Linebacker Derrick Johnson has split his Chiefs career between winning and losing teams, five each in the 10 seasons before 2015. He knows what a winner looks and feels like. A loser, too.
But Johnson is utterly confused about this season, as are other Chiefs.
Sunday’s 16-10 loss to the Vikings was the Chiefs’ fifth straight after an opening weekend triumph.
It was never supposed to be like this.
“When I’ve been through a team that was 1-5 or a team that wasn’t in the winning column in the middle of the season, that team was supposed to be like that, kind of,” Johnson said.
A rebuilding or lesser talented team.
“This team is different, it’s a different 1-5,” Johnson said. “Don’t get me wrong. You are what your record says you are. But this is one of the best rosters I’ve (been a part of.)”
But the Chiefs continue to find ways to lose. A fumble return for a touchdown in the final minute against the Broncos started the skid and felt like a gut punch to the Chiefs. Sunday’s locker room was just as disconsolate.
“We’re scratching our heads,” Johnson said.
The Chiefs, however, say they aren’t looking for scapegoats.
“You can’t divide the locker room,” defensive end Allen Bailey said. “You have to stay together.”
Tight end Travis Kelce said the options aren’t complicated.
“You’ve got to ride with the guys in this locker room,” Kelce said. “You come to work every single day, you put your time in, gather up with the guys wearing that same jersey and fight. There’s no sourness in this room. Nobody is pointing fingers.”
But plenty are feeling lousy about another loss that contained elements of previous defeats.
Penalties piled up in the first half. Three different offensive linemen were flagged for holding. The Chiefs appeared to catch a major break on one.
On the Chiefs first possession, guard Ben Grubbs appeared to have been penalized for holding while in the end zone, which would have resulted in a safety.
But the officials said Grubbs committed the infraction outside the end zone. Still, there were plenty of the gaffes to go around Sunday, the final insult occurring in the fourth quarter when running back Charcandrick West lost a fumble that was poked away by his teammate, tackle Donald Stephenson.
The Chiefs had found some offensive flow by then. Trailing by three, Kelce had just hauled in a 37-yard pass on the previous play to set up on the Vikings side. The fumble occurred on the next snap.
Playing from behind against the Packers and Bengals. Losing from ahead against the Broncos and Bears. Every week brings a loss and adds to the level of frustration.
“It’s hard to put your finger on it,” Johnson said. “Obviously we’re not closing the deal. We’re not making the right plays, on both sides of the ball. Defense has as much to do with this loss.
“It always seems to be a couple of plays. You make a couple of plays and you’re not that far off. That’s the thing that (stinks) about this.”
Again, Johnson sees the Chiefs record and it doesn’t compute.
“You see where we’re 1-5, and it’s like, ‘Man, you’re way off.’ Nah, we’re not,” Johnson said. “That’s the reality of it. Do we need to be play better to get a W? Yeah. We have to figure it out. This ball is rolling downhill.
“What we won’t do is doubt ourselves or lose our confidence because we know this is a good team. One win will change the whole aura.”