From play call to execution, here’s what went wrong on Chiefs’ fourth-down failure

For how un-Chiefs-like it all unfolded in the initial 55 minutes, they still had a chance to win the game. Still a chance to remain undefeated. In fact, the Chiefs possessed an opportunity that on most Sundays would be considered desirable.

Five minutes on the clock. Down six. The most valuable player at your disposal.

Who would bet against them?

But that series turned on a fourth-down play, with the Chiefs situated in a similar spot on the field in which quarterback Patrick Mahomes had converted with his legs just one week earlier. On the call Sunday night against the Colts, Mahomes took a snap under center, dropped back and .... handed the ball off.

Running back Damien Williams was tackled before reaching the line of scrimmage. The play effectively ended the game, with the Colts taking over in field-goal range already holding a six-point lead.

Final: Colts, 19, Chiefs 13.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid responded to questions about the play-call late Sunday. Why not put the ball in the hands of the league’s MVP? A day later, Reid brought up the topic before a question was even presented.

“That was a play that we all felt good about,” he said. “We were one block away from taking care of business there on that. You learn from that.”

Mahomes was hobbled in the game, a teammate jabbing spikes into an already-sore ankle. His top receivers were out with other injuries. But he made the plays in Detroit seven days earlier. Willed his team to a win. A no gain with the ground game prevented the chance of him doing it back to back weeks.

What went wrong on the play? Well, much of the same as those first 55 minutes. The Chiefs were beat up front.

With a twist. The Colts defensive line bruised the Chiefs’ offensive line throughout the game, sacking Mahomes four times. They made five total stops in the backfield. But on this particular play, the Chiefs simply did the Colts a favor. They left a motivated Justin Houston completely unblocked.

After wearing out the Chiefs’ offensive line in his return to Kansas City, Houston didn’t have to beat anyone to make a game-sealing tackle. He just had to identify the play design.

“Glory be to God,” Houston said. “They put me in position to make a play, and I made it.”

While some play designs call for little attention on the weak side, this wasn’t one of them. Without knowing individual assignments, only those inside the building know which player missed theirs, but Chiefs left tackle Cam Erving stood as the lone blocker on that side of the line. Erving pinched inside to provide help on an interior defender and then tried to bounce back outside to knock Houston off his course. The latter move arrived too late. By the time Erving returned outside, Houston had already raced by him, on his way to trip Williams in the backfield.

Erving whiffed. He threw his arms in the air in apparent frustration.

The play-call didn’t work.

But neither did its execution.

“On the back side, Justin made a nice play. He came off the backside and made the play,” Reid said. “We need to do a better job of blocking that and working through it. You give him credit.”

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