Chiefs coach Andy Reid is not big on excuses or shifting blame anywhere but himself.
It is a largely endearing trait from a leader, a reason why his guys play for him and his coaches stick with him.
So on Monday, when asked to crystallize the reasons why his offense stalled so often in their 29-16 loss to the Denver Broncos the day before, there’s little wonder why Reid made it clear that everybody — everybody — deserves blame in an uninspiring 151-yard performance.
But it’s also worth noting that when asked if his team matched the physicality of Denver’s offensive and defensive lines, Reid made it clear those are the first areas he examines after a loss.
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“I’m always going to go back to the offensive and defensive line,” Reid said. “We didn’t do as well as we needed to do up front. So we’ve got to a do a better job, and we’re very capable of that. Some of that we can help with scheme.”
Specifically on offense, where the Chiefs allowed quarterback Alex Smith to be pummeled for a season-high six sacks. Smith, who completed 15 of 23 passes for 151 yards, was also hit 12 times — a number that caused center Rodney Hudson to shake his head after the game.
“We’ve got to protect the quarterback better,” Hudson said. “That’s not good enough.”
Particularly when five of six came as the result of delayed blitzes or stunts — a recurring theme all year, as the Chiefs have allowed 33 sacks, tied for ninth most in the league.
“The blitz game, we could have done a better job there, for sure, so, we’ve got to keep working at that. They got us on a couple new things” Reid said. “We made the adjustments and were able to work through those during the game, but there’s still room to improve and we’ll keep cranking on that.
“Some of that, I can help the guys with with different protections within the call, and so I’ve got to make sure I do that. We’ve all got a piece of that.”
Reid, however, pushed back some when asked if he was disappointed the offensive line hasn’t come together the way he initially hoped, reminding that the line was good enough to help the Chiefs get off to a 7-3 start.
“Since the bye, what are we, 5-2, somewhere in that area?” Reid said. “The last couple of games, we probably haven’t done as well as we need to do. That’s probably an understatement.”
That said, Reid wasn’t shy about shaking things up during the game. The Chiefs benched starting right tackle Ryan Harris in the second half in favor of Donald Stephenson, who was projected to be the starter there before his four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use.
“I was happy to get back out there,” Stephenson said. “That’s a tough situation, real tough, but I’m glad I got some action. It’s been a while.”
Before Sunday’s game, Stephenson hadn’t gotten off the bench, other than to serve as a sixth lineman in certain formations and help on special teams.
“We just put him in, really, to get some work in there,” Reid said.
Reid was noncommittal when asked if that means they plan to stick with Harris.
“We’ll see, again, we’re looking at everything,” Reid said.
Harris was pulled a few series after he allowed Denver linebacker Von Miller to dart around the edge and deliver a vicious shot to Smith in the back well after he delivered the football.
Miller was called for a late hit while Smith writhed in obvious pain, but at least one Chief — tight end Travis Kelce — thought it was a cheap shot, and made an obscene gesture with his hand after the play, which he says was directed toward Miller.
“I just found out about that,” Reid said. “Sounds like it was a bit of an immature act. I normally don’t let those things go by, so I’ll address that. I’ve got to see it first. But it sounds like an immature act.”
Kelce wasn’t the only player to respond in some way. Fullback Anthony Sherman seemed to make a beeline toward Miller on the next play — a touchdown pass from Smith to Charles — and go after him hard.
Reid was asked if he would have been upset if someone responded to Miller with a cheap shot, in turn. He didn’t want to touch that — “I’m not going there,” he said — but he did respond when asked if football etiquette demanded a on-field response to the late hit.
“Inevitably, you keep playing,” Reid said. “The game is going to continue on. Is it an emotional game? Do things happen and guys’ emotions get involved in that when one of our guys get hit? Yeah. I mean, you see that week in and week out. I mean, it is an emotional game. How you handle that is important.
“So if it’s throwing you out of your game or doing something that’s going to cost you one way or the other, then that’s not the right thing to do.”
At the end of the day, however, Miller and the Broncos’ front had the last laugh. He recorded two sacks after the hit, both against Stephenson, as his team came away with a victory that makes it difficult for the Chiefs to win the AFC West.
“You see this, with some of the good teams in the National Football League, where you run into a bump in the road and you work through it, collectively, as coaches and players and you fix it,” Reid said. “So that’s where we’re at right now. We’ve got to take care of business there and get back on track.”
The first step toward doing that would be a road win on Sunday against a 9-3 Arizona Cardinals team that hasn’t lost at home all season and, by the way, likes to blitz a lot under aggressive defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
That means that once again, the performance of the offensive line — as it is wont to do in football — will likely have a lot to do with this week’s outcome.
“We can play better football than we have the last couple of games,” Reid said of the offensive line. “We need to get back to that. Up to that point (two weeks ago), I thought we were doing a pretty good job. But the last couple of weeks, we haven’t played very well. We need to get that going again.”