When the Chiefs got the early lead, they seemed to think the Colts would fold like the Redskins and Raiders did the previous two weeks. They didn’t. Those cake-walk games the 2-14 season last year earned are gone.
For three minutes and 55 seconds, the Kansas City Chiefs looked like the team that has clinched a playoff spot and started the season 9-0. The remaining 46 minutes and five seconds was a reminder of why that 9-0 start was largely fraudulent. It was like watching a DVR copy of a game from the Pioli era.
With a chance, albeit a small one, for the No. 1 seed on the line, the Chiefs had four turnovers, provided a feeble offensive effort and showed a complete inability to tackle any Colt player in the open field. Final score: 23-7 Colts.
After each team had a possession, the Chiefs led 7-0, forcing an early Indianapolis three-and-out, followed by a four-play, 59 yard Chiefs drive, which was capped off by a 31-yard Jamaal Charles touchdown run. The Chiefs thought the game was over. The Colts didn’t get the memo.
Indianapolis scored 23 unanswered points, aided by dumb Kansas City penalties, blown coverages and missed tackles. And that was just the defense. The offense was worse. Alex Smith threw two interceptions, one was bad luck, the other was a terrible throw and decision. He fumbled twice, losing one of them. It was easily his worst game in a Chiefs uniform, completing 16-of-29 passes for 153 yards. He logged season lows in QBR (11.9) and quarterback rating (41.3). Andy Reid and his staff were no better. Reid and offensive coordinator Doug Pederson only managed to get Charles six touches in the second half, which is ridiculous.
Before Sunday, the games the the Chiefs had lost this year were to the Broncos, who are just better, and to the Chargers who were better that day. The Colts game was just weird. No one looked prepared. Players, coaches or fans. And the Colts and Andrew Luck made them pay for it.
It’s nothing that we haven’t seen and talked about all season. When the Chiefs have faced a legitimate quarterback this year, the results haven’t been good. Sure they beat Tony Romo and the Cowboys in week two, and yes they beat the Philadelphia Eagles in week three. But the week three Eagles led by an aging Michael Vick are not the Eagles of today led by Nick Foles.
Against the likes of Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Terrelle Pryor, Case Keenum, Jason Campbell and Thad Lewis, the Kansas City defense had the look the great Chiefs’ defenses of the 1990’s. When the schedule had them face Peyton Manning (twice), Philip Rivers and Andrew Luck, it’s looked like 2012 all over again. There have been times this season when it has been easy to see why this team was 2-14 last year. Sunday was a three hour example.
It was a bad game. Yet, In the end, I think the Chiefs are who we thought they were.
Comparing them to 2012 isn’t completely fair, but it’s hard not to do after Sunday. The more fair comparison is 2010. That team won the division, limped into the playoffs and were immediately clobbered by the Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead.
This is a team that is probably no better than an 8-8 team that caught some good luck schedule wise and opposing quarterback wise. It’s how the NFL is designed. The league spits out a few new playoff teams every year. It’s what keeps fans coming back year after year. Rarely do these teams hang with the big boys. Parity is the name of the game. The Chiefs are just cog in the NFL machine this year.
So with the No. 5 seed a lock for the Chiefs and a trip to Indianapolis or Cincinnati a certainty, where exactly is this team? While Sunday’s game largely didn’t matter playoff wise, it had to hurt confidence wise. The defense, while largely over-hyped early in the season, is quite mediocre without the services of Justin Houston.
Now Reid has the interesting dilemma of what to do with his starters next week in San Diego. By the time the game starts, the Chargers could be eliminated. It appears Reid will likely rest his starters. At least Vegas thinks so, making the Chargers an early 10-point favorite. If he chooses to sit or rest his starters, as he did in Philadelphia in 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2010 when the Eagles had clinched a playoff spot, it would likely mean the Chiefs would head to Cincinnati or Indianapolis on a two-game losing streak.
A rematch with the Colts in the playoffs looks a lot different today than it did prior to Sunday’s game doesn’t it? A matchup with the Bengals looks even worse. Frankly, I don’t think they can win either one. But maybe, just maybe, going on the road is a blessing. With all the talk of the Arrowhead of old being back this season, the Chiefs are just 5-3 at home. On the road, they’re 6-1.
Chiefs fans are desperate for a playoff victory. For that to happen, they have to find a way to beat a real quarterback. Not beat up on a backup or a has been. They’ve had chances to prove the early success wasn’t schedule driven and in each of those chances they’ve fallen flat on their faces. Beat Andy Dalton and the Bengals or Luck and the Colts, and all that will go away.