After every loss for the Kansas City Chiefs, people look for someone to blame. The usual suspects are the referees, Andy Reid, Alex Smith and the offensive line. Few stop to think maybe it was all those pieces and then some which made enough cumulative errors to lose a football game.
On Sunday, the Chiefs lost 17-14 to the Arizona Cardinals. Not because the referees had a bad day or because Reid called 39 pass plays, or because of Smith's inexplicably bad interception, followed by the Chiefs horrendous last-minute "drive." The game was lost because the Chiefs don't play winning football on a consistent basis.
Kansas City, despite all of the game's warts, was leading 14-9 with the Cardinals facing a 3rd and 18 from the Chiefs' 26-yard-line. Drew Stanton beat Kansas City over the top anyway for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown. So many fans will incorrectly judge that play on its face. They will blame Ron Parker for getting beat off the line or Bob Sutton for having the wrong defensive call.
In reality, Sutton called a Cover 4 on the play. Parker was in perfect position, a trail technique which is employed when a corner has safety help. Kelcie McCray was the real culprit, horrifyingly cheating in on a 10-yard route by the tight end, allowing Jaron Brown to beat him deep.
Josh Mauga had another awful game, missing too many assignments to count. Mauga is a backup linebacker doing the best he can, but Kansas City can no longer hide the fact that Derrick Johnson's absence is one it cannot overcome in run defense. The rest of the defense was mediocre at best, with Mauga, Sean Smith and Phillip Gaines each dropping interceptions. If any of them are made, the game is completely different. Of course, the balls were dropped, and so was the contest.
Anybody pinning defeats on the referees has become an apologist. Anthony Fasano's touchdown should have stood, but stuff happens. Good teams overcome bad fortune. Kansas City never has a cushion to absorb a bad call and it costs the Chiefs all the time.
Smith has been nothing short of atrocious the past three weeks. He refuses to push the ball down the field, allowing defenders to crowd the short routes and the run game. Why? Because the receivers are a train wreck. Dwayne Bowe is pedestrian, Albert Wilson is a kid, Jason Avant is a third banana, and everybody else needs to be cut yesterday.
The offensive line is simply offensive. Mike McGlynn plays like he's standing atop marbles. Ryan Harris gets beaten with speed and Donald Stephenson picked up a penalty on one of his five snaps. Smith deserves a ton of flack for his recent play, but it's not a one-man team. People who seek to single out one guy are either lazy, uninformed, or have an agenda.
On the positive side, the Chiefs have a ton of talent. Gaines and Smith are good corners and the front seven is stacked with good players like Justin Houston and Dontari Poe. The offense has weapons in Jamaal Charles, Travis Kelce and De'Anthony Thomas, but it needs some more help in the trenches and outside the numbers.
There is plenty of reason to have ample hope for the future. Pencil me in as someone who believes that with the right moves (Mike Iupati and Jeremy Maclin in free agency, a right tackle in the first round) the Chiefs will be in Super Bowl contention. It sounds nuts right now, but this team is better than last year and gaining ground. It simply has a couple of black holes that are swallowing it up.
Kansas City is 7-6 and still in the playoff hunt. If it wins the last three games of the schedule, with two at home, it will likely be in the postseason. Chances are, the Chiefs will lose to the Steelers, because Le'Veon Bell will rush for 4,786 yards. Then everybody can settle in for another offseason of hand-wringing and mock drafts, pounding the table for a player they have never watched, but heard good things about.
It seems everybody is either a sunshine-pumper or the largest negative-Nancy on Earth.
The truth lies somewhere in the middle, just like the Chiefs.