Chiefs coaches and teammates say they have a good locker room, with solid professionals, guys who really care about each other. And you know that’s true because after two weeks of everyone talking about how terrible the offense was, the defense stepped up with a terrible performance of its own.
They were bad pretty much all over the field during a 38-31 loss to the Jets here on Sunday. The line didn’t get much push, the corners didn’t get much coverage, and the linebackers were a little slow. The pass rush was, well, not much.
The Chiefs’ problems run deep, and I wrote a little about this before the game, but the struggles of Alex Smith and the offense recently made it easy for fans to forget that the defense has been a much bigger concern for most of the season.
Josh McCown — let that sink a little — made play after play. One drive, the Jets converted five third downs. Another drive, Elijah McGuire scored a touchdown that was called back after review, and then the very next snap Bilal Powell scored a fairly straightforward touchdown.
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The Chiefs turned particularly inept on third downs, and a darkly comedic dysfunction bubbled to the surface here, too. They had the Jets limited to a field goal late in the fourth quarter, but then Chris Jones was called for a pretty basic penalty on the attempt. They had the Jets stopped on third down after that, but Steven Nelson was called for a pretty basic hold on the play.
Just an atrocious stretch there for a defense that had been gashed by a mediocre offense all day.
And then, well, Marcus Peters. You can’t throw the flag into the stands.
I did not expect to type that sentence when I woke up this morning, but that’s one of the joys of covering this team.
▪ Nobody cares, because the Chiefs lost, but Alex Smith did a very Alex Smith thing here, which is end the worst stretch of his season — and perhaps of his time with the Chiefs — with one of the better games he’s played.
There has been and remains plenty to criticize Smith about, but anyone who criticizes his toughness mentally or physically is not just ignorant but willfully so.
The list of professional adversities this man has faced is extensive and often bizarre. He was drafted before his 21st birthday, to a dysfunctional franchise that gave him a new offensive system each year. He once missed an entire season because the doctor screwed up a shoulder surgery.
He was playing the season of his life, lost his job because of a concussion, then was traded to a team that just went 2-14. He’s helped that team to three postseasons in four years.
Smith was not perfect against the Jets, and his limitations remain. But there are reasons he retains respect and belief in the locker room, and one of those reasons is he is impossible to crack.
Again, nobody cares, because the Chiefs lost, and Smith had a chance at the end to be the hero. But unless you are so committed to a narrative that you will not budge, this loss is not on the quarterback. Smith played well.
He finished 19 of 33 passes for 366 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. He completed a 79 yard pass and made a 70 yard run.
The offensive line did little to help him, again, his pre snap plans needing repeated editing. His arm was hit on a few throws. Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams, in particular, put together a personal highlight film.
But Smith did enough for the Chiefs to score 31 points, including (finally) stretching the Jets’ defense when there was no help over the top on Tyreek Hill.
▪ I just need to use a whole bullet point for this. I just don’t understand why it’s not an automatic audible to a go route whenever Hill is against single coverage with no help over the top.
The Chiefs had that look at least twice, perhaps more, without going to it. Then they got the look twice, and went for long touchdowns.
I know this is oversimplifying, and there are other factors, like protection, but this seems like a pretty basic thing to me. Would help the offensive line, too, because it would discourage defenses from stacking the box.
▪ This is one of those things I need to use a disclaimer with, but the defensive line looked like it had one of its worst games. Offensive line, too, actually, but we’re used to seeing that.
The defensive line didn’t get much push, and the Jets figured out pretty quickly they could convert short yardage pretty easily by going up the middle, including with sneaks.
The Chiefs have a lot of problems in the trenches. This isn’t new. But it did stick out, again.
▪ Darrelle Revis looked ... like a guy available around Thanksgiving. He looked like a depth cornerback, vulnerable in coverage, able to make most basic plays. He looked, basically, like a guy who hadn’t played football in a while.
He didn’t play in the second half, and I’m not sure whether that’s performance or endurance based. I’d believe either explanation, actually.
I think what we saw is that the Chiefs added one more flawed cornerback, though if this is a matter of needing to get back in football shape, maybe there’s more “ceiling” the rest of the season in Revis than the others.
One point of concern: the Jets seemed very, very willing to run plays that required Revis to make basic tackles. They know something about Revis over there,
▪ Tamba Hali was inactive for the second time in three games. He is one of my favorite athletes, on and off the field, so this makes me sad. He complained about playing time before training camp, then was inactive for eight weeks, played 20 snaps, missed two weeks, played 13, and now is missing the next game.
He’s been, vaguely, OK when in. He creates some pressure. If nothing else, he’s a threat. You have to respect him. But particularly when — no offense — Frank Zombo and Tanoh Kpassagnon are the alternatives, it’s a really rotten look.
Tamba has had a terrific career. He’ll be in the ring of honor. But unless something drastic changes, the last part of his career is going to be remembered as the most obvious point of reference about John Dorsey’s mistakes.
I believe this, by the way: where Dorsey probably erred on trusting vets too much, I believe Brett Veach is going to be on the opposite side. I think he’s going to want to get younger, and be willing to walk away from guys a year too early rather than a year too late.