speed in the wide receiver room is amazing and the Chiefs can afford to be down a player and remain potent.
► Question: The Chiefs paid a big price to acquire Frank Clark this offseason. How has the former Michigan standout been fitting in, on and off the field?
► Kerkhoff: Frank Clark got his first sack last week and Chiefs fans breathed a sigh of relief. He arrived with a big contract and high expectations and got off to a slow start, not unlike Trey Flowers. Clark has been double teamed and constantly chipped and that's had an impact. The extra attention has provided opportunities for others on the line. But his sack of Lamar Jackson last week was a wonderfully athletic play, the kind the Chiefs expected when they signed him.
Players to watch
► Patrick Mahomes, QB: The reigning MVP makes his first NFL start in an indoor stadium. Last year he led the league with 50 touchdown passes and 5,097 yards passing. This season he has completed 82 of 114 passes for 1,195 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. The Lions’ defense will have their hands full trying to slow down Mahomes and Kansas City’s stacked offense, which is averaging 33.7 points per game.
► LeSean McCoy, RB: McCoy remains a menace in his 11th NFL season. Having averaged more than 70 yards rushing per game throughout the majority of his career, McCoy now has the benefit of blending in among a talented offense. He has accounted for 158 of the Chiefs’ 284 rushing yards, in addition to seven receptions for 38 yards and a touchdown on the season. He had 80 total yards of offense and two touchdowns against the Ravens in Week 3 before exiting early in the fourth quarter to rest his ankle. McCoy has said he plans to play through the ankle injury against the Lions, who have allowed the 11th-most rushing yards per game this season (125.3).
► Travis Kelce, TE: Although the Lions have had some success containing tight ends thus far, the four-time Pro Bowler has recorded more than 1,000 yards in each of the past three seasons. Kelce has snagged 17 receptions for 284 yards and a touchdown in 2019 with Mahomes spreading the ball around to a receiving unit that includes Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman and Tyreek Hill, who is injured. Even with all the options at Mahomes’ disposal, the 6-foot-5 Kelce is a tall, dependable target who’s capable of breaking open for big gains.
Julie Walker Altesleben contributed to this report.