Another week, another grind-it-out victory for the reigning AFC champion Chiefs. Even with Aaron Rodgers sidelined due to COVID, Kansas City struggled mightily to put the visiting Packers away on Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead, threatening to allow a Jordan Love-led comeback in the late stages of the two sides' Week 9 matchup. But Patrick Mahomes did just enough in the end to keep the Chiefs on top, while Steve Spagnuolo's blitz-heavy defense held the advantage for most of the contest, securing a 13-7 victory to push Kansas City above .500 and drop the Packers to 7-2 on the season.
Here are some takeaways from Sunday's cross-conference clash:
Why the Chiefs won
Spagnuolo saw a quarterback making his first career start on the other sideline and dialed up a near-perfect attack, going heavy on the blitz to keep Love and the Packers' offense out of sync for more than a full half of action. They ended up with just one sack on the stat sheet, but that doesn't do justice to the way Kansas City consistently got in Love's face, forcing the young QB to either abandon his reads or fire it away. L'Jarius Sneed also came through for the "D" with his fourth-quarter pick to kill what would've been Green Bay's first scoring drive. Mahomes, meanwhile, was erratic once again, barely avoiding another pick while trying desperately to play conservative ball, but he connected on a few important off-script shots late in the contest to seal the win. Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and even Jerick McKinnon chipped in with some key catches, while Darrel Williams showed some surprising fight early on while powering the ground game.
Why the Packers lost
Let's start with the obvious one: Rodgers wasn't there. Love showed resilience, standing in the face of pressure to nearly lead a comeback in the final stages of the game, but he started flat and stayed that way for a while, ultimately lobbing up a crucial pick in the fourth. His struggles severely limited Davante Adams' impact, even though both Adams and Randall Cobb came through late with some high-effort plays. Third downs were especially an issue. And while the defense more than did its part to help Green Bay try for the upset, special teams was another matter, with Mason Crosby failing on two field goal tries (one block, one blatant miss) and the return unit coughing up the ball on another occasion. All in all, just a sloppy day for a team that could've easily upset the Chiefs even without A-Rod.
It has to be Love's fourth-quarter pick. The Packers showed some of their best stuff late in the contest, even after the interception, but the turnover still came at such an inopportune time. Down 13-0 with the clock ticking below 10 minutes, Love helped push Green Bay all the way to Kansas City's 24-yard line, but then came the deep shot down the left sideline to Adams. The ball was a bit overthrown, and Sneed reeled it in to give the Chiefs possession, delaying Green Bay's comeback attempt.
Play of the game
It would've counted for more if the Packers had actually come back and won, or at least tied it up and extended the game, but Allen Lazard's touchdown was easily the most exciting action of an otherwise sloppy night for both offenses:
The Chiefs (5-4) will hit the road in Week 10 for a crucial divisional showdown with the Raiders, meeting Vegas on "Sunday Night Football" a week after the silver and black were upset by the Giants. The Packers (7-2), meanwhile, will return home to Lambeau -- perhaps with Rodgers -- to play host to the Seahawks (3-5), who will be coming off their bye.