The locker room was quiet following the Chiefs’ 18-17 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday as players showered, dressed and left.
There were, however, far more players who stuck around to talk than there were a month ago when the Chiefs suffered another devastating home loss, this time to the Denver Broncos.
And with the Chiefs now sitting at a surprising (and disappointing) 1-4, the players who did speak Sunday made it clear there’s only one way out.
“Look, here’s the deal — when you get into these situations, you have to take it one game at a time,” defensive end Mike DeVito said. “You gotta focus on each day, each practice, getting better.
“I know that’s not the sexy answer, but that’s all you can do. You start worrying about your record and looking ahead and feeling sorry for yourself when we’ve still got, I don’t know, how many games (left)? You can pack it or you can keep grinding, but if you pack it in, you make it harder for yourself.”
Outside linebacker Justin Houston echoed similar words.
“You’ve got to stay positive, even on your dark days,” Houston said. “Right now it’s real dark for us. But we’ve just got to stay focused and stay positive.”
After all, like DeVito said, the season isn’t close to being finished yet. The Chiefs still have 11 games left, which means they still have two-thirds of the season left to play. And if they continue to lose games at this pace, they are headed toward a three- or four-win season.
That would be a surprise, given Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s track record. In 16 seasons as a head coach he has only had three losing seasons, with the worst coming in 2012, when his Philadelphia Eagles went 4-12 and he was fired after the season.
Chiefs receiver Jeremy Maclin, a member of that Eagles team, was blunt about what would happen this season if the Chiefs didn’t come to play the next few months.
“Everybody in this league is here for a reason,” Maclin said. “So if you don’t come to play, you lose.
“You’ve got to fight. Got to fight for our jobs. Got to fight as a team. Come together.”
The task will no doubt be harder without star running back Jamaal Charles, who was lost for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in a third-quarter carry Sunday.
The Chiefs led the Bears 17-3 at the time but wound up having an ensuing field goal attempt blocked on the way to being outscored 15-0 and outgained 220-52 yards the rest of the game.
“The immediate reaction was grim, but it was up to us to rally around (backup running back) Charcandrick (West) and go out and play some football,” center Mitch Morse said. “We fell short of that, and the only thing we know to do is come back on Wednesday and come work.”
Morse, however, did note how much Charles meant to the team, both as a player and person.
“Yeah, at camp, even for rookies, he was gracious and giving love,” Morse said. “He’s a great guy. Everyone loves the guy. There’s a reason people gravitate toward him.”
Still, Reid made it clear that it was up to the players and coaches to be accountable for Sunday’s collapse, regardless of Charles’ injury.
We’re all in it together, Reid said. Does it hurt to have Jamaal get hurt and watch him limp off the field? Yeah. At the same time, you’re not going to allow that to have the field goal be blocked and have an opportunity to put a nice kibosh on the game there and make it a long road for that team to come back.
The reality is, you block and you tackle, you do those things, and you go about doing your business.
Doing your business, as Reid said, is obviously a lot harder for players in a lost season. Football takes an immense physical toll on players, and giving 100 percent without the reward of potential playoff berth can be difficult for those who don’t truly love the game.
“There’s a time that, obviously, your character is going to be tested, right?” Reid said, when asked whether he can use the next few weeks to determine which guys truly love the game. “So there are not a lot of people that are patting you on the back and saying how good you’re doing.
“You got to reach a little deeper and pull together, and good things can happen when guys do that.”
Doing that, however, requires a certain mental toughness the Chiefs better show — or else.
“Because if we’re not,” Maclin said, “it can be a long season.”