A month ago, all that remained for the Kansas City Chiefs was to find out who they would be playing in the Super Bowl.
The Chiefs were the rage of the NFL, as they unleashed a sleek stable of thoroughbreds to roll up big points, including a season-opening beatdown of defending Super Bowl champion New England at Tom Brady-Bill Belichick Stadium.
Kansas City winged away to a 5-0 start and Alex Smith’s name was being engraved on the MVP award as he was as close to perfection as perfection can be. Pundits were saying the Chiefs were the NFL’s best team and it wasn’t even close. They were the only team to defeat Philadelphia, seemingly not a big deal at the time but now it looks monumental.
Then came the first loss of the year to Pittsburgh, but hey, the Steelers are the Chiefs’ kryptonite. A red flag or two popped up, because the Chiefs’ defense was gashed for big yards even though the final score was respectable.
But the following game at Oakland, the Chiefs let a fourth-quarter lead get away and then were beaten on the last play when the Raiders were given chance after chance because Kansas City kept committing pass interference. More red flags sprang up.
A 29-19 win over Denver was some salve for the wounds and moved the record to 6-2, acceptable for the halfway point. But nobody was surprised when the Chiefs lost at Dallas the following week, because the Cowboys at the time were really good and it was the end of an exhaustive five-game gauntlet against teams all expected at the time to be in the playoffs.
So KC arrived at the bye week 6-3, but hardly the Super Bowl team that was bandied after five weeks, yet still a comfortable playoff qualifier. The bye week was supposed to recharge the batteries and the Chiefs were expected to dismantle a New York Giants team that was thought to be tanking to improve its draft status or playing at half-speed because it doesn’t like the coach and wants to see him fired.
And nobody has been better after a bye week than Andy Reid.
So what do the well-rested Chiefs do against a team that had traveled across country to hand the 49ers their first win of the season the week before?
They don’t even score a touchdown in a 12-9 overtime loss, as ignominious of a defeat the team has had in an eternity.
So let’s forget the Super Bowl talk. And only because Denver and Oakland have been stinking it up are the Chiefs still two games up on the AFC West field. They had better watch out for Los Angeles (nee San Diego) because the Chargers have won four of six and have a shutdown defense that is becoming one of the best in the NFL.
The Chiefs have to find their mojo. The highlight reel the offense crafted for five weeks has been spliced. The offensive line is a mess. It can’t pass block and the running game has dried up. Kareem Hunt has been just another decent NFL back. After being Barry Sanders, Jim Brown and Walter Payton all rolled into one and on the cover of every magazine, he now looks like the Doug Martins and Ameer Abdullahs of the world.
Kansas City fans are going apoplectic. They’re calling for Alex Smith to be replaced by Patrick Mahomes (big mistake) and for Reid to be fired (even bigger mistake). They have to remember they have a TWO-GAME lead. And Denver and Oakland are going south as well so the Chiefs may win the division by default unless the Chargers charge.
What I see is a lack of urgency. The offensive line is the main culprit and then the pass rush (or should I say non-existent pass rush). The Chiefs gave up 12 points on Sunday, which normally wins you most games. While they gave up yards, they bowed their backs when they had to.
The schedule still favors a Chiefs late-season run if they can pull their collective helmets out of their rear ends. There’s a lot of good players on this team and, yes, Reid does sometimes get too cute for his own good (see the Travis Kelce pass). The play calling at times makes me scratch my head, but Big Red has a proven track record and what he’s done in Kansas City is give fans hope each year, unlike the Todd Haley and Romeo Crennel days.
If I were Reid, I’d show the team the film of the New England game. That was a team with passion, energy and speed to burn. It also played physical that game, something that has been lacking during this 1-4 funk.
The Chiefs can get it turned around. They have four of their next five at home and the weather is going to start getting cold. The Raiders and Chargers still have to come to KC to complete the home-and-home and typically West Coast teams fare poorly in the cold. And the Miami beach bums also have to play in KC on Christmas Eve and not even Garo Yepremian should be able to save them.
So Chiefs fans, chill. They’re going to get it figured out.