Sam Mellinger

Chiefs lose 31-24, at home, to the Texans: Insta-reaction!

All Chiefs games are the same now.

Patrick Mahomes throws for many, many yards, some in spectacular fashion. He also runs for his life on many, many snaps because the opponent knows what’s coming and the offensive line is only three-fifths intact.

And the opponent rushes for many, many, MANY yards.

You can sprinkle in some different details to keep things interesting. This week, in the Chiefs’ 31-24 loss to the Texans, those details include Tyreek Hill winning a jump ball against two defenders downfield, the defense coming up with a couple of takeaways, and — this one was a doozy — Frank Clark, unblocked, one-on-one against Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and giving up the touchdown.

But, really, every Chiefs game is the same now. They throw for a ton of yards, give up a ton of yards, call some weird plays, and at the end have a chance to win or lose.

The Chiefs are football’s version of a man trying to make it through his workweek with migraines and a badly sprained left ankle right now, and this is three weeks in a row in which the shrinking margins have shown up in obvious ways — the last two in home losses to potential AFC playoff opponents.

Eric Fisher, the Chiefs’ injured starting left tackle, has never appeared more important than when you’re watching Cam Erving in his place.

Mahomes’ ankle is almost certainly hurting worse than he is letting on, which is a concern not just for the possibility of his limited mobility leading to more injuries but also in the plays he can’t extend and throws he’s not completing.

An offense that had been leading the league with well over 30 points per game has now managed just 43 in its last two home games. They managed just seven points on their last six possessions.

Also, and here’s one that can’t be fixed by health: the Chiefs’ tackling STINKS.

They remain in a precarious and interesting spot. At full strength, many of these problems disappear. The offensive line is a particularly awful issue: they aren’t opening holes, aren’t protecting and are putting Mahomes in danger.

But when Fisher and Andrew Wylie return, the line should be what we’ve come to expect: above average in pass protection, effective with screens and below average with run blocking.

So, there’s that.

But nothing in life is ever about one thing, so it’s also true that injures aren’t going to help the tackling and the Chiefs haven’t stopped the run in four years.

The Chiefs are hobbling their way through a difficult stretch of their schedule. They remain in good shape for the playoffs, particularly if they can beat the scuffling Broncos this week.

But their chances at homefield advantage and even a first-round bye are diminishing by the week. It’s more than just injuries.

The Chiefs have a lot to fix.

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Sam Mellinger is a sports columnist for the Kansas City Star, where he’s worked since 2000. He has won numerous national and regional awards for coverage of the Chiefs, Royals, colleges, and other sports both national and local.