We can be optimistic and say the Chiefs could very easily be 2-2. We could talk about how they had Denver beat, and how Denver remains undefeated, and we could talk about the Packers being nearly unbeatable (especially at Lambeau, especially in prime time) and Cincinnati being very good (at least in the regular season) and about how the three teams the Chiefs have lost to are a combined 12-0.
All of that is true. So is this: the Chiefs could still make the playoffs. Even if you had them going 10-6 or even 11-5, you probably didn’t have them any better than 2-2 at this point. You might have even had them 1-3. And the next three games — the crappy Bears at home, the decent Vikings on the road, and the Roethlisberger-less Steelers at home — are all winnable. So, there. Smiles.
But this is also true: the Chiefs are playing largely like dogs. They have given up more points in each of their last three games than in any game last year. Good teams don’t typically blow games like the Chiefs did against Denver, Alex Smith was plain awful at Green Bay, and the offensive line and defense are getting emasculated. There are a lot of problems here. All of them are workable, but all of them are real.
Here are 10 plays that stuck out from the latest loss, 36-21 at Cincinnati. Like always, chronological order:
1. Alex Smith could use a hug. He has been sacked more than any other quarterback in the league. Some of them are his fault — more on that in a minute — but many are because the men blocking for him are not as good as the men they’re blocking.
2. The Bengals have a very good offense, and two good running backs, but the Chiefs don’t need to be giving up 124 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Here’s a good example of the problems. Gio Bernard goes straight through a big ol’ hole, made possible by Derrick Johnson getting sealed off and Justin Houston being unable to shake a block.
3. This is just pitch and catch. The Chiefs have to get pressure on Andy Dalton with the coverage they’re running. This looks like Arena Football.
4. Jamaal Charles doing things like this is part of why I like football. His feet are so light, his balance so great, and watch the toughness he finishes off the run with.
5. If this Chiefs season takes the dive some fans are worried about, this play will go a long way toward symbolizing it. This is an Andy Reid team playing up to character with gross clock mismanagement, the so-called game manager quarterback not managing the game, a baffling lack of organization, and a seeming distrust from Reid to be milking the clock in this situation in the first place.
6. Someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t remember Alex Smith completing this pass to any other receiver in his time in Kansas City. He motions the slot receiver to clear out that side of the field, looks off the safety, throws a good ball and trusts his guy to make the catch. Beautiful.
7. I know this sounds crazy, but just stick with me for a bit: it’s almost as if teams know the jet sweep is coming when De’Anthony Thomas is on the field.
8. OK, and now we get to what I think was the turning point in the game. The fiasco before halftime makes for a better talking point, but this was the more important moment that kept the Chiefs losing, I thought.
They’re within a touchdown —I heard that joke you just made, and it wasn’t bad — with first down inside the 30 yard line when the horror show starts.
First, an intentional grounding to avoid the sack, and I thought this was Smith’s fault. Maclin is open. I know quarterbacking is hard, and these are split-second decisions, but there are times Smith holds onto the ball too long. Pro Football Focus has a nice stat that says he’s been sacked 13 times when standing in the pocket 2.6 seconds or longer, most in the NFL. He needs to clean that up, particularly with the types of plays the Chiefs are calling, and knowing the offensive line isn’t good.
9. Now second down, and this is everyone’s fault. Kelce is open at the top of the screen, but wouldn’t have had much. Just a rotten play, most obviously by most of the offensive line getting beat.
10. And on third down, the poetic finish to a rotten series, with Smith throwing short to his tight end on third and forever, and the tight end fumbling to set up the dagger touchdown. Game, blouses.