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The cheat sheet: 3 keys to stopping the Kansas City Chiefs

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Not many have defeated the Chiefs, but here’s what we can learn from those who have.

Kansas City at Denver David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Is it just me, or does it feels like the only way this Chiefs vs Lions game plays out is in a shootout?

I think that’s just how Andy Reid and his coaching staff like it. Their defense isn’t going to win them games, and they know going into every week that they will rely on the arm of Patrick Mahomes.

And, so far, that seems to be working just fine.

The Chiefs only lost four games last season with that plan and have yet to lose any this year.

So, in order to try and figure out what it takes to beat the Chiefs, I went back and looked at each of those 2018 losses and noticed a few similarities between all four games.

stats via pro-football-reference.com

Here are the three things the Lions should focus on in order to beat the Chiefs on Sunday.

Baltimore Ravens vs Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Limiting penalties

In every game the Chiefs lost last year they also lost in the penalty box. The worst game was against the Los Angeles Rams when they committed 13 penalties for 135 yards.

Last year the Chiefs lead the NFL in penalties against, averaging just over eight per game. But so far this year they’ve been much better, with just over six penalties per game through the first three weeks.

Baltimore Ravens vs Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Running the ball

I’m not going to sit here and be one of those guys that says “If you can rush the ball ‘X’ times a game you’re going to win,” but I do think the ability to run the ball effectively against the Chiefs is going to be a key to winning this game.

The Lions haven’t had much success on the ground so far, but I do see them being able to exploit a Chiefs team that is giving up the largest yards per rush attempts average (6.2) in the entire NFL, and the sixth most yards per game (137.7).

Chiefs beat Bills 30-22 David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Winning the time of possession

Last but certainly not least is the time of possession. Matt Patricia joked earlier this week that his favorite spot to see Patrick Mahomes is on the sideline, and I think that will play a big part in his game plan heading into this week.

I mentioned in the Week 1 Cheat Sheet heading into the game against the Cardinals, but the Lions will probably look to deploy a similar game script as they did when they played the Patriots in Week 3 last season.

The game plan was simple: run the ball, control the clock, and keep Tom Brady on the sideline.

And that’s exactly what the Lions need to do on Sunday.

Looking at the chart above, you’ll notice that in the games against the Patriots and the Seahawks, the Chiefs lost the time of possession battle by over 10 minutes.

Baltimore Ravens v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Opponent snapshot

The Kansas City Chiefs haven’t lost more than seven games since Andy Reid took over as head coach in 2013. Even more amazing might be the fact that since Patrick Mahomes took over last season, the Chiefs have never scored fewer than 26 points in a game.

There’s a reason this game has the highest over/under this week at 55.

Baltimore Ravens v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Chiefs’ biggest threat (other than Patrick Mahomes)

Receiving weapons

The Lions did a great job of limiting the Eagles’ passing attack last week. But the Eagles, of course, were without their top two receivers and didn’t threaten the Lions deep.

This week it’s a completely different story. Yes, the Chiefs are without speedster Tyreek Hill, but they still have Travis Kelce and their young receivers have been exceptional over the last two weeks.

The Lions defense has done a pretty good job of limiting big pass plays this season, but this Chiefs’ offense will be their biggest test to date.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs’ weak link

Run defense

I wrote earlier this week about the Chiefs’ run defense, and if there’s a game the Lions will want to establish the run it’s this one. The Chiefs’ run defense ranks towards the bottom of the NFL in most categories and should be exploited by the Lions on Sunday.

Bottom line

The Lions will need to play a near-perfect game in order to win. They need to limit penalties, run the ball effectively, and control the clock. I’m just not sure they can do all three in Week 4.

Prediction

Lions 28 Chiefs 35