Often in the stock market, we don’t spot trends until it’s too late to act upon them. For the Chiefs, many of us thought the Oakland and Dallas losses were just bumps in the road, and the team would bounce back. Now it appears they have derailed from their strong start, and there’s a legitimate reason to worry they won’t get back on the right track in time to save the season. Not much went right this week. It was a miserable game, but hey, at least it was long, right?
Below is one last look back trying to spot some Chiefs trends this week before moving on to Buffalo and trying to forget the Giants game ever happened.
Harrison Butker: A reliable, big-legged kicker is a valuable asset in bad weather, especially in unpredictable wind like on Sunday. Butker was able to tie a franchise record with his 20th, 21st and 22nd straight made field goal. There wasn’t much positive this week, but the kicking game was something.
Dustin Colquitt: Colquitt did what he does best, dropped punts inside the 20 on four of his five attempts this week. At this point, we don’t really think much about the punter, but there was a big difference between Colquitt and the Giants punter this week. Todd Haley was right, the Chiefs have a pretty good punter, if nothing else.
Reggie Ragland: In his most extensive action yet, Ragland led the Chiefs with nine tackles, one for a loss. He was attacking downhill, and part of a (potentially) improving run defense.
Others trending in the right direction: Kevin Pierre-Louis, Pat Mahomes (partially kidding on that one)
Alex Smith: I’m not going to join the chorus of people calling for Pat Mahomes ... not yet. A performance like that is a clear reminder of why the Chiefs felt they needed an upgrade at QB. This was an unusually bad game by Smith in a week where we all assumed the offense could score at will. No touchdowns, multiple interceptions, and a QB that was running for his life when he didn’t need to be. I believe he’ll be given the opportunity to bounce back, and he probably will play better starting this week. But, we need to see Smith as fearless in the pocket as he is when running the ball. Mahomes will make mistakes when it’s his turn, but at least he’s fearless.
Andy Reid: Once again, this team was not ready to play, even after the bye week. The offensive play calling was suspect, going conservative for most of the game, and crazy for one play (Kelce’s pass). The execution was a bigger problem. The QB was off, and the offensive and defensive lines appeared to be dominated by lesser opponents. When the team really needed a touchdown in the fourth quarter, they settled for a field goal without ever attempting to get in the end zone. When they needed to score in overtime, they threw passes short of the first down marker that never had a chance to sustain a drive.
Another area of concern for Reid is his team’s ability to play a clean game. Penalty issues continue to plague this team, with 9/84 against the Giants. Many of these were absolute killers, especially the unnecessary pass interference calls. Turnovers have been a hallmark of this team- both preventing (offense) and creating (defense)them. This week they lost the turnover battle, and gave up the ball in critical spots.
The difference in this team now as compared to the first part of the season is remarkable and depressing. Reid needs to mix it up and find something that works for this group. Right now, the playcalling and struggles are both far too predictable.
Phillip Gaines: I hate to kick a man while he’s down, so I’ll just say this: If Gains hadn’t interfered with that last pass play, the ball would have fallen incomplete, or he would have had a chance for an interception. Manning knew he could just toss the ball up in the air and hope for the best when Gaines was in coverage. PG23 and the Chiefs didn’t make him pay.
Optimism: As Seth pointed out, the excuses are gone. The hope is nearly gone as well. IF the Chiefs turn things around starting this week, the season can still turn out OK. But, the optimism that they WILL turn things around is waning. I’ll keep picking them to win, for now, but perhaps I should predict some bad stuff, so when I’m wrong, it could be in the right direction?
The Chiefs Pass Rush: It’s been a theme throughout the losing stretch, the Chiefs are simply not getting pressure on opposing QBs. Zombo was the only player with marginally effective rushes, including a delayed blitz that may have saved a TD. Houston didn’t record a sack or pressure this week, Tanoh barely saw the field, and the other three EDGE rushers (Ford, Hali, Dadi) were inactive again. When the Chiefs tried to rush with their interior linemen, the results were embarrassing. When they finally blitzed a little, Eli panicked and threw the ball up for grabs. (of course, the secondary was bad enough that many were complete anyway) I don’t know what it’s going to take to turn the corner in this area, but the defense is going to be in trouble until they do.
Demarcus Robinson: Robinson had one catch for seven yards, even though he played 96% of the snaps. He was the target on Kelce’s interception and Smith’s. I’m not saying either was his fault, but he certainly wasn’t fighting for the football on either. Whether he’s out of sync with the QB, or he’s just not getting to where he should be on his routes, Robinson needs to play better than he did this week.
Others struggling: Ross Travis, Eric Murray, the Offensive Line as a whole, Jarvis Jenkins, Cam Thomas
Travis Kelce: Kelce had another big game receiving, but struggled as a passer. The Giants didn’t have an answer for him all afternoon. Unfortunately, Kelce was involved in two of the Chiefs turnovers, one fluky INT when he a bobbled shovel pass and an ill-advised TE pass. When he does what he does best, he’s nearly unstoppable. The Chiefs should (obviously) get back to getting their playmakers like Kelce the ball downfield, and avoiding turnovers.
Tyreek Hill: Hill made a tremendous catch on his one deep pass this week. The rest of his targets appeared to be at or behind the line of scrimmage. Tyreek is fairly productive each week, but the explosive plays have been down, partially because he’s not being targeted down the field enough. (and partially because Smith’s accuracy on those plays is down) Defenses can’t cover Hill, so the only limitations on his production are self-imposed by the offense and QB.
The Chiefs playoff hopes: Nobody wants to hear this, but this loss doesn’t diminish the Chiefs chances in the playoffs at all. They probably aren’t catching Pittsburgh or New England, but are probably going to win the division. As of today, they’d be hosting the Titans at Arrowhead on Wild Card Weekend. If we’re honest with ourselves, that’s about what you should expect from this team in 2017. They’ll have a chance to win that home game, then will probably lose in the divisional round. Good enough? Nope. As good as we hoped after the first five weeks? No way. It’s what we’ve come to expect, and this loss, however terrible, doesn’t change the likely outcome.
Others who are who we thought they were: Steven Nelson, Daniel Sorensen, Marcus Peters, Kareem Hunt, Justin Houston