Creating a system that NFL players want to be part of is an attribute worth noting about the Kansas City Chiefs.
Claiming a Super Bowl championship last season helped create such an atmosphere.
Locking in a generational quarterback to a 10-year deal worth a cool half-billion dollars required asubstantial investment. Retaining other standout contributors also generates the kind of harmony that reflects positively on the organizational skills of general manager Brett Veach.
"We've built chemistry with bringing the same guys back, year-in and year-out, so we know where each other is on that football field," Patrick Mahomes said while looking ahead to a Sunday matchup pitting the Chiefs (9-1) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4) at Tampa, Fla.
Complications, however, have surfaced in the Kansas City laboratory.
Not within the offense, mind you. Mahomes is clicking along at the pace of an MVP candidate, while Travis Kelce ranks third among NFL receivers with 896 yards and could threaten the NFL's season yardage record by a tight end.
Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill generated 100 yards receiving in each of the last two games when the Chiefs needed every inch. Their defense allowed 31 points on average in those wins, requiring Mahomes and Co. to outproduce Carolina and Las Vegas.
While it has struggled in several areas defensively, Kansas City is particularly susceptible in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on 75.9 percent of those penetrations, the worst rate in the league.
"Mentally we're kind of upset because of these last two games we've had," said Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu, "but I wouldn't say we're down."
Good thing, considering the Chiefs will be facing a legendary quarterback capable of big heroics.
For the Bucs, though, the focus seems to be more bent on finding ways for Tom Brady to reload.
"We've got guys open, we've just missed them," Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said. "And there are times when coverage dictates you go to that guy. I think we can do a better job of utilizing the deep ball in our game plan."
Brady has gone 0-for-19 in the last four games on pass attempts of 20-plus yards.
While that deficiency might seem glaring, Brady could still be adept at exposing seams underneath. Kansas City allowed a .740 completion percentage in its last two games.
The Bucs have not yet capitalized on the breakaway skills of Antonio Brown, the four-time All-Pro receiver who has played three games since he was acquired mid-season and is averaging 8.7 yards on 18 receptions.
"It's just a matter of hitting him," Arians said. "He's doing a great job of running after the catch and within his role, he's doing a really good job. It's just when he's gone deep, we're not hitting him."
Bucs cornerback Jamel Dean was placed on concussion protocol following Monday's 27-24 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. He is questionable for Sunday's game, along with center A.Q. Shipley and guard Ali Marpet.
The Chiefs placed wide receiver Byron Pringle (ankle) on injured reserve but could retain another wideout, Sammy Watkins (hamstring), who has missed the last five games.
--Field Level Media