KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City’s offense had four three-and-outs Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, one more than they’d had in the first eight games this season.
Against the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers, it didn’t matter as the Chiefs eked out a 13-7 win in Jordan Love’s first career NFL start.
“Obviously, Aaron didn’t play, but that’s a really good football team and a really good defense,” Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “I thought Jordan played a good football game and they had playmakers all around.”
Green Bay didn’t have any points — or even a third-down conversion — until past the midpoint of the fourth quarter.
Kansas City (5-4) only led 13-0 at that point, but it was enough to help Kansas City reach a franchise milestone with 500 victories. The Chiefs are 500-429-12 in 62 seasons as a franchise.
“Obviously, we’re not playing offensively the way we’ve wanted to or the way we expect to, but we’re finding ways to get wins,” Mahomes said.
In the museum of Mahomes’ career, the win won’t have a prominent place. He finished 20 of 37 for 166 yards with a touchdown. It's the fewest he's thrown for in any game except a 2019 game at Denver when he left the game early with a dislocated knee.
Mahomes didn’t always get much help from the Chiefs’ pass catchers, but he also made plenty of mistakes — though they didn’t turn into turnovers, which had haunted Kansas City early in the season.
None of the ongoing offensive struggles haunted the Chiefs with Rodgers sidelined after testing positive earlier in the week for COVID-19.
“I’d rather work on getting better and still have the opportunity to win the game,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “That’s how we finished this one.”
The Packers missed two first-half field goals and couldn’t get a stop after finally breaking through for a touchdown with five minutes left — a 20-yard strike from Love to Allen Lazard, who slipped under Daniel Sorenson’s attempted tackle to end the shutout bid.
“I thought our defense did a nice job against the run game, did a nice job against the pass game," Reid said. "We were able to pressure the quarterback. Guys didn’t hold back. They played hard and aggressive.”
Facing third-and-10 from the Green Bay 48-yard line, Mahomes bided his time in the pocket before it finally started to collapse, scrambled right with Packers rush linebacker Rashaan Gary in hot pursuit and rifled a ball into Tyreek Hill for a 13-yard gain and the dagger.
It ensured Kansas City’s second straight win — a first during the 2021 season.
“That felt good right there,” Reid said. “They were on the same page. It’s not Patrick, it’s not Kelce, it’s not the O-line, it’s not Tyreek. It’s everybody kind of getting on the same page. ... Going back and looking at it, I think that’s a plus, coming out of the game that way.”
The Chiefs only managed 237 total yards, the fewest in any game Mahomes has started, but the defense limited the Packers to 301 total yards and contributed to a plus-two turnover performance.
The last time Kansas City had fewer yards in a game was a 16-10 loss to Buffalo on Nov. 26, 2017.
“I’d rather be walking away with a win than a lot of yards,” Mahomes said. “... I’m still extremely confident. I know we’re going to find it as an offense. We have too many good players and too special of coaches in this organization to not find it ... so I expect us to start making plays again here soon.”
The game got off to a perfect start for the home side as the Chiefs’ defense forced a quick three-and-out on the game’s opening drive before Mahomes led a 15-play march for the game’s opening points.
Mahomes found tight end Travis Kelce for a 1-yard touchdown, his first in the last four games, to cap the drive. He led the Chiefs with five catches and 68 yards receiving.
Neither offense got much going the rest of the half.
Green Bay drove into field-goal range twice only to have Mason Crosby hook a 40-yard try wide left and drive a 37-yard try low, allowing Alex Okafor to paw it away.
Kansas City caught a break when Amari Rodgers’ foot hit a bounding Tommy Townsend punt as he fell to the ground.
Chiefs special teams ace Marcus Kemp recovered the muffed punt at the Packers’ 10-yard line, which had to be challenged after initially being ruled a touchback, setting up a 24-yard Harrison Butker field goal.
“I saw it, but they did help me upstairs, too,” Reid said. “But I saw it hit the leg.”
Green Bay’s fourth-down gamble near midfield with a half-minute backfired as Kansas City nudged its way into Butker’s range for a 55-yard bomb — and a 13-0 lead — at halftime.
The Chiefs have only allowed 14 points in the second half of the last four games and have allowed only 24 in the last two weeks, wins against the New York Giants and Packers.
“Although they didn’t have their guy (Aaron Rodgers) out there, I feel like it’s a start,” Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark said. “We kind of started it last week just getting after the Giants, but we wanted to carry it over.”