Sam Mellinger

Chiefs come back from 14 down, lead, then lose to the Packers 31-24: Insta-reaction!

Patrick Mahomes is the shiniest object of all-time, the flashy toy that distracts all eyeballs and minds, so with him reduced to sweats and a windbreaker we had a nice reminder of a truth that’s been shadowed by Mahomes’ outrageous talents:

Andy Reid is a hell of a coach, and he’s helped build a strong infrastructure that should mean the Chiefs don’t waste Mahomes’ best years.

Before we go on, two facts should be acknowledged.

First, we know it wasn’t enough against the Packers, who won 31-24 at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday.

Second, we still don’t know whether the Chiefs are good enough to play in their first Super Bowl in half a century even at full strength.

So this is going to be a somewhat conflicted column. Moral victories do not exist in the NFL, especially not for teams that believe they’re good enough to win a championship.

But, just being real, if the team that took on the Packers — without Mahomes, Chris Jones, Frank Clark, Eric Fisher, Kendall Fuller and Andrew Wylie — was the Chiefs at full strength, they would have no rational justification for believing they’re good enough to win a championship.

Here they were anyway, taking one of the league’s best teams — the Packers improved to 7-1 — deep into the fourth quarter.

The Chiefs showed resiliency, falling behind two by touchdowns and rallying. The Chiefs showed creativity, with play calls that focused less on the quarterback (lots of one-read stuff for Matt Moore) and more on playmakers in space.

And the Chiefs showed guts, perhaps best illustrated by Moore’s willingness to wear a series of hits violent enough to put the layperson on bed rest if he had a throw he liked.

The Chiefs are in a strange spot. They’re sort of a placeholder for a Super Bowl contender. What they do offensively has been dictated to varying degrees by challenges with protection (the left side of the line is backups) and volatility, with injuries to Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins.

Defensively, the Chiefs have been a sort of Operation Fake-It-Til-You-Make-It.

You can find reasons to believe both groups will be fine. It’s hard to imagine this offense not scoring a lot of points with anything close to full health, and the Chiefs followed their (by far) best game of the season at Denver last week with an effort that was better than giving up 31 points would appear.

Reid is the biggest reason for that. He is smart enough to figure out a way to create offense no matter the quarterback, and respected enough that this group will follow him through darkness.

The Chiefs’ current reality is a weird juxtaposition between a dizzying series of injuries and the understanding that everyone should be healthy relatively soon.

The team has to consider itself fortunate with Mahomes, in particular, who might miss just two games with a dislocated kneecap that initially appeared gruesome.

These games matter, though. Football coaches like to say you see what a team is made of through adversity, and even in a loss, the Chiefs dropped some encouraging clues.

The important stuff is still on the way. But they’re showing some toughness, and depth. It’s something, at least.

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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.