Chiefs dropped passes 2023: How Kansas City’s league-worst drop issues are holding back Patrick Mahomes, offense

The Chiefs enter Week 13 of the 2023 NFL season as one of the best teams in the AFC. They have posted an 8-3 record to date and appear very likely to win the AFC West for the eighth consecutive year.

However, Kansas City’s offense has been off at times throughout the season more often than fans are used to seeing under Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes. That has led some to ask what exactly is wrong with the team in some of their losses.

It appears that the main issue is with the Chiefs’ receiving corps. The unit is a young one, and while there is plenty of talent and upside within it, Kansas City’s receivers have been prone to mistakes — chiefly drops.

The Chiefs enter Week 13 of the 2023 NFL season averaging 2.7 drops per game, good for the most in the NFL. Kansas City’s inability to hold onto the ball likely cost them a season-opening win against the Lions, who won by one point amid a myriad of miscues by Kadarius Toney.

And in Week 11, Kansas City suffered one of its biggest drops of the year. Marquez Valdes-Scantling was unable to bring in a deep-shot pass from Mahomes that would have been a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

As a result, the Chiefs were unable to score and lost to the Eagles in their Super Bowl 57 rematch.

To their credit, neither Reid nor Mahomes has sounded the alarm about the drops. They have remained steadfast that the team’s receivers will eventually figure things out.

“They know I’m gonna keep firing it,” Mahomes told reporters in his postgame news conference after Valdes-Scantling’s drop. “Usually they’re going to make the plays. It happens.”

MORE: Why Chiefs must look internally to Rashee Rice, Justin Watson to help fix WR woes

Even so, it’s clear that Kansas City’s drops are holding it back. And among teams across the NFL, no squad is having more trouble catching catchable passes than the Chiefs.

Which NFL team has the most drops in 2023?

It should surprise nobody that the Chiefs have the most drops in the NFL through 12 weeks of the 2023 season. Kansas City’s pass-catchers have dropped 30 of the 411 passes that Patrick Mahomes has thrown this season.

Their drop rate of 6.7 percent is the highest in the league, too, so the Chiefs’ issues catching the ball don’t stem solely from their high-volume passing offense.

The Chiefs are four drops clear of the second-most drop-prone team. That would be the Browns, who have 26. In addition to the Chiefs and the Browns, seven other teams have seen their receivers record at least 20 drops this season.

Conversely, the 49ers have seen their receivers drop just six passes. They are one of three teams along with the Broncos (eight) and Giants (nine) to record fewer than 10 drops.

Below is a look at each NFL team’s drop totals entering Week 13.

Team Drops
Kansas City Chiefs 30
Cleveland Browns 26
Detroit Lions 25
Los Angeles Rams 25
New York Jets 23
Cincinnati Bengals 22
Dallas Cowboys 21
Green Bay Packers 21
Minnesota Vikings 20
Buffalo Bills 19
Washington Commanders 18
Carolina Panthers 18
Tennessee Titans 17
Los Angeles Chargers 17
Jacksonville Jaguars 15
Indianapolis Colts 15
Miami Dolphins 15
New Orleans Saints 15
Atlanta Falcons 14
New England Patriots 14
Las Vegas Raiders 14
Baltimore Ravens 14
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13
Houston Texans 13
Pittsburgh Steelers 13
Arizona Cardinals 12
Chicago Bears 12
Seattle Seahawks 12
Philadelphia Eagles 11
New York Giants 9
Denver Broncos 8
San Francisco 49ers 6

MORE: How drops by Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Travis Kelce haunted Chiefs vs. Eagles

Chiefs drops by player 2023

Interestingly, the Chiefs’ issues with drops are a teamwide problem. They have a whopping seven players with at least two drops this season, and that includes most of the top receivers on their roster.

Notably, rookie Rashee Rice leads the team with seven drops. His drop percentage of 12.5 ranks worst among qualified receivers during the 2023 season.

