KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs offense revealed very few weaknesses while averaging 35.3 points per game through the first 10 games of the season, but the offensive line showed some signs of stress Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, yielding five sacks and leaving head coach Andy Reid looking for silver linings as the team prepares to take on Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams next Monday night.
“That group hasn't played a bunch together, and so they did a couple of things in there that will help us down the road and we can learn from,” Reid said. “It wasn't just a physical things. In a couple of cases it was. But it wasn't just a physical thing, and we seemed to kind of adjust to in the second half and do a little bit better job.”
The Chiefs fared well in pass protection through the first nine weeks of the season, surrendering just 12 sacks against quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But injuries to starting center Mitch Morse and right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif have Mahomes working behind a makeshift offensive line that includes second-year free agent Andrew Wylie and former Cleveland lineman Austin Reiter, acquired off waivers in September.
Reid's offense likes to spread the field with targets, regularly sending five receivers out on routes and leaving just the five offensive lineman to block. The Chiefs opted for a bit more chips and leaving in extra blockers on Sunday to slow the Cardinals pass rush.
“We did, we chipped yesterday and did a few things there that helped us,” Reid said. “There's a time and a place for everything. We've mixed that in throughout the season.”
But Reid saw lessons his offensive line can learn from coming out of Sunday's 26-14 win against the Cardinals.
“We've got to do better obviously and that's what we're always striving to do,” Reid said. “I appreciated their effort and the ability to make some changes in there and communicate, work it out.”
The Chiefs' offensive line must rally quickly with a matchup against the Los Angeles Rams approaching next Monday night. The Rams sport an defensive front seven that can pressure the quarterback, led by MVP candidate Donald and veteran Ndamukong Suh.
“They've got a healthy load in there of good football players and they're well coached,” Reid said. “And listen, we're going to go back through like we do each week and stick to the process.”
Monday's matchup loomed large months ago due to the offseason trade between the two clubs that sent Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters from Kansas City to the Rams. But now the contest takes on new significance with both teams sporting identical 9-1 records, tops in their respective conferences.
The game also takes center stage due to its location, Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. The venue sits at an elevation of approximately 7,800 feet. The Rams opted to move practice to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado in preparing for the altitude, but Reid opted to keep his squad remain home in Kansas City.
“We had plenty of time there to look at that,” Reid said. “After studying it and looking through it, we felt it was just best to stay here and then go down there and play.”
The Chiefs get the opportunity to play at elevation each season thanks to their annual visit to Denver playing the Broncos at approximately 5,200 feet above sea level. The Chiefs lasted visited Denver Oct. 1. But Reid doesn't plan any adjustments to the team's schedule to account for the the thinner air of Mexico City.
“We're not concerned about that,” Reid said. “We're just gong to get ourselves ready to go play in front of great fans and against a real good football team.”
The playing surface of Estadio Azteca also appears as a concern for both teams. Heavy rains and a series of events including a concert on Nov. 7 and a steady soccer schedule left the hybrid grass-synthetic surface scarred significantly. Reid says he's letting the league address the turf issues.
“I've seen it but I think the NFL, they're on top of it,” Reid said. “They do a great job with all that stuff so I'm not really worried about all that.”
The Chiefs last traveled internationally in 2015, topping the Detroit Lions 45-10 in London's Wembley Stadium. The Chiefs plan to travel to Mexico City on Sunday, and Reid says he's looking forward to the trip.
“The fan base is phenomenal,” Reid said. “I think if you asked both teams the same question, we're fired up to have an opportunity to play there. And it's really based around the people and the support that the people give us, give the National Football League.”
–LB Anthony Hitchens was active Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals but did not play. The Chiefs kept Hitchens available for emergency purposes only. Hitchens suffered bruised ribs during the team's Week 8 win over the Denver Broncos, and the team wanted to provide him additional rest for next week's Monday night matchup against the Los Angeles Rams.
–WR Sammy Watkins did not play Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals with a right foot injury. Head coach Andy Reid expects Watkins to play in Week 11 against the Los Angeles Rams.
–C Mitch Morse missed his fourth-straight game on Sunday after suffering a concussion in Week 6. He remains in the league's concussion protocol, and head coach Andy Reid indicated he remained symptomatic last week. There's not timetable on his return. Austin Reiter started his third game at center filling in for Morse.
–RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff is scheduled to have his cast removed this week on his left leg after following surgery Oct. 15 for a fracture fibula and ligament damage in his ankle. The team expects a better idea for a timetable for his potential return after removing the cast, but the lineman remains hopeful he can return later this season. Durvernay-Tardif is eligible to return to practice as early as Week 12 but can return from injured reserve no earlier than Week 14.
–QB Patrick Mahomes did not appear in the locker after Sunday's win due to the death of his girlfriend's stepfather during the game. Head coach Andy Reid does not anticipate the quarterback missing any preparation for this week's game against the Rams.