Midway through the third quarter of the Kansas City Chiefs’ 33-27 victory over the Miami Dolphins, defensive tackle Chris Jones dragged down Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in his own end zone for a safety — extending the Chiefs’ lead to 30-10. For the game, the defense had only allowed 140 net yards and yielded 11 first-down conversions — and Miami hadn’t scored since the first minutes of the second quarter.
When the offense couldn’t stretch the lead further on the following drive, the defense had to return to the field. For the rest of the game — which was mostly the fourth quarter — they allowed 7.1 net yards per play, gave up 16 first downs and allowed Miami within a score of the Chiefs by the final whistle.
It’s the third game in four weeks where the defense failed to finish strong: they allowed a touchdown on the final possession of a close game in each contest against the Las Vegas Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu used his post-game press conference to express dissatisfaction in how his unit closed out the victory.
“I felt like defensively we kind of let the team down in a way, giving up obviously 17 points I believe in the fourth quarter,” Mathieu recalled to reporters. “Obviously, that’s a well-coached football team, young quarterback with a bright future, but I think any time we have the opportunity to kind of close the coffin on teams, we got to do that. We’re getting into January football and a lot of these games are going to come down to whether or not we can finish the game defensively. I think that’s really my focus. I think we’ll be a motivated group this week.”
There’s nothing wrong with starting out hot in a game — but finishing is a lot more important. In 2019, the whole team became accustomed to a slow start followed by a strong end to the game. Lately, it’s been closer to the complete opposite.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid wasn’t going to let the defense take all the blame; after a touchdown drive in the opening minutes of the third quarter, the Chiefs offense didn’t score again until a field goal in the final minute of the game.
“Really until that fourth quarter we had a pretty good thing going,” Reid admitted to reporters in his post-game press conference. “Then we have got to finish. We got to finish on both sides of the ball make sure we take care of business there. Had a lot of yards, but we have got to take care of the ball, too many turnovers and can’t do that against good football teams.”
In typical Reid fashion, he took the fall for the offense’s struggles in the second half — citing his play-calling.
“We could have helped out offensively too, so it was a team thing that we just, we need to finish and l’ll take responsibility for that,” Reid assured. “I could have been more aggressive as the play-caller and so on, so it starts with me and that’s where we roll.”
All in all, a victory is a victory. It’s hard enough to win as many games as the Chiefs do; they aren’t all going to look perfect. But like Mathieu said, it’s getting to the time of the year where finishing the game is a lot more important than how you start it.
The Chiefs made their success off of strong second halves from both sides of the ball in their 2019 championship run. They’ll need to rekindle that ability to finish as they inch closer to postseason football.