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Chiefs-Titans rapid reaction: KC served a dose of reality in Tennessee

Syndication: The Tennessean George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

It is time for a dose of reality. The Kansas City Chiefs are no longer the AFC team to beat; they are the AFC team to be beaten. With their 27-3 blowout loss to the Tennesee Titans on Sunday, Kansas City has begun its season 3-4.

Worse, the Chiefs are 1-4 in the conference and have lost key tiebreakers to every AFC division leader, including the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens. The Chiefs could still split with the AFC West-leading Los Angeles Chargers, but they trail Los Angeles — on its bye this week — by 1.5 games in the division.

Any possibility of them figuring any of this out lives or dies with the health of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who left the game in the fourth quarter after a horrible-looking hit to his head. Mahomes looked OK on the sidelines after the hit and reportedly cleared concussion protocol, but we will have to follow his health status is as we go forward.

There has been an early-season question about whether the Chiefs were a bad football team or playing like a bad football team.

Sunday’s game against the Titans marked the second time in three weeks it felt like the answer is certainly the former.

The it topic of discussion all week surrounded Derrick Henry and how the Chiefs might stop him. For what it’s worth, the Chiefs did a decent job in this regard — Henry only went for 86 yards. It was quarterback Ryan Tannehill that shined, spreading the ball around to nine different receivers for 270 yards while making two scrambles — one for a key second-quarter first down and later for a 2-yard touchdown.

The Chiefs were bad defending screens and missed tackles — and wide receiver AJ Brown, who was sick earlier in the week, carved up the Chief secondary for 133 yards on eight receptions. The Titans’ first punt came with 13:40 left in the fourth quarter. It is now safe to say halftime against Washington was not the defensive turning point of 2021.

The silver lining here was the play of young linebackers Nick Bolton and Willie Gay Jr. — who project to be next year’s starters.

There has been an early-season question about whether the Chiefs’ turnovers were more aberration than the norm.

Now, through more than one-third of the regular season, it is the norm. And it will be until it’s not. Patrick Mahomes has more giveaways in 2021 than he had in 17 games in 2019 and 18 games in 2020, per NFL Research. The Chiefs lead the league with 17 turnovers.

Mahomes continued to press Sunday, as evidenced by the interception on the pass intended for Josh Gordon. And why shouldn’t he be pressing? When the opposing team scores on the first five drives of the game, how could he not press?

Condolences to our Brad Sycox, but the “Legion of Zoom” is beginning to feel like a distant memory. Opponents’ zone coverages have eliminated the Chiefs’ ability for significant gains through the air, and there are far too many drops.

The opposing pass rush is getting to Mahomes too quickly, which — as we saw Sunday — is a very, very dangerous proposition.

There has been an early-season question about whether it’s time for the Chiefs to “panic.”

Re-read the intro to this rapid reaction; the Chiefs will not get the single AFC bye this year.

When it comes to the AFC West division, there are still 10 games to play and one against the Chargers. The division is by no means out of the question, but it will be a dogfight. If you scoff at this idea, fine — but the Titans, after losing to the New York Jets, just beat the Chiefs and Buffalo Bills in back-to-back weeks.

When it comes to clinching a Wild Card bid, there is still plenty of hope here. But the new reality is that can evaporate rather quickly. After a likely win against the New York Giants next Monday night (remember, the Chiefs are seemingly handling bad teams), they face the Green Bay Packers, Las Vegas Raiders and Dallas Cowboys before the bye week.

It is no longer a given the Chiefs are above .500 at their Week 12 bye — which is unbelievable, considering the organization’s stratospheric expectations.

In my opinion, is not time to “panic.” But the dose of reality the Titans served Sunday says that time is uncomfortably near.