With an open week, the Chiefs didn’t have a game to work out the miserable feeling leftover from a 29-point loss at Pittsburgh.
But if it was possible to have a good day while watching Sunday’s games, it happened to the Chiefs. A loss by the division-leading Broncos to the Atlanta Falcons was the first by Denver this season.
The outcomes among AFC West teams could have resulted in high fives all around for the Chiefs. But the Oakland Raiders staged a second-half comeback and defeated the San Diego Chargers.
As the season passes the quarter point, the Broncos and Raiders are tied atop the division at 4-1. The Chiefs, headed to Oakland on Sunday, are 2-2 and the Chargers fell to 1-4.
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The Chiefs are fortunate to stand even. The opening game triumph over the Chargers required the greatest comeback in team history, and to hear the players and coach Andy Reid in the aftermath of the Steelers debacle, their record — and the way the Chiefs have performed most of the season — is disappointing.
The oft-repeated sentiment from Reid: “We’re 2-2. It’s not the end of the world, even though it feels that way.”
It does because the list of concerns through four games is longer than anticipated, especially on offense. The Chiefs entered the weekend with the 23rd-ranked offense, last in the division, behind even a Broncos team that opened the season with a second-year quarterback in Trevor Siemian, whose previous NFL experience totaled one snap and kneeldown.
Siemian led the Broncos to four victories before injuring his left (non-throwing) shoulder in the previous game. Rookie Paxton Lynch started against the Falcons and wasn’t ready. He was sacked six times in the 23-16 loss.
“I’m upset because we lost, but I’m kind of happy I got the first one under my belt,” Lynch said. “If I get put in that situation again I’ll handle it better.”
Siemian’s status for the Broncos’ next game — Thursday at San Diego — is unknown, but Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said he considered playing Siemian on Sunday.
“It was a game-time decision,” Kubiak said. “He did everything he could for us all week long. He tried to get there, worked extremely hard to get there, but he just wasn’t ready.”
With their 34-31 triumph over the Chargers, the Raiders improved to 4-1 for their first time since 2002, Oakland’s last season that ended in the Super Bowl.
The Chargers lined up for a 35-yard field-goal attempt that would have tied the game with 2 minutes remaining, but holder Drew Kaser mishandled the snap and the kick didn’t happen as San Diego’s misfortune continued.
The Chargers held an eight-point lead in the third quarter Sunday, and that’s the least advantageous position in which they’ve found themselves in any of their losses. In the previous three, San Diego held the lead in the fourth quarter.
One of those pratfalls occurred in Kansas City, where the Chargers led by 21 in the third quarter and had a 17-point lead early in the fourth.
Although the Chiefs sit in third place, they have two games remaining against the teams ahead of them. And after four games last season, the Chiefs were 1-3 and on their way to 1-5, while the Broncos won their first seven games.
The trends changed. The Chiefs won their final 10 games, and the Broncos finished the season 5-4. Had Kansas City defeated Denver in the second week last season and the rest of the year played out as it did, the Chiefs would have won the division.
In the NFL scheduling matrix, division teams play the same opponents with two exceptions based on order of finish.
AFC West teams this year meet different teams from the AFC North and AFC East. The Chiefs, as the second-place team last season, drew the Steelers and the Jets. They’ve already played those teams and got a split.
The division-winning Broncos got the first-place teams from those divisions, the Bengals and Patriots. Denver won at Cincinnati and plays New England at home in December.
So, the Broncos have a leg up there.
The Broncos and Raiders have another edge. Where the Chiefs have won both of their home dates and lost their road games, the Broncos and Raiders have been road warriors.
Denver is 2-0 on the road, and Oakland has started 3-0 away from home.
Close games? The Raiders have two one-point victories, including a triumph at New Orleans in the opener on a gutsy win-or-lose two-point conversation after a touchdown in the final minute.
The Broncos took a one-point victory over Carolina in a Super Bowl rematch in the opener.
But this weekend results were — for the first time this season — good for the Chiefs and bad for the Broncos, and three-quarters of a season remains for the Chiefs.