A lot can change in a month. Just ask the Chiefs.
It was only weeks ago that the Chiefs looked like Super Bowl contenders, and quarterback Alex Smith was being mentioned as an MVP candidate, while rookie running back Kareem Hunt was an offensive force.
But after Sunday’s dispiriting 16-10 home loss to the Bills, the Chiefs’ record has dropped to 6-5 and they are being challenged by the Chargers and Raiders for AFC West supremacy.
The Chiefs’ troubles have made them a popular topic around the country. Here is what people are saying about their problems:
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▪ Andy Benoit of Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback wrote a piece with the headline “The Chiefs Have Been Figured Out.”
Benoit says Pittsburgh gave opposing teams a game plan for beating the Chiefs when the Steelers won 19-13 in October. Benoit writes:
When a good team loses, people wonder aloud if there’s now a blueprint for how to beat them. Usually it’s overblown, if not outright nonsensical. But every once in a while, it’s legitimate. Like right now, and the blueprint to beat the Kansas City Chiefs. ...
So what blueprint did the Steelers set? A passive one. Instead of attacking Smith and Co., they stayed back in soft zone coverage. They kept everything in front of them and rallied to the ball. It was a simple, but brilliant, approach.
The gadgets and gimmicks that comprise Andy Reid’s offense, the tools they had used to light up the Patriots in (Foxborough) on opening night, suddenly stopped working. The misdirection that had given opponents fits, with ploys like speedy Tyreek Hill racing one way and the ball optioning back another, became null. If defenders don’t match up and follow offensive players, then those gadgets and misdirections are less effective. Instead of following Hill (or any Chiefs player) and becoming out-leveraged pawns against Reid’s designs, defenders now guard an area of the field, forcing Reid to play to them.
Benoit doesn’t believe the Chiefs need to switch quarterbacks at this time.
What the Chiefs must do in the here and now is punish defenses for playing zone. You do that by going for big plays. Re-establishing a sustainable ground and screen game with rookie running back Kareem Hunt is important, sure, but the threat of steady, sustained drives is not what worries defensive coordinators—especially coordinators who are playing zone. Big plays worry them. And it’s that worry that will drag defensive play-callers away from soft zones, giving Kansas City’s foundational misdirection and gadgetry a chance to start working again.
You can read more of what Benoit wrote here.
▪ Mark Maske of the Washington Post believes the Chiefs need to give rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes a chance. The headline of his story is: “The Chiefs need to consider moving from Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes at quarterback”
(L)ately, Smith has been part of the problem. He has one touchdown pass and three interceptions over the past two games, losses to the New York Giants and the Bills. The Chiefs have totaled only 36 points over their past three games, all defeats.
The Chiefs traded up to select Mahomes 10th overall in this year’s draft. He is the quarterback of the future in Kansas City, and it stands to reason that future will begin by the outset of next season.
Perhaps it should begin now.
The downward spiral is not necessarily Smith’s fault. But head coaches and quarterbacks get more than their fair share of the credit or the blame in the NFL. And, in this case, Smith is receiving more of the blame than he probably deserves.
Still, it’s time for Coach Andy Reid to do something. Staying the course is not going to get this fixed. ...
There is a season to be saved. Doing nothing might not be an option if Reid is looking for a way to jolt his team out of its current doldrums.
You can read more of what Maske wrote here.
▪ Lauren Theisen of Deadspin wrote a story with the headline, “The Chiefs Are Flailing.”
Theisen wrote that the Chiefs looked unbeatable early in the season:
With rookie Kareem Hunt appearing to be the greatest running back ever (at the time), Smith guided the team to a 5-0 start while utilizing an unconventional college-inspired spread-type offense.
Kansas City is now 6-5, as Hunt and Smith have both faltered. Given a home game against a beatable opponent today, Smith completely failed to reassure anyone, while Hunt rushed 11 times for 17 yards against what should have been a flimsy Buffalo run defense.
Despite Sunday’s defeat, Theisen wrote, the Chiefs can right the ship. She wrote:
Even after the loss, Kansas City still leads the very bad AFC West, so there’s still time to figure it out. But Mahomes, who’s supposed to be the Chiefs’ long-term option, might be needed in the short term if the offense stays this stagnant in a very winnable division.
You can read more of what Theisen wrote here.
▪ Adam Stites of SB Nation also thinks the Chiefs should consider Mahomes. He wrote an article with the headline, “Patrick Mahomes might not be the answer, but the Chiefs need a spark.”
While Stites says there are plenty of problems with the offense, including the line and Hunt, the Chiefs might benefit from Mahomes’ presence by stretching the field.
Against the Bills, Smith attempted just one pass more than 20 yards downfield. Against the Giants, he tried five but completed only two and threw an interception on a deep pass.
The inability to hit the big play is a stark difference from the beginning of the year when Smith was 11 of 19 on passes 20 yards or more downfield in the first five games with 440 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions.
That drop off has come despite the fact that teams are increasingly focusing on stopping Hunt and committing extra defenders to do so. ...
That’s where Mahomes could make things interesting. The Chiefs want to be patient and develop the former Air Raid quarterback, but traded up 17 spots in the first round to take him because of his cannon of an arm.
Stites wrote that it wouldn’t be an easy decision to go with Mahomes:
The risk is tossing a rookie with growing to do into an offense that has been tailored to Smith’s skillset and potentially stunting the growth of a passer who Kansas City hopes will be the future of the franchise.
For now, it’s Smith’s job. But with the Chiefs now clinging to a one-game lead over a pair of division rivals, the team desperately needs to get back to winning.
Up next is a road game against the New York Jets — a subpar team with a dangerous defensive line. If the Chiefs offense looks like it did in November, calls for the rookie aren’t going to be easy for Reid to ignore.
You can read more of what Stites wrote here.
▪ Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes that the AFC West is up for grabs, thanks to the Chiefs’ slide. He wrote:
Meet the gurgling Kansas City Chiefs, who are reprising the boom-to-bust seasons of the 2008 and 2009 Denver Broncos that coincided with San Diego rising into two Super Bowl tournaments.
This Chiefs decline is a doozy, even by those dramatic standards.
K.C. has gone from 5-0 to 6-5, while scarcely resembling the stable outfit that, dating to 2013, had won nearly 70 percent of its games under the current head coach and quarterback.
Week 1 seems so long ago.
Back then, the Chiefs went to New England and routed the Patriots, hushing talk of the Super Bowl champs going 16-0.
Now K.C. can’t win as a double-digit favorite on betting lines, losing Sunday to the Buffalo Bills, a week after the New York Giants beat them too.
Chiefs fans are famously supportive, but after watching their team’s bamboozled offense Sunday, many of them booed.
You can read more of what Krasovic wrote here.