Following the KC Chiefs’ 31-30 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Thursday, beat writer Terez A. Paylor answered Twitter questions about the Chiefs’ porous pass defense, the uneven (?) officiating and more.
I’ve covered 71 Chiefs regular-season games, and during that time span, I have enforced a zero-tolerance policy of ref blaming. It doesn’t help, it’s counterproductive, and it takes the onus off the players and coaches who had a direct impact on the loss. But I’ve got to say … I understand why this one was definitely tough to swallow. It’s hard to believe the Raiders (10 for 97 yards) were actually penalized more than the Chiefs (eight for 108 yards). There were just so many calls that impacted the game. Too many … especially at the end, when the game ended with three penalties (two against the Chiefs) on the final four plays.
Players just want to play and feel like they decided the game; I could tell many in the locker room were frustrated afterward, even though none of them verbalized it. Their body language gave it away. That said, the Chiefs have been flirting with this since the start of the season. They are among the league’s most penalized teams, and at some point, that was going to come back to bite them. So while some of the calls on Thursday were bogus –– and yes, I’m talking about that awful no-call on Amari Cooper’s first touchdown, when he shoved Terrance Mitchell to the ground –– some of them were legit. Either way, all the Chiefs can do right now it be a more disciplined team.
Yeah, so the defense was a bigger reason for the loss than the officiating. A horrific effort on that side of the ball. They might have solved their run defense issues to a degree, but whatever improvement they made against the run was counteracted by their regression against the pass. Oakland quarterback Derek Carr went off, completing 29 of 52 passes for 417 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Chiefs have relied on their pass rush to get home with only three or four rushers all season, and while they tried to do so again Thursday, Oakland’s massive offensive line took them to school, yielding zero sacks. Dropping more players into coverage is supposed to help against the pass, but if the rush never gets home, someone will get open eventually. It is what it is. And yes, Eric Berry is missed for his spirit and playmaking knack. But it doesn’t render the scheme completely ineffective.
So about that; yes, Amari Cooper went off for 11 catches, 210 yards and two touchdowns. But Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has generally shown a reticence toward double-teaming receivers, largely because of the windows it opens up elsewhere. It’s a sound strategy; remember, Cooper struggled mightly all season before Thursday. Sending more defenders his way would have only opened up bigger windows for their other weapons. If you want to criticize Sutton, criticize him for the lack of a pass rush. Either the blitzes he sent were ineffective, or he was too passive in his play calling. Either way, the responsibility is his.
I thought coach Andy Reid’s play calling was pretty good most of the game, for what it’s worth. I was charting their play calling over the course of the game and they did a nice job mixing up personnel groupings and formations. Plus, they scored 30 points. But I can definitely pick some nits. For one, you’re right –– he takes responsibility for the passive offensive play calling on their final three-and-out of the night. I also would have liked to see Travis Kelce (four catches, 33 yards, one touchdown) and Kareem Hunt (four catches, 30 yards) get more involved in the passing game.
Ha, ha, you gotta love the passion of Chiefs fans. Listen, you’re 5-2. You had a 12-game AFC West winning streak … and these other guys get paid, too. You went to a snake pit in Oakland, and almost came away with the win against a desperate team, despite some iffy calls and an ineffective pass defense. Now they’ll get 10 days to rest up before a Monday night showdown against Denver. It’s hardly the end of the world. Everything the Chiefs want to do –– win the AFC West, get to the Super Bowl, etc. –– is still in front of them. But I’ll tell you this; the defense is officially on notice. They better improve, and quick. Because if they lose to Denver, and they struggle again, fans will start having flashbacks to the no-defense Dick Vermeil years … and I won’t blame them.