Kansas City divvied up playing time in an interesting way against the Rams in Week 12.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ ninth win of the season was a blowout victory against the visiting Los Angeles Rams, and plenty of players on both sides contributed to the win.
Offensively, Kansas City recorded 29 first downs to Los Angeles’ 13. The Chiefs’ 437 total yards more than doubled the Rams’ 198, serving as a true testament to how lopsided the game was. On defense, Steve Spagnuolo’s unit surrendered an average of just 3.6 yards per play and was dominant against a shorthanded passing attack. The Chiefs didn’t bring their A-game against a struggling opponent, but it was still more than enough to win comfortably at home.
Now that snap counts have been released, what jumped off the page? Let’s take a look at three notable takeaways from another week of Chiefs football.
1. JuJu Smith-Schuster was on a pitch count
After missing one game due to a concussion suffered in Week 10, JuJu Smith-Schuster returned to practice last week for the Chiefs and cleared concussion protocol in time to play on Sunday. He wasn’t terribly effective against the Rams, however, hauling in three passes for just 38 yards on the afternoon. It became obvious throughout the game that the veteran was on a pitch count of sorts, and his snap share (29 snaps, 38% of available reps) reflects that. Kansas City eased him back into the swing of things, allowing others to have more opportunities to shine in a game that wasn’t all that competitive.
For the second week in a row, Justin Watson led all Chiefs wideouts in total snaps. He was on the field for 84% of Kansas City’s offensive plays, followed by Marquez Valdes-Scantling at 58%. The underlying story of the game, though, was rookie Skyy Moore. The second-round pick was targeted six times and had five catches for the second straight week, also seeing his snap count jump from 27 against the Los Angeles Chargers to a career-high 35 against the Rams. Moore’s special teams shortcomings are very real in the early stages of his Chiefs tenure, but his contributions on offense are becoming more and more legitimate as time passes.
2. An message on the Joshua Williams-Jaylen Watson dynamic
One of the biggest developments of the Chiefs’ 2022 campaign has been their reliance on young cornerbacks. Outside of third-year man L’Jarius Sneed, Spagnuolo has fielded the likes of rookies Trent McDuffie, Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams for large stretches of time this year. It was Watson who came on strong earlier in the year and even had a game-changing play back in Week 2, but his role has been diminished in recent weeks. Williams, on the other hand, continues to get plenty of chances to showcase his talent.
In every game following Kansas City’s Week 8 bye, Williams has out-snapped Watson. On Sunday, he played all 54 defensive snaps while Watson was on the field for just five of them. Williams’s results have been mixed — his 44.8 Pro Football Focus coverage grade in Week 12 was the worst of his rookie year thus far — but the team is showing with its actions how he’s viewed. Perhaps a less-than-stellar game from Williams could put Watson back into the lineup more often moving forward but right now, there’s a clear preference.
3. Finding time for a new-look running back room
Speaking of clear preferences, seventh-round rookie Isiah Pacheco once again paced all Chiefs running backs in snaps played with 39. Pacheco not only got work early in the game as the starter, but Kansas City also leaned on him to close things out late. His yards-per-carry average was far from ideal, although his reps on tape showed a runner who brought physicality, short-area burst and a general attitude to the group. Without Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the two running backs behind him also made their marks on the game.
Continuing to serve as the third-down back and a player who logs the second-most snaps at the position every week, Jerick McKinnon was in for 26 snaps (34%) on Sunday. Targeted six times in the passing game, the 30-year-old hauled in three passes for 26 yards. Veteran Ronald Jones saw his first in-game action of the year, getting 11 snaps and touching the ball five times. Jones amassed just 12 rushing yards on his four carries, but a 22-yard reception may have kept the door open for him to continue getting reps until Edwards-Helaire is back. Tasked with fitting Jones in their plans with Pacheco and McKinnon already entrenched against the Rams, Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy did an admirable job.