The Chiefs were the best team in the NFL after five weeks and have been among the worst since and if I could tell you exactly why I would not be employed as a sports columnist.
I’d be a miracle worker.
Oh, I’ve got theories about the Chiefs suddenly stinking, marked most recently by a 16-10 loss to the Bills on Sunday. The team that was once 5-0 and on top of everyone’s NFL power rankings is now 6-5 and sinking like a dumb rock.
Alex Smith is the biggest difference. He’s inaccurate on basic throws, but at least his pocket presence has been atrocious. The offensive line, despite getting healthier, is worse. Travis Kelce isn’t involved enough. Kareem Hunt isn’t given a chance, sometimes by the line, other times by the coaches. Tyreek Hill is the fastest decoy in the history of the NFL. Teams are showing no respect for the pass, so they load up on the run, and the Chiefs don’t know what to do.
Andy Reid is among the highest paid coaches in the NFL, based primarily on his chops with offense, and he appears plain out of answers.
It’s one thing to go vanilla while you park the meta bus and wait for the playoffs. But it’s quite a different thing to manage nine points against the rotten Giants, then follow it up with 10 against the Bills, who gave up 101 the last two weeks.
One of the frustrating parts of this is the defense has been good enough, mostly. Certainly the last two weeks, and I would argue against the Steelers, too. Maybe even the Cowboys.
But the offense — what’s supposed to be this team’s strength — is holding back, inept, incompetent.
The Chiefs were the best team in football for a while. Then they were good, but flawed. The last two weeks they’ve just been bad.
Very, very, very bad. I don’t have anything positive to say. They stink.
▪ To follow an embarrassing loss to the rotten Giants with that first half is shameful. I do not know the words to do it justice, which is probably just fine, because you’re probably not super pumped to read the words that would do it justice.
Good teams, or even many bad teams with pride, do not do this. If they are embarrassed — not just beat, but embarrassed — good teams or many bad teams with pride will rise to the occasion. They will stand up. They will fight back.
In the first half, against a team that had given up 101 points the last two games, they managed 57 yards and one first down. They ran eight times for 18 yards. The offensive line was unimpressive, but even when it wasn’t, Smith was making them look worse by dropping back too far and leaving too soon.
The defense was OK, but it didn’t get a fair shake from the offense. They stopped the Bills on the first three possessions, but at some point, with 3-and-out after 3-and-out from the offense, you’re on the field too much. When your best chance is a score by the defense, you’re in a rotten spot.
▪ Alex Smith was horrendous in that first half, again. You could see that in the numbers — 4 for 11, 47 yards — but also in stuff that didn’t show up in the numbers. We mentioned above about his horrible pocket management, but he was also jaw droopingly inaccurate on basic throws.
Demarcus Robinson is wide open near the sideline, Smith is under no pressure, and the ball sails high and out of bounds. Robinson is open on third down, and in Smith’s vision, but he instead runs and takes a shot to the spleen short of the sticks. Travis Kelce is open for a potential touchdown, on a really nice play call from Reid, but Smith checks down and throws incomplete to Albert Wilson short of the sticks.
The Chiefs traded up to select Patrick Mahomes 10th overall. I am as excited about Mahomes’ career as anyone outside the Mahomes family, and I still don’t think the Chiefs will or should make the switch.
But right now, the argument for that has everything to do with Mahomes not getting any practice reps, and Smith’s experience being important with the team still leading the division, and almost nothing to do with what we’re seeing on the field.
▪ That screen pass deserves it’s own section, right?
Tyreek Hill and Albert Wilson — both Chiefs employees — ran to the same spot, behind the line of scrimmage, trying to catch the same screen pass ... and if you have a better three-second illustration of the Chiefs’ problems I’d like to hear it.
It was the kind of play you’d see from a high school team, though only a high school team with bad coaching or kids who don’t listen, because we’re not talking about talent or even execution here. We’re just talking about knowing the play.
That led to another punt, and I believe the first boos of the day.
▪ The crazy thing is the Chiefs are still in first place. That’s a product of the 5-0 start, plus the AFC West being fairly terrible.
Stranger things have happened than for a team to regain its old form. But watching this team these last few weeks, you’d have to say that stranger things have not often happened.