Maybe we should have seen it coming. When the stock market nears or exceeds all-time highs, it’s reasonable to assume a dip is coming. It’s called a “market correction.” Sometimes it’s an indication that the stocks shouldn’t have been that high to begin with, other times it’s a healthy and normal pullback before continuing higher. Coming into this week, the Chiefs were in line for the No. 2 seed in the AFC, on a five-game win streak, and at the high for the season. There were good moments against the Bucs, but we’ll remember it as a game of missed opportunities and stupid mistakes, and perhaps a let down we should have seen coming. Hopefully, like the stock market often does, the Chiefs are just “pausing” on a long-term upward trend.
With Jeremy Maclin out, Hill has been easily the most productive WR on the Chiefs. Five touches for 60 yards is a good line for Hill, who also averaged over 20 yards on his two returns this week. We’d still like to see him even more involved, even when Maclin returns, but Hill is already among the best rookies at his position.
Kelce appears to have found love, both on his reality show and with his QB. Smith targeted Kelce early and often, and he responded with seven catches, 108 yards. The offense works better when Kelce is featured in the passing game, but I hope we never see him try to run the ball at the goal line again.
For a significant portion of the game, observers commented that RNR was the best defensive player on the field. He was consistently disruptive and showed that he belongs in the rotation. His stat line of five tackles and 1.5 for a loss doesn’t do his game justice as he spent significant time in the Tampa Bay backfield on Sunday. He missed a couple of tackles that would have made a huge impact on the outcome. Nacho is certainly an up and coming player in an already deep (albeit injury depleted) defensive line.
Others who are trending upward: Chris Jones, Ramik Wilson
Chiefs run game
This team NEEDS a dominant running game and defense to win at this point. Against the Bucs they managed 82 yards rushing on 3.9 average per carry. Clearly, that’s not dominant, or even good enough. Injuries have hit the group pretty hard with Charcandrick West getting banged up again this week. The Chiefs have a winning running game when they rely upon Spencer Ware AND the o-line is able to get it done AND when Alex Smith is a credible threat to beat you with his feet. They need to be balanced as well, so that teams aren’t able to stack the box against Ware.
One of the best things we usually say about Smith: he won’t lose you games, he protects the football, and the Chiefs usually win when he plays. This week, he turned the ball over and cost them the win. All the Chiefs needed in that situation was to not turn the ball over. A field goal or a touchdown likely wins the game. Hell, even a turnover on downs inside the 10 yard line keeps the Bucs from scoring that last TD. Alex acknowledged that his INT was the biggest play in the game, and it really brought out the critics. Statistically, he didn’t have a bad day, but that one play changed everything.
Chiefs pass rush
This was supposed to be the week when it all came together. The return of Justin Houston across from the vastly-improved Dee Ford with Chris Jones wrecking things in-between. When they were all on the field together, they managed zero sacks. Then Ford got hurt and Winston was comfortably able to pick apart the Chiefs defense en route to a victory. The Chiefs will need everyone healthy and hitting the Broncos QB this week in order to have a chance.
Chiefs in the Red Zone
We’ve talked about every week, it seems. This week featured a couple of the worst examples of Andy Reid and squad struggling inside the 20. There isn’t any excuse that justifies Smith’s INT or the sweep to Kelce. There’s no logic that can continue to defend horizontal passes near the goal line. Line up, run the ball with Ware, or throw it INTO the end zone. It sounds simple enough, right?
Others who are struggling: Chris Conley, Tamba Hali, Phillip Gaines
At times we think he’s different. Maybe he’s fixed the red zone issues and the clock management? Nope. The timeout just before the two minute warning likely cost the Chiefs a final chance to win the game. The win-loss record doesn’t lie, Reid is a very good coach, but as this game pointed out, he has a couple of persistent flaws.
Parker is having a very good season, but he’s really missed a couple of chances to be an impact playmaker. This week, it was another dropped interception that shows up in the box score as a pass defended. The team could really have used a turnover. It’s pretty clear that when Marcus Peters is out, someone else has to make a big play or the pass defense will struggle.
Houston made his return, and generally looked like himself. Assuming he’s not on the injury report this week, this is very good news for the stretch run. He wasn’t able to get to the QB in his first game back, but we all expect it won’t be an issue going forward. He was noticeably better than his backups against the run. His ability to set the edge and make plays in the backfield were evident right away vs Tampa. Welcome back, 50 Sack, you were missed.
Others who are who we thought they were: DJ, Eric Berry