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With or without Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs get big plays in pass game

The Chiefs are still getting explosive passing plays with Matt Moore under center. Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Matt Moore said his biggest regret during this stint as the Kansas City Chiefs' starting quarterback came in a Week 8 game against the Green Bay Packers. That's when Moore missed a big play to wide receiver Tyreek Hill by leaving the throw short on a post pattern.

Moore hasn't made many mistakes on several other deep throws to Hill, though. Despite the transition from an injured Patrick Mahomes to Moore, the Chiefs are still getting big plays.

Explosive plays, defined here as passes of 20 yards or more or runs of 10 yards or more, aren't coming at the same frequency as they did with Mahomes at quarterback -- the Chiefs had 45 such plays in about 6½ games with Mahomes and 11 of them in about 2½ games with Moore -- but they haven't completely disappeared either.

Long plays accounted for both of the Chiefs' touchdowns in Sunday's home win over the Minnesota Vikings, and they have accounted for five of their six TDs since Moore replaced Mahomes.

"[General manager Brett Veach] has done a good job of getting the right guys in for what we do," said coach Andy Reid of Moore and the Chiefs' other veteran backup quarterback, Chad Henne, who hasn't played this season. "Maybe they don't have the same arm that Patrick does, but they have good vision, and they're athletic enough to do what you need to do.

"Listen, they're throwing to some good people too."

Hill has two of Moore's long touchdowns. Tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Mecole Hardman have the others.

"They're still very explosive," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said before last week's game. "They get the ball down the field a lot. They've got great weapons on the outside.

"Mahomes, the things he can do are unbelievable, his movement, the way he avoids pressure and gets out and makes all the deep throws. But as far as the offense, there's not much change. [Moore] is a little different."

Moore had a passer rating of 149.3 on deep throws last week, which was best in the league. Moore is completing 65% of his throws and has passed for 659 yards since taking over for Mahomes in the second quarter of a Week 7 victory over the Denver Broncos.

This season, Moore has a passer rating of 132.3 on throws from 11 to 20 yards downfield and 141.4 on passes of 21 or more yards downfield. He hadn't been anything special on downfield throws before joining the Chiefs, with respective ratings of 82.9 and 75.8.

"This is not to sound arrogant or too overconfident, but we've got a heck of a coaching staff," Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. "We've got great teachers. We've got great communicators. On top of that, we believe that we've got great players. We expect our great players to be great when needed to be."

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And it wasn't all Moore on Sunday, though Damien Williams' 91-yard touchdown run against the Vikings was something new for the Chiefs this season. Five of Kansas City's previous six rushing touchdowns had been from 1 yard out, and the other was from the 3.

"We really needed this to establish the run." Williams said. "[The blockers] did the work. All I did is run."

After finishing second in the category last season, the Chiefs are just 13th in the league in explosive plays in 2019 with 56 because they're getting fewer long runs. They're second in long passes with 40 but tied for 26th in long runs with 16.

"You want more," Chiefs running backs coach Deland McCullough said. "But our attitude and preparation is what you want it to be coming into the game. We want to numerically have some things jump off the sheet, but within this building, we feel real strong about the way guys are preparing, their attitude about preparing and our plan coming into the game for running the ball. We want to make the numbers reflect that preparation."