Here are five things we learned from the game.
1. The pundits don’t always know what they’re talking about
And in this group, I include myself and (most of) the rest of the Arrowhead Pride staff.
Almost unanimously, we believed that if Kansas City could limit running back Derrick Henry’s production — thereby forcing Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill to beat the Chiefs through the air — then Kansas City could beat Tennessee easily.
The only consolation we can get for this misjudgment is that we weren’t alone.
The much-maligned Chiefs run defense managed to hold Henry to 86 yards on 29 carries — an average of 3.0 yards per attempt. So Tannehill tried to beat the Chiefs through the air — and the ninth-year veteran beat the Chiefs’ defense like a drum, leading his team to a 27-0 halftime lead on 216 yards of passing — and a passer rating of 128.3.
The Kansas City defense managed Tannehill better in the second half, holding the Titans scoreless. But by then, the damage had been done — and on this particular day, the Chiefs’ offense just wasn’t up to the task of erasing the first-half lead.
It would appear that the Chiefs focused their defensive efforts on stopping Henry — which, according to pundits like us, was the correct approach. But that’s exactly why they shouldn’t listen to pundits like us. Instead, they should focus on things that help them win football games. Rushing doesn’t beat this Chiefs team — but passing does.
2. The offense can lose games, too
Through the team’s first three losses, we have tended to blame turnovers for the team’s offensive woes. And that wasn’t wrong; those turnovers played a big role in those losses.
But it’s hard to say that about this loss to the Titans. The team certainly might have been able to succeed on one or two drives that were cut short by turnovers — but it’s not as if the offense was succeeding on the drives where they were able to hang onto the ball, either.
To put it more simply: turnovers in previous losses kept the offense from scoring enough touchdowns to win. On Sunday, turnovers prevented the team from scoring touchdowns at all.
I’m previously suggested that quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been pressing too hard — and that it is part of the reason he has made an uncharacteristically high number of turnovers.
But in this particular game, it’s difficult to criticize the quarterback for pressing too hard — because nothing was working. To be sure, Mahomes himself played a significant role in the team’s offensive failures on Sunday — we can’t even say his two turnovers weren’t really his fault — but it isn’t fair to blame it all on him, either. On Sunday, there was plenty of offensive blame to go around.
3. Even Harrison Butker can have a bad day
After a worrisome stretch in 2020, the Kansas City placekicker had turned it around, making six consecutive field goals as long as 54 yards — along with 23 straight extra points, which not too long ago had been something to worry about.
But in the third quarter on Sunday, Butker missed a 57-yard field goal attempt that would have made the score 27-6.
It was probably unreasonable to expect that Butker’s steak of perfection would last much longer. But at least in this circumstance, the missed field goal did not affect the game’s outcome. That’s not much — but it’s something.
Let’s hope that Butker can get easily get back on track. There are plenty of other things to address.
4. Josh Gordon still isn’t panning out
The recently-signed wide receiver was one of the starters on Sunday — and he was targeted just once during the game. He didn’t get a reception.
It’s hard to know what to make of Gordon’s situation. Many people believe he has the size and athleticism to be the second wide receiver the Chiefs have been trying to find — but the team certainly hasn’t been targeting him very often. In the three games, he’s been active, he’s been targeted just twice, making just one (albeit spectacular) catch.
If his presence on the field is simply meant as a way to provide openings for other receivers, there hasn’t been a whole lot of evidence that this has been an effective strategy, either. (See: No. 2)
But unlike some other players who haven’t provided the production we expected (or hoped) to see, at least Gordon hasn’t been an expensive gamble.
5. The Chiefs can embarrass their fans
In the last quarter-century, I’ve reported on a large number of truly bad Chiefs games. But I’ve never thought of myself as someone who could really be embarrassed by the team’s performance. I’m a fan — and I love the Chiefs. But I still work hard at keeping the team’s fortunes from being intertwined with my own sense of self-worth — largely because there were so many years where that would have been very depressing.
But that said... I was genuinely embarrassed by the team’s performance against the Titans.
Sunday’s game was even more humiliating than the team’s loss in the Super Bowl last February. Even the best teams can go into a Super Bowl and be blown out — and it was pretty obvious that the Chiefs’ most significant problem was that the offensive line had finally become so tattered by injuries it could no longer function properly.
But Sunday’s game was something else entirely.
I can’t be embarrassed when a bad Chiefs team loses a game. After all... we expect bad teams to lose games. As Chiefs fans, we know what that looks like, yes? But what’s embarrassing is when what should be a good Chiefs team simply can’t play up to its own level. And far too often this season, that’s what we’ve been seeing.
Some will say that this reflects on the team’s coaching. Some will say it reflects on the team’s talent. And then there are those who will say that it reflects on the team’s management.
But those things aren’t really that much different than they were two years ago. We know that this should be a good team. We have seen the players and coaches prove that. Now we just have to let them figure out how to be a good team again.
If they can, they’ll right the ship — perhaps even make it to the postseason and make something happen. But if they can’t... well, we’ll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it.