Eleven days before this debacle on Monday night at Lambeau Field, the Chiefs had suffered one of the quirkiest and most deflating losses in franchise history.
Much of the fury of that collapse against Denver was directed at Jamaal Charles for his late fumble that was converted into the Broncos’ winning touchdown.
But the truth is it also wouldn’t have happened without a futile, sloppy decision by coach Andy Reid.
Reid had two real choices in the moment: have quarterback Alex Smith take a knee to run out the clock and send the game to overtime or, heck, try going downfield to win in regulation.
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Instead, he opted for a puzzling third choice that had scant chance of producing enough to make it worthwhile and backfired in the most extreme way possible.
For the sake of argument, though, you might have given Reid the benefit of the doubt and figured the play resulted in the sort of consequence you might not comprehend could actually happen until it does.
But the benefit of the doubt eroded all the more on Monday.
Given the wacky way Reid’s team lost last time out and the eons of time he had to prepare for a dynamite Green Bay team on Monday night at Lambeau Field, you’d figure he’d stoke a highly motivated effort by his players marked by some deft game-planning.
Instead, the Chiefs were listless and clueless in a misleadingly close 38-28 loss to the Packers that was a 31-7 embarrassment until late in the third quarter.
The Chiefs won the opening toss and chose to defer to the second half, an act that aptly spoke to the passivity with which they played.
Afterward, Smith was left saying everyone involved needed to look in the mirror, and Charles said the team’s energy “just wasn’t there tonight.”
“We will never go out there like that again,” he added.
That may or may not prove true, but you sure would have liked to hear Reid vow something along those lines, too.
Instead, his testy 2 minute 20 second postgame news conference offered only a hollow and repetitive sequence of answers along the lines of “that’s my responsibility” that did nothing to clarify in what way or why his team didn’t show up on time.
Look, sometimes you lose a game badly because a certain set of circumstances come together and conspire against you.
But as good as Green Bay is, especially at home, that wasn’t what happened on Monday night.
This was all about an unprepared Chiefs team, both emotionally and strategically, and an effort that has to leave you wondering where this season is going.
This was about sequences like these:
The Packers took a 14-0 lead on a drive stoked by three Chiefs defensive penalties including the first of two 12-men-on-the-field calls in the first half.
Most exasperatingly, they made it 17-7 after Allen Bailey sacked the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands to be recovered by Tamba Hali … only to have the apparent turnover rendered meaningless by an illegal contact penalty on Marcus Cooper.
But that was only one side of the ball in this unsettling game out of a program that in its third year under Reid and general manager John Dorsey is supposed to be in sync and going places.
For most of the game, the offense that was expected to snap to life with the addition of Jeremy Maclin apparently either was incoherent, telegraphing every move or just unable to block the swarming Packers.
“Couldn’t get any kind of rhythm,” Smith said. “Couldn’t get out of our own way, as well.”
Maybe no play illuminated that more than the uncharacteristically reckless interception Smith threw to Sam Shields midway through the third quarter to set up Green Bay’s fourth touchdown.
Adding a comic touch to the play, the Chiefs’ Ben Grubbs was detected holding even as Smith was flushed and flustered out of the pocket.
Now, it would be one thing if this was what the Chiefs mustered on, say, a Thursday night after playing on a Sunday.
Or maybe even if they had some reason to overlook their opponent.
And if they weren’t coming off a loss that had to be in their craw for days that surely would leave them aching to get back in action.
But this night was entirely the opposite scenario: 11 days to get ready for a marquee opponent after a disturbing loss that should have been a snap for a coach to use as motivation.
So either the Chiefs weren’t ready to play, they really just aren’t as good as those of who us who projected them as a playoff team figured or a combination of both.
One way or another, though, they weren’t remotely competitive until the game was out of hand on a night Rodgers’ tied a Chiefs opponent record with five TD passes and the Chiefs had racked up all of 88 yards of total offense before the Packers took a 31-7 lead.
Now, heck, maybe we’ll look back later and say this was a blip.
Perhaps it somehow it will prove a turning point for better things, a moment that ratchets up the urgency.
“It’s fixable,” center Mitch Morse said. “But we need to do it.”
In the moment, though, it just glares as this:
At a time when this should be much more fluid, Reid evidently isn’t connecting with his team either emotionally or tactically.
He also may or may not have the right talent assembled around him, as perhaps best reflected in the ever-shuffling, volatile offensive line that makes it hard to truly evaluate Smith.
But this much is clear:
What largely has been benefit of the doubt for Reid and Dorsey is shifting to the burden of proof being on them.
Because there didn’t seem to be any viable plan on Monday night when there was every reason for the Chiefs to have been eager to play.