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Inside contagious energy for Dolphins-Chiefs in Frankfurt, Germany

FRANKFURT, Germany—You can tell the sign of a great team. A great team plays what might be another one and the great team wins and does some outstanding things, but the great team just doesn’t feel it.

On the field after Kansas City 21, Miami 14, the best player on this team, Patrick Mahomes, praised the defense to the skies—deservedly—and then said to me on-camera for “Football Night in America,” with certainty: “We’re gonna get this offense figured out, I promise you, and we’ll be a hard team to beat.”

Afterward, in the locker room, I stopped to see Mahomes. He’s the kind of guy—normal dude, but driven like few others—you want leading your team. Clearly he was happy beating Miami, but he knew it was a credit to the defense, not his side of the ball. It ticked him off, but he’s got the kind of confidence in himself, like Tom Brady had, that he knows he’ll fix it. He just does. Fifteen minutes earlier he’d said virtually the same thing to me out on the loud German pitch, but he said it again, with conviction, almost to convince me: “Believe me—we will figure out this offense. No doubt in my mind.”

Odd, then, across the locker room, to hear Travis Kelce say, “I really think this is probably the most complete team we’ve ever had.” Bravado talk, you’d think, after a desultory loss in Denver last week and then, 5,500 miles away, a big win with not much help from one of the great offenses of the century.

That’s because the Kansas City defense won this game Sunday, and there’s not many times you’ve been able to say that about this franchise since Mahomes took over for good in 2018. The defense won it when cornerback Trent McDuffie, safety Mike Edwards and safety Bryan Cook combined for one of the weirdest, and biggest, plays of this NFL season. It happened in the first NFL game ever in a 98-year-old stadium that’s hosted two World Cups and some of the biggest futbol games in the history of a soccer-crazy country. Jaws dropped among the 50,023 desperadoes who’d come from Missouri and Miami and Madrid and Munich to see Mahomes v. Tua, Reid v. McDaniel, Tyreek v. Kelce … and instead watched as the game turned on McDuffie deftly punching the ball out from the most dangerous player on the field, Tyreek Hill. I’m not equating McDuffie to Messi, but the roar from the crowd when it happened had to be at a decibel level akin to what it might have been on a bicycle-kick goal by Lionel Messi.

“Never seen anything like that,” one Irish journalist said to me in the KC locker room afterward.

“Neither have I,” I said.

Mahomes: Chiefs 'will find a way' on offense
Patrick Mahomes speaks to Peter King after Kansas City's win against the Miami Dolphins, crediting the defense for their effort and discussing what is ailing the offense.


Festive Saturday night in central Frankfurt, which is divided by the River Main. The Chiefs procured a 250-foot luxury three-deck yacht, wrapped it in red and christened it “ChampionShip,” as a beacon for the tons of KC fans in town for the game—or local fans who wanted to see and touch NFL things, like the franchise’s Super Bowl trophies. The franchise has invested a reported $3 million to build a German market.

On the ship Saturday night, owner Clark Hunt and commissioner Roger Goodell mingled with fans and corporate types. “We don’t want to wait another eight years to play overseas,” club president Mark Donovan told me on the ship. In an ideal world, KC would be a road team so it wouldn’t have to give up a home game, but no foe would want to give up a home game with Patrick Mahomes on the field, so the team might have to come over again in a year when it has nine home games. Donovan said the franchise looks at international games as a long-term play. “On a P and L basis, this doesn’t make sense in the short-term,” he said. “When we look at what we’re doing today, the true benefits will be 30 years down the road.”

But it helps to win, of course, and Kansas City is an immensely popular team here right now. The team arrived Friday morning after an overnight flight from Kansas City and had a light late afternoon practice that was mobbed by German and European media at the German national soccer team’s training facility near Deutsche Bank Park. At the post-practice news conference, 31 video cameras and about 125 reporters showed up—beating the crowd that came to see Tom Brady and the Bucs in Munich 51 weeks earlier. The highlight came when a female reporter asked Travis Kelce about the status of his current relationship with Taylor Swift, and whether he was in love with her.

Now there’s something I never thought I’d be writing in this column.

“The latest status is I got to see her last week,” Kelce said, trying to make the topic disappear.

“Are you in love?” the reporter said.

“I’m gonna keep my personal relationship personal,” he said, courteously.

Friday night, coach Andy Reid went to dinner with his wife Tammy in the city. He told his security guy he didn’t need an escort. But the security guy went. When they walked into the restaurant, Reid looked around. All red. “All our fans,” he said. “Amazing.”

During the week, the city was awash in red, and Kansas City fans outnumbered Miami maybe 80-20. On gameday, when the PA announcer said, “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome head coach Mike McDaniel and the Miami Dolphins,” the reaction was cacophonous.


