Oh, cool, we hadn’t had a chance to freak out yet.
After five weeks the Chiefs were clearly the best team in the NFL, and in week six they were absolutely 2012-ian for most of a 19-13 loss to the Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.
First, a public service announcement: the 1972 Dolphins almost certainly have never had parties to celebrate the last undefeated team losing.
But, back to the Chiefs, and the most obvious question is how much of the first five weeks are wiped away by this?
The answer is a little. Super Bowl favorites shouldn’t look like that, particularly not at home, and particularly not against the team that ended their most recent season.
The Chiefs — especially on offense — looked unprepared, disorganized, sloppy, and passive.
The next question is how much of this is a concern going forward?
The answer, again, is a little. I’m actually willing to overlook some of the worst parts of Sunday. Every good team has a stinker, and we all knew the Steelers had too much pride to be embarrassed last week against the Jaguars and not show up here against the Chiefs.
But I think what we saw, as much as anything, was a potential fatal flaw with the run defense further exposed (more on that later) and that the offense is a bit like the cliche analogy of a Ferrari — gorgeous and fast when running right, but fickle and useless when not.
So much of what they do is based on timing and mismatches, rather than being able to execute simple plays better than the defense.
That’s a lot of the NFL, to be fair, but the Chiefs are probably toward the extreme.
But, here’s a #HotTaek: I still believe the Chiefs are a very good team, and probably the best in football right now, whatever that dumb title means.
They stunk this afternoon, and if they see the Steelers in the playoffs we’ll have a lot to talk about.
But for now, I’m not going to freakout. That the defense did enough to give the offense a chance at the end was actually encouraging.
Unless we’ve seen the last of Full Strength Justin Houston.
▪ Maybe it’s unfair to pick on any one part of the Chiefs’ effort, because it all stunk, but the one most likely to end their season in the playoffs is the run defense. I want to watch this game again — don’t ever say sports writing is glamorous! — but from what I’m seeing it’s a combination of a lot of factors.
The first, and perhaps biggest chunk: some of this is how defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has it set up.
The general idea is to focus on defending the pass for most of the field before tightening up against the run in the red zone. You have to say it’s worked, for the most part. The Chiefs have been good in the red zone, and in short yardage situations.
Some of it is personnel, too. Eric Berry is a terrific run defender, and even as I believe Daniel Sorensen is a little underrated, the Chiefs lose some juice there against the run. Also, Derrick Johnson isn’t what he was before his second Achilles tear. I can’t tell if he’s slow, or indecisive, or both. But there are too many plays where he’s not blocked and the Chiefs are still giving up big runs.
Le’Veon Bell is one of the best backs in the world, so giving it up against that guy isn’t necessarily a killer.
But this is clearly A Thing with this group, and aside from major injury, the biggest worry in terms of going deep in the playoffs.
I don’t know what the fix is, other than remembering that all teams have flaws.
▪ D’Anthony Thomas’ touchdown would not have been a touchdown if Alex Smith didn’t under throw the ball a bit. Football is weird.
▪ I always like going for it on fourth down. Always, always, always. But you should really take the points there.
▪ Good thing Le’Veon Bell was flagged 15 yards for pretending to box a goalpost after a touchdown. Americans can rest easy knowing that type of behavior won’t be tolerated.
▪ With the right look — basically, Marcus Peters alone — the Steelers did a lot of quick passes behind the line of scrimmage to Peters’ side. There were no timing or misdirection tricks with these plays, just a challenge for Peters to make the open field tackle. Good strategy. Had been wondering when teams would start doing that.
Now I’m wondering how often teams will do it in the future.
▪ I have no way of knowing if the numbers would back me up on this, so if you disagree I’m not going to argue the point with any passion, but it seemed like Justin Houston played in coverage more often today than any game I can specifically remember.
Now, I want to say that there is value in having Houston cover. He’s pretty good at it, for one, but also you never want to be predictable in anything.
But there’s a balance here, too, and when Houston appeared — again, this is just my eyes — a half-step slow covering Vance McDonald on that 1st and 10 from the Steelers’ own 1, well, maybe just let him rush the quarterback.
That step slow thing is real, too. Houston didn’t appear to be moving like he normally does. He was on the injury report with calf spasms during the week. I didn’t think much of it, but now he’ll need to play another game against a division rival in four days.