Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the team.
The Washington Football Team ends its two-game home stand with a matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. Here are three keys to the game, presented by Van Metre.
1. Find a way to get past Kansas City's reworked offensive line.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took advantage of a glaring weakness on the Chiefs' offense during Super Bowl LV. With key starters out, Patrick Mahomes was sacked five times as Tom Brady and the Buccaneers came away with a 31-9 win. It was clear that the Chiefs needed help on the offensive line, and that's exactly what they got during the offseason.
Kansas City's two biggest additions -- guard Joe Thuney and tackle Orlando Brown -- have made a noticeable difference on Mahomes' protection. The team has allowed the fourth-fewest sacks and has the second-lowest adjusted sack rate, according to Football Outsiders. It should come as no surprise that Mahomes has taken advantage of this by being seventh in passing yards with 16 touchdowns.
Washington's pass rush, while still trying to get back to its 2020 dominance, has been better over the past two games with three sacks and 14 quarterback hits. Chase Young also had his best performance of the season with seven pressures, five hurries and a strip-sack.
Young, Montez Sweat and the rest of Washington's defensive line will need to continue that progress against the Chiefs, who have a dangerous offense yet again. Getting Mahomes on the ground isn't an answer for all of Kansas City's weapons, but forcing Mahomes to scramble will give the secondary more time to work.
2. Get the ground game started early.
Washington's defense has struggled through five games, but Kansas City's defense has not fared much better. It ranks 30th overall, and its lack of production against opponents' ground game -- it allows 141 yards on average -- has been the catalyst for that.
Therefore, it's easy to see the potential for Antonio Gibson to have a strong game. Gibson is currently 12th in rushing and has been one of the more active running backs with the sixth-most carries (79) and averages 4.0 yards per attempt. His three touchdowns are tied for 10th among running backs, and he's recorded at least 60 rushing yards in four of his past five games.
Still, the Chiefs have done a good job of preventing any one player from posting season-high performances. That's why J.D. McKissic, Taylor Heinicke and even Jaret Patterson could be used as a change of pace. Scott Turner also has a history of using wide receivers on jet sweeps, adding yet another wrinkle for Kansas City to defend.
The Washington Football Team wraps up a week of practice leading up to its home matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Karlee Sell/Washington Football Team)
3. Avoid making costly turnovers.
It sounds fairly self-explanatory, but Washington's offense will need to be extra careful with the ball. The Chiefs might be 2-3, but they still possess one of the most dynamic offenses in the league and can score touchdowns almost at will.
Washington has a habit of giving the ball away at inopportune moments this season. It was able to avoid catastrophe against the New York Giants in Week 2, but it was not so lucky against the New Orleans Saints, when Heinicke threw an interception with the offense at its own 2-yard line. It led to a touchdown that gave the Saints an 11-point lead, which Washington never recovered from.
Football Outsiders has ranked Kansas City’s offense as the most efficient in the NFL, and the numbers back up how potent the unit has been thus far. It ranks fifth in points (30.8) and passing yards (292.2). In order to keep up with that kind of firepower, Washington's own offense will need to play as clean as possible. It cannot afford to give the Chiefs any favors.