It’s only one game. You could console yourself with that. And maybe there should be some sense of moderation or proportion in processing what you saw.
But … no.
This was a numbing, unsettling exhibition of football the Chiefs unfurled on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, where fans were fleeing in flocks by early in the fourth quarter.
All the optimism and promise of a fresh season, all the traction gained in last year’s remarkable turnaround, was abruptly punctured by this 26-10 fiasco.
Never miss a local story.
It was further marred by the oddity of dual ruptured Achilles’ tendons suffered by linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive end Mike DeVito.
Johnson in many ways is the heart of the defense, maybe even the team, and the sight of him being carted off in the second quarter deflated anyone who was watching.
Both players are feared lost for the season.
Those were sad but perhaps appropriately symbolic injuries considering all the other Achilles’ heels the Chiefs seem to have.
It’s only one game, but it exposed about everything that you might have thought worth fretting over in the offseason and preseason … and then some.
It’s only one game, but that’s a concept that even resilient quarterback Alex Smith had to balance with a deeper concern.
He felt, he conceded, some sense of both after a loss that stung.
“It’s not fun playing football like that … and losing like that,” he said. “At the same time, it is one game. We’ve got a lot of football ahead of us, and a big one coming up.
“So no time to sulk, certainly. … (But) we certainly recognize what we put out there today (was) just not good enough. Not even close to good enough.”
So much so that you’re left to wonder what market correction lurks here as the Chiefs settle into whatever their new normal will be following the extreme pendulum swings from the 2-14 debacle in 2012 to the 11-5 revival last season.
There would have been disappointment but not alarm in merely losing this game.
Instead, the way it happened makes for genuine concern about where this franchise really is after turning the roster over in heaps in the offseason.
And even if the defense had its issues and special teams its lapses, no aspect of the game was more jarring than the incoherent offensive play.
There were so many issues and warts that it’s almost hard to know where to start to untangle it.
So let’s start at one obvious end of the knot.
“It was a terrible game I called,” coach Andy Reid said.
That type of terminology often is Reid’s way of absorbing blame for his players’ mistakes.
But it’s hard to know where the line is between candor and cover here.
Consider the implications of the fact that team superstar Jamaal Charles touched the ball a mere 11 times for 34 yards.
He ran only seven times for 19 yards, and he caught four passes for 15 yards … even as former Chief Dexter McCluster was touching the ball as many times for a few more yards (46) for the Titans.
How much of this was because the Chiefs were playing from behind and how much because they didn’t have enough properly designed in anticipation of what Tennessee would do defensively is unclear. Maybe the box was stacked, and they checked out of a few things.
But one way or another, they failed to get the ball to their focal point.
“It hurts, but it’s a long season,” Charles said. “I want to see the ball more, and the coaches know that. I’m looking forward to moving on to the next game.”
So if the book on the Chiefs already was stop Charles and you stop them (and that’s exactly what it should be), that was only further affirmed by what happened Sunday.
Minimizing his presence either was a strategic blunder … or a goofy way for the Chiefs to protect the investment they made by adding millions to Charles’ contract before the season.
If that was the case, though, they probably would have figured out a way to better protect and bolster Smith.
Playing in his first game since receiving his own well-deserved multimillion dollar contract extension, Smith was sacked four times while completing just 19 of 35 passes for 202 yards with three interceptions … after throwing seven all last season.
Plenty of that was on Smith himself.
But it was just as much on a nondescript receiver corps that struggled to get open and was diminished by the absence of the suspended Dwayne Bowe.
It also was on an unestablished offensive line scrambled by personnel changes from last season … and even more so by the suspension of Donald Stephenson.
It’s not impossible that this can get better, of course.
It’s just that it might be hard to notice or improve on the fly as they play at Denver and Miami before returning home to play host to New England and then traveling to San Francisco and San Diego.
That’s why the way they played on Sunday mattered so much.
It wasn’t just the chance to seize a victory that might be in short supply this season but also to make a statement that last season established some sort of a new baseline foundation.
Instead, the Chiefs suddenly look stuck back in the muck.
It’s only one game, so that might be overstating it.
But it was one game that put the burden of proof on the Chiefs to demonstrate otherwise, first and foremost offensively and perhaps with a little boost from the neglected Charles.
“It was frustrating,” Charles said. “But it’s a long season, just one game. We’ve got a long way to go. We can get worse, or we can get good. My job is to get the team good.”
To reach Vahe Gregorian, call 816-234-4868 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @vgregorian. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.