The interview began with an exchange of pleasantries, an avenue to ease into the more difficult questions that Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt certainly knew were coming. But in that moment — as he prepared for those inquiries— Hunt offered an insight into which topic was consuming his thoughts.
The question was simply, “How are you?” Hunt looked toward the ground, shook his head ever so slightly and responded, “Just trying to get back on track.”
It didn’t happen Sunday. As the Chiefs’ woes continued in a 16-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Arrowhead Stadium, so too did the struggles of their rookie running back.
Hunt managed only 17 yards on 11 carries. He caught a season-low one pass. He did not have a run that exceeded nine yards. Only once did he skirt past the Buffalo defensive line.
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It was the topic of a halftime conversation, per wide receiver Tyreek Hill. But not all of the responsibility fell to Hunt.
“Just man up,” Hill said when asked of coach Andy Reid’s message to his team in the halftime locker room. “I feel like as an offense we have to step up and block — not only the offensive linemen but the receivers included in that. Everybody has to do their job for Kareem to do his.”
A dip in Hunt’s production Sunday wasn’t exactly an outlier. It’s the extension of an alarming trend, one that has spanned more than a month now.
The opening five weeks of the season featured NFL record-breaking outputs, a streak of 50-yard touchdown plays and way-too-early conversations placing Hunt in the league’s MVP race. He ran for 609 yards and four touchdowns in those five weeks, averaging 6.3 yards per carry.
A sharp contrast ensued. Hunt has rushed for 281 yards in six games, averaging 3.3 yards per carry. He has not found the end zone.
But he has found more attention. That arrived after the early-season success. Although he often shrugged his shoulders when asked about the difference in the first part of the season when compared to the recent spin, Hunt did acknowledge he’s seeing more defenders.
“There’s definitely more people in the box,” Hunt said. “But we just gotta do a better job all around — myself, up front, everybody.”
That will require an adjustment. Hunt has a burst in his running style, usually triggered immediately after being handed the football. In the topic of adaptations, he started there.
“I feel like maybe sometimes just being a little more patient, seeing a little bit more, I guess,” Hunt said. “I don’t know. Gotta figure it out.”
The Bills seemingly presented an opportunity to figure some things out. They entered the afternoon ranked 24th in the NFL in rushing defense.
Instead, 17 yards stood as Hunt’s output.
“This group was different. They did a little different thing with us,” Reid said. “It wasn’t anything that we haven’t seen or haven’t been successful against.
“We were off. We have to get through this and get it changed around.”