Beyond Rice, superstar tight end Travis Kelce has dropped four passes after leading the team with eight last season. Meanwhile, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who dropped a potential winning touchdown in Week 11 against the Eagles, has just two this season.

Below is a breakdown of Kansas City’s drops by player this season, as well as their drop percentage.

Player Drops Drop %
Rashee Rice 7 12.5
Travis Kelce 4 4.5
Kadarius Toney 3 10
Justin Watson 3 7.7
Jerick McKinnon 3 11.5
Marquez Valdes-Scantling 2 7.1
Justyn Ross 2 33.3
Isiah Pacheco 1 2.9
Skyy Moore 1 2.9
Clyde Edwards-Helaire 1 14.3
Blake Bell 1 20
Richie James 1 33.3
Mecole Hardman 1 7.7

MORE: Why Chiefs’ offense is struggling badly in the second half of games

NFL drops leaders 2023

Unsurprising, Rice is among the league leaders in drops with his mark of seven overall. However, Browns tight end David Njoku is currently the leader in that category, as he has nine.

And for those wondering whether Tyreek Hill would help to patch up this issue, the answer is probably not. The former Chiefs star has let eight passes glance off his hands this season, good for the second-most in the NFL.

Below is a look at the 13 NFL players who have at least five drops entering Week 13.

Rank Player Team Drops
1 David Njoku Browns 9
2 Tyreek Hill Dolphins 8
3 Rashee Rice Chiefs 7
  Puka Nacua Rams 7
  Jaxon Smith-Njigba Seahawks 7
  Alexander Mattison Vikings 7
7 Stefon Diggs Bills 6
  Jerome Ford Browns 6
  Mike Evans Buccaneers 6
  Tyler Higbee Rams 6
11 Sam LaPorta Lions 5
  Josh Jacobs Raiders 5
  Breece Hall Jets 5

All that said, it’s clear that the Chiefs receivers have some of the most problematic hands in the NFL. And that has had an impact on their overall offensive efficiency.

POWER RANKINGS: Where Chiefs rank among NFL’s best teams

Chiefs offense 2023 vs. Chiefs offense 2022

The Chiefs were the NFL’s No. 1 overall offense during the 2022 NFL season but have fallen off slightly during in 2023. They are still a top-11 unit in both yards per game and scoring, but they aren’t the same explosive offense they were last year.

Below is a look at how the two units compare:

Year Yards per game (rank) Points per game (rank)
2022 413.6 (1st) 29.2 (1st)
2023 364.9 (8th) 23.3 (11th)

So what is the reason that the Chiefs are scoring nearly six fewer points per game? Well, one factor is that the team’s longtime offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy, left to take an assistant head coaching job with the Commanders. The Chiefs haven’t been as sharp in his absence, so that’s part of the reason that Mahomes’ stats have declined.

Year Comp. % Yards per game Pass TDs per game INTs per game Rating QBR
2022 67.1 308.8 2.4 0.7 105.2 79.0
2023 68.1 265.2 1.9 0.8 96.3 73.0

Even so, it’s also clear that Mahomes isn’t getting the same amount of help from his receivers in 2023 that he did last season. The Chiefs had only 34 total drops in 2022. That tied for ninth-most in the NFL, but their drop percentage of 5.2 percent ranked as the 13th-lowest among the NFL’s 32 teams.

Year Drops Drops per game Drop % (rank)
2022 34 2.0 5.2 (19th)
2023 30 2.7 6.7 (1st)

That is part of the reason that Mahomes’ passer rating has declined. He has still been able to find open receivers often enough; he just hasn’t been able to connect with them because his top pass-catchers don’t have the best hands.

Perhaps the Chiefs will work to eliminate these issues as they prepare to mount another Super Bowl run. But as it stands, Kansas City’s receivers could prove to be the team’s Achilles’ heel. That could ultimately leave them on the wrong end of some tightly contested games as we saw in both Week 1 against the Lions and Week 11 against the Eagles.

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