The Chiefs have not scored a second-half touchdown in three games, which has predictably led to second-guessing about the offensive play calling following the Chiefs’ 19-17 home loss to Tennessee on Sunday.
Some of that was only fueled by the postgame comments of Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who said he felt the play calling in the second half Sunday got a little conservative, although he quickly added that it isn’t what lost them the game, and that the players have to execute better.
So before Chiefs coach Andy Reid took questions Monday about the offense’s issues — of which there are plenty — in his weekly news conference, Reid started by addressing Kelce’s statement.
“I know the things that are out there with ‘Kelc’ and that situation,” said Reid, who calls the Chiefs’ offensive plays. “I love the kid for the fact that he loves to play the game. He wants the ball and he wants to be the guy that wins the game for you, and I’m all in on that.
“It’s not something that’s a bad-hearted thing ... he was the first one to come to me and say it didn’t come out the way that he really wanted it to. He just wants to be that guy that makes a play and I appreciate that — that’s one thing I’ve told you before with guys like that.”
Reid was then asked what that conversation with Kelce — and the fact Kelce apparently came to Reid first — meant to him.
“Listen, he’s an emotional guy — he plays the game that way,” Reid said. “Nobody wants to win more than him; that’s how it is.”
Kelce, who leads the Chiefs in catches with 73 and has already eclipsed a career-high in yards with 957, saw his rare streak of four straight 100-yard receiving games (for a tight end) snapped Sunday with a three-catch, 41-yard outing in which he was targeted five times.
It is behind that backdrop that Reid again noted that he appreciates Kelce’s passion and frustration.
“I understand it — that’s what makes him the player he is,” Reid said. “And for him to come to me, he understood what went on and how what he said can be taken a couple different ways.”
Reid was also asked if he’s concerned about whether Kelce’s comments could have a negative effect on his teammates.
“I don’t feel that way,” Reid said. “We’ve got a strong locker room.”
That will be needed, despite the Chiefs’ 10-4 record, for their future as a playoff team.
The Chiefs rank 15th in points (22.8 percent), 27th on third downs (35 percent) and 28th in red-zone scoring (44.4 percent), which are all key factors in the playoffs. And with only two games left, the Chiefs are running out of time to fix it.
The task of doing that, Reid said, falls on himself. However, when he was asked if the offense gets too conservative in the second half of games — they’ve run approximately 45 times and thrown 36 in the second halves of the last three contests — Reid stopped short of agreeing.
“I look at all that — there’s situational plays and situations in games ... there’s a time and a place for everything,” Reid said. “I wouldn’t necessarily say that (we’re being too conservative), but when you don’t win the game, you’re going to definitely look at something like that.”
Reid did say that rookie wideout Tyreek Hill needed the ball more Sunday.
Hill, who leads the Chiefs in touchdowns with 10, broke off an electrifying 68-yard touchdown run on a well-designed play early in the first quarter, but was targeted only three times total on the day and didn’t have a catch or another carry.
Hill, to his credit, said he didn’t have any issues about the way he was used — “I just go out there and play,” he stressed multiple times — but Reid said he probably should have dialed Hill up more.
“I could have called his number a little bit more,” Reid said. “I don’t think it was really anything that they were doing, necessarily.”
Reid was also asked about quarterback Alex Smith’s recent lack of success when throwing into the end zone — he was intercepted in the paint on Sunday and against Tampa Bay on Nov. 20.
“I’ve got to give him better options,” Reid said. “I’ll take that.”
Finally, Reid was also quizzed about the Chiefs’ inability to win on some critical short-yardage situations Sunday.
Although the Chiefs closed out the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 8 by utilizing three straight running plays to get a first down, their inability to pound it from the 1-yard line in the second quarter against Tennessee — and their failure to convert on a third-and-2 quarterback option — contributed to the loss. A conversion on either of those situations could have iced the game.
“We’ve got to go back and work our attention to detail on some things there as coaches and players,” Reid said. “We’re all in it together on that thing.”
And even though the Chiefs can no longer earn the AFC’s No. 1 seed — New England, 12-2, could lose out and will still earn the tiebreaker —the Chiefs will need to stick together if they want to beat an angry Denver team on Christmas night and close out the season on a high note against San Diego on New Year’s Day.
“I expect to go back and work hard and get right back on it and fix the problems, so that’s what you do, and you’re still sitting in a pretty good situation here,” Reid said.
“You’re sitting there at 10-4 and everything’s ahead of you and you’ve got a great football team coming in that you have an opportunity to play,” Reid added. “So you get yourself right and go play.”