And at the end of the U.S. National Anthem, as is the Arrowhead custom, the singer was drowned out when she sang, “The land of the free, and the home of the


“Electric the whole game,” said KC’s Edwards. “Felt like a playoff game. Whole Germany is crazy.”

“It felt like we picked up Arrowhead and dropped it over here in Frankfurt,” receiver Justin Watson said. That is precisely what Clark Hunt and Mark Donovan want to build here.

Watson was part of an explosive first drive, seeming to finish it with a diving TD catch just 2:52 in. When it was ruled a trap on replay review, Mahomes took five extra seconds to score for real, on an 11-yard throw to a darting rookie, Rashee Rice, up the left seam. Mahomes led a 95-yard drive to a score in the second quarter, and KC was getting in gear now.

Now for the crazy play. Forty-seven seconds left in the half, and Tua Tagovailoa threw a swing pass to get Tyreek Hill open in space to the left. A lovely looking play, except no one blocked the cornerback, McDuffie. It was a strange tackle—McDuffie had his arms around Hill’s legs near the knees and still found a way to punch the ball out of Hill’s grasp at the KC 38-yard line. “When I made the hit, tried my best to strip it out,” McDuffie said. Edwards picked it up at the 37 and made it upfield four yards as Hill aggressively tackled him, turning him around in the process. Before going down, Edwards shovel-passed it to safety Bryan Cook, the 2022 second-rounder from Cincinnati. And he was off for a 59-yard TD down the right sideline.

“McDuffie’s relentless,” Andy Reid said of his 2022 first-round corner. “Quick, strong, tough. I mean tough. A lot like our defense. Lots of very young guys, tough and fast. Last year, our secondary was kind of watching and hesitant. We strengthened our linebackers a bit this year. Now the young guys have kind of taken over on defense.”

The Dolphins could easily have climbed back to 14-7 by halftime right there, with the first possession of the second half theirs. Instead it was 21-0 at the half. And Miami punted on its first drive of the second half.

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It was setting up for a KC rout, but Mahomes got nothing done in a flat second half. Miami got two TDs in the last five minutes of the third quarter, and Miami had a good chance to tie it in the final 70 seconds. With a third-and-10 at the KC 31-yard line and 67 seconds left, Tua Tagovailoa threw a deep ball 10 yards short to an open Cedrick Wilson down the left side. Tagovailoa blamed himself for a miscommunication, and that may be true; in any case, the ball looked awful, way short and way left in a crucial situation.

On fourth down, Tagovailoa was in shotgun. The snap from center Connor Williams was just off to the right, but certainly not uncatchable. It went right through Tagovailoa’s hands. Terrible pass on third down. Brain fart on fourth down. Not exactly how the pilot of the best offense wants to end a vital game that might—might—determine AFC home-field. “I’ve got to catch that ball,” Tua said. “Can’t end a game like that against a really good team.” Miami’s 0-3 against said good teams this year.

When the game was over, Reid and offensive coordinator Matt Nagy were alone in Reid’s office for 17 minutes. Clearly, nine points last week in Denver and 14 offensive points this week is not good enough. We got used to seeing Kansas City’s offense score 23 points in a half; now it’s a streak of four halves with 23 total. Here’s what I saw Sunday: narrow separation with receivers and a good Miami secondary. That’s got to change—either by an increased usage of motion by quick guys like Rashee Rice and Kadarius Toney, or maybe by expanding the use of big-time sparkplug Isaiah Pacheco, who runs very, very angry. I kept thinking Sunday: I wonder what would result if Pacheco was split out more, maybe even to run the kind of orbit motion Tyreek Hill has made so dangerous in Miami.

As KC heads into its bye (Philly comes to Arrowhead two Mondays from today), Reid seemed pensive when I met him in his office for a few minutes post-game.

“I do have faith in our guys, yeah,” Reid said. “We’re a little bit like the defense was last year in that we’re young in some spots. But we’re getting better. [Rashee Rice] is getting better every week and so we just gotta keep coming. If they’re gonna double Kelce, these other guys have to step up. [Justin] Watson, who’s not a rookie, he’s getting better in the offense. Skyy Moore made plays today. We know what we can be.”

Time’s of the essence. Kansas City’s 7-2, atop the AFC with Baltimore; the 6-2 Jags are a bye week behind. It was a good weekend for the franchise in Frankfurt. Now the business shifts back to all football down the stretch. Mahomes’ receivers must rise closer to his level. They’ve got to find a way to separate, starting against James Bradberry and Darius Slay two weeks from tonight. Luckily for the team, there’s a top-five to seven defense in place to help, finally.

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column.