The last time the Kansas City Chiefs began a season with a 1-2 record was in 2015 — and it got worse before it got better.
During head coach Andy Reid’s third season in Kansas City, the schedule was front-loaded with the stiffest competition — and going into Week 7 against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium, the team was at 1-5.
So it’s not as if Reid — and the Chiefs — haven’t been here before. But to the head coach, this time feels different.
“This one’s unique — I think just from the fact it’s clear there’s a reason why this is happening,” he said of the team’s problems with turnovers during its losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers. “So we’ve got to take care of that part. The turnovers just kill you in this league. We stress that. And sometimes you can try so hard that crazy things happen; it’s important that you go back to the fundamentals and the basics: take care of the ball, cover it in traffic and be smart with it when you’re in the pocket.”
But Reid denied that he felt a sense of urgency to get a victory in this Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Instead, he maintained that he wants his team to feel that urgency for every game.
“I mean, there should be an urgency every week,” noted Reid on Friday. “That’s what we strive for. So there’s an urgency this week to get yourself prepared. That’ll continue here until we have a chance to get out on the field and go.”
Reid’s message has reverberated among his players — including second-year defensive end Mike Danna.
“The urgency is all about getting better each week,” he explained on Friday. “We’re looking to improve; we’re looking to put the pieces and keys in the places and make our defense better when it comes to those standings — or whatever.”
“I think it’s kind of understood,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes observed on Wednesday. “Obviously, we talk about being great every single day. We talk about trying to have the best day at practice — but we’re not used to losing here.
“So whenever we lose a couple of games, we don’t like that feeling. So we have to do whatever we can to be better, because we’re going to get great games out of every team we play on this schedule — and if we want to end the season where we want to end the season, we have to have that urgency every single day to make ourselves better.”
“Every game is important — especially divisional games — but you’ve got to just keep chipping away,” he said. “You can’t necessarily change the things that had happened. You’ve just got to paint a clearer picture of how you want things to go going forward.”
Tight end Travis Kelce — a member of that 2015 Chiefs team that went 1-5 — said the most important thing was not to panic.
“It’s right there,” he declared. “We’ve got a long season left — and we’ve got the guys to get it fixed. We’ve got the mentality — [and] the leaders in the locker room to make sure we’re all doing the right things. But it starts in practice, it starts in our attention during the install, the game plans and stuff like that — and then we’ll go out on the field understanding why we’re calling the plays that we’re calling and running them full-speed, making sure we’re covering all the little details.”
But it’s probably unreasonable to think that Kansas City players aren’t conscious of the problems they’ll face if they fall to 1-3 this weekend. Tight end Jody Fortson — now in his third year with the team — said he had noticed a difference in the intensity of the work his teammates are putting in.
“I would say it feels a little different,” he told reporters on Friday. “You know, we’re standing at 1-2 instead of [where] we’ve previously been. Everybody’s a little bit locked in because we’re 1-2; that’s the reality of it. But I feel like everybody’s work ethic has been amped up a bit; everybody’s taking things for real. So yeah — there’s a little bit more intensity.”
And the head coach isn’t unaware that the team’s two unexpected losses have affected his players.
“I don’t think anybody likes to lose,” observed Reid. “In this business, you’re measured on the wins — not the losses. You’re criticized for the losses and that’s never a good feeling, right? So I’m sure everybody’s feeling that — and they want to do better. And that’s collectively important.”
Reid should know. Going into that Week 7 game in 2015, the Chiefs hadn’t beaten Pittsburgh since 2009 — and hadn’t defeated the Steelers convincingly since 2003. But they won 23-13 — just the first of 10 consecutive victories that put them back in the playoffs, where they collected their first postseason victory since 1993. The following season, they began the greatest period of success the franchise has ever assembled.
So perhaps this 1-2 start — unpleasant as it has been — has been just exactly what the team has needed.