The Kansas City Chiefs season has ground to a halt with the worst defense in the NFL and an offense that suddenly looks predictable.
Every fan who made the pilgrimage to Arrowhead for a titanic clash between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills had one thing in the back of their mind.
When will the storm hit?
Fans came prepared. Tents covered the parking lot filled with tailgaters. Ponchos were kept handy. Pre-game radio was interspersed with forecasters providing by-the-minute updates of the approaching severe storm.
Despite the threatening horizon, grills sparked to life, fans engaged in their usual pre-game rituals, music wafted across the complex, and anticipation radiated through the nearly 80,000 fans.
A light rain tried to dampen the pregame mood. To no avail. Fans only cheered, danced, and cheered harder as they entered the stadium.
Sunday night primetime football was going to be the time and place of the Chiefs reasserting their dominance over the NFL.
Bills 38. Chiefs 20. Honestly, it wasn’t even that close.
Many truths were revealed Sunday night at Arrowhead. None of them portend well for the home team.
If ever the weather reflected the mood of a fanbase—an entire city—it was Monday morning in Kansas City. The late summer warmth of the weekend vanished. In its place, a murky, wet, and chilled blanket of anger and disbelief now covers the city.
In Chiefs Kingdom, the days are suddenly – frighteningly – growing darker and shorter.
At halftime, the storm hit
The game was delayed over an hour and one couldn’t help but wonder if this was the most critical hour of the Chiefs’ season.
What was said in that locker room would set the tone for the rest of the year. Backs were against the wall. I think it’s fair to say a number of coaching and playing careers with the Chiefs are suddenly in doubt. More than a few staff and players had to be looking at themselves in the mirror, wondering if this might be their last season in the Kingdom.
What makes the whole situation even more maddening is that no one saw any of this coming. For a team and fanbase that a month ago talked of an undefeated season, they are all now lost in the wilderness.
The Chiefs find themselves in the basement of the AFC West. The Bills did what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did in last year’s Super Bowl. They made the Chiefs look disorganized, undisciplined, untalented, and unnerved.
The offensive line looked like rodeo clowns playing Ole! with a herd of angry bulls. Kelce couldn’t find soft spots in the Cover-2 defense, Tyreek was bracketed all night, and St. Patrick looked decidedly un-Godly.
There were fumbles, interceptions, head-scratching incompletions, missed tackles, dropped passes, procedural penalties, missed assignments, and a pass defense that looked like it was social-distancing from Bills receivers.
The fix will not be easy or fast. Something major is broken.
With just a little more than a quarter of the season gone, CBS Sports prediction models show a win total of 9 games and an 11 percent chance at winning the AFC West. As it stands today, they predict the Chiefs have a 51 percent chance of making the playoffs.
For three years, the Chiefs have built a nucleus of talent. It’s fair to say that formula worked with three straight AFC Championship Game appearances, two Super Bowl appearances, and one title.
Running flat out for three years produced dizzying results and took the Chiefs to heights not seen since the 1960s.
This season there has been a meltdown. The run is over, for now. The gears are gnashing. The parts are suddenly incompatible. The machine – particularly on defense – is sputtering and grinding to a halt.
When this happens, a few tweaks won’t solve the issues. If the Chiefs want to regain their dominance, serious changes have to occur within the staff and on the field.
The rest of this season now becomes a prelude to 2022. Who will stay? Who will go? And who will come in to help right a ship?
Reid, Mahomes, Kelce, Hill, Jones, Gay, Bolton, Mathieu (?), Sneed, Butker, a young offensive line—there are many positives to build upon.
But rebuild they must.
What was created in the past has crumbled. Phase One of the Mahomes Era is over, time to build Phase Two.
The time for maintaining greatness has passed – you cannot maintain what you have lost. If the Chiefs don’t realize this immediately, the fixes will only be delayed.
The mindset must change. The Chiefs are no longer King of the Mountain. They must go back to being a hunter, not feeling like the hunted.
Until this happens, expect the outlook to get colder and darker as more winter storms approach.