From the FanPosts -- JD
Before the Kansas City Chiefs' backup players lost to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, they had won 10 straight games. But in the last seven of those victories, they won by no more than six points.
Some would say that's a sign of weakness. But I say it's a sign of strength.
"Really?" you might ask. "Andy Reid risks losing games by not going all-out for scores on every possession!"
I'm already on record saying that the Chiefs are cruising (or coasting, if you will), rather than going all-out to win each game. I think Reid tries to score on every possession. I think Patrick Mahomes tries to score every time, too. I don't think they're tanking.
Reid is a master of scheming guys open. It doesn't always work, because the other team gets a vote in how plays turn out, too. Reid also has plenty of plays that will surprise a defense if they've only been run once.
But why use those in a regular-season game -- when you don't have to?
I don't think Reid started the season by saying "Okay, these are our best plays. Let's save them until the postseason." Rather, as the season goes on, he sees how defenses are playing the Chiefs. Then he develops plays that he thinks are more likely to work based on the defensive looks he's seen.
Then he uses them -- sometimes at the right time -- to test his assumptions. And sometimes he uses them to get a score when the Chiefs need one.
But other times, he just calls his regular plays, which allows the players (including -- perhaps especially -- Patrick Mahomes) to use their skills to make them work. It's also true that you can use clever schemes to set up a defense's expectations -- and I'm sure Reid does that, too.
But let's look at those seven straight wins by less than a score -- which is supposedly "unsustainable."
Of those seven wins, six ended with the Chiefs in victory formation.
Of those six, two (against the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) ended with the Chiefs taking possession outside of the two-minute warning. So the Chiefs easily could have scored to go up by more than seven points -- and didn't even try.
You know what those were? Easy wins.
Another of the victory formations came after the Miami Dolphins had scored a field goal. But for Miami to win, they would have needed to recover an onside kick and score a touchdown in just 16 seconds. In 99 out of 100 games, that's not happening.
That was an easy win, too.
Two more (against the Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders) ended on interceptions thrown on plays where the opponents were deep in their own territory with little time left (33 seconds at the Denver 30-yard line and 28 seconds at the Las Vegas 25). Maybe a really good quarterback could have won those games, but that far away -- and with that little time -- even Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson (and Mahomes ) would struggle.
So yeah... those were pretty easy wins.
The last of the six games ending in a victory formation was the game against the Atlanta Falcons, which ended on Younghoe Koo's 39-yard field goal attempt. Most of the time, Koo would make that kick -- but the Chiefs' Tanoh Kpassagnon got a hand on it. The Chiefs knelt and the game was over. But even if Koo had scored, it only would have tied the game -- not win it.
Then there was the Carolina Panthers game -- the only one of these seven narrow wins that didn't end in a Chiefs victory formation. A game-ending Carolina field goal would have won it, but was a 67-yard attempt. When the ball was snapped, there was less than a 1% chance the Panthers were going home with a win.
So maybe what the critics are really complaining about is that the Chiefs' defense can't stop other teams from coming back after they were down -- but in these games, Kansas City got up by double digits just three times: 14 over the Saints, 20 over the Dolphins and 17 over the the Buccaneers. Seven one-score Chiefs wins is a sign of strength - not weaknessIt's not a coincidence that these were the best teams the Chiefs played during the final stretch of the season.
Reid choosing not to humiliate good teams -- and not running up the score against bad teams -- is typical of his offense. But to an extent, that's also what you get with Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnulo, too. It seems like both coaches use the regular season to try their players out in all sorts of positions, circumstances and combinations.
And why not? As long as you're going to win, you might as well learn something more about your starters and backups -- and Spagnuolo does that. Both coaches seem to be comfortable putting their players in challenging positions to see if they can succeed.
And they have. Seven times in a row. And the Chiefs are the stronger for it.
Could the Chiefs have lost one of those games if there had been an unlucky bounce or injury late in the game?
But if that had happened, they still could have played their starters against the Chargers to win the AFC's first seed.
Way back in Week 9 against the Panthers, did they know that?
Of course not.
They did, however, know that they were still in control of their future. They learned more about themselves by playing that game in a way that risked a loss -- and of course, they didn't lose.
Focusing just on winning games is a tactical approach. Reid, however, sees the season strategically. You still have to win games to win the season that way. You just don't have to win all of them.
Reid had confidence the Chiefs were good enough to win enough games that the team would be well-positioned for the postseason -- and besides, he always has another offensive gear when it's needed. Spagnuolo probably has one, too.
The Chiefs took risks. But they were good ones -- because they won.
I think Kansas City will look better in the playoffs.