It's been a while since the Kansas City Chiefs have found themselves with a losing record after seven games. It's only happened once since head coach Andy Reid arrived in 2013. In that memorable 2015 season, the team climbed out of a 1-5 hole to win 10 consecutive games, enter the postseason and win the team's first playoff game since 1993.
It's growing increasingly difficult, however, to imagine that Reid could pull together that kind of miraculous finish this season.
In 2015, the team's final 10 games constituted the weakest part of its schedule. The same isn't true in 2021. When the schedule was released, it was widely believed that Kansas City's opening five games would be the most challenging stretch — and it certainly lived up to that billing. But preseason strength-of-schedule expectations are often wildly incorrect — and this season has been no exception to that rule.
In fact, based on team records after seven weeks, no team has a more difficult schedule than Kansas City. Even worse, three of the AFC contenders to which the team has already given up head-to-head postseason tiebreakers — the Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Chargers — are among the six teams with the easiest remaining schedules.
But even though some think they should, that doesn't mean the Chiefs are giving up.
On Monday, Reid noted that players weren't listening to music or socializing on the plane ride back from Sunday's devastating 27-3 loss to the Titans in Nashville. Instead, they were watching film from the game, trying to figure out how they could improve. Few even took advantage of the extra day off that the upcoming Monday night game against the New York Giants provided them.
"They were around [Wednesday], and they were around some [Tuesday]," Reid reported when he spoke to the media on Thursday. "They're a group that focuses on football. They don't want what we're doing right now; they want to be better. I appreciate that. It helps us get right back to work and get things solved."
Reid also noted that he and his coaches will just have to play the cards they have been dealt — and that in his experience, it is possible to turn those kinds of cards into a winning hand.
"I've been on teams that changed things around," said Reid. "And I've been on teams that couldn't change things around. Every team's different. We're sitting here with what we've got right now. We've got to change it. That's what we're putting our energy into."
According to Reid, even the effort of trying to solve two of the team's most pressing problems can sometimes backfire.
"I think some of them are putting too much effort on things — trying too hard, whatever term it is," he explained. "These guys aren't trying to do that; they're not consciously trying to fumble or jump offsides — you know, whatever it is, penalties and turnovers — but on the other hand, we know we need to fix that. If we're going to have success, we need to fix it. And we know if we do fix that, we will have success."
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes said that even with the team's 3-4 record, he and his teammates still have the confidence they need.
"We understand that we're not playing football the way we want to," he told reporters on Thursday. "We're not winning the games we feel that we can win. But I think we know that it's still out in front of us.
"We have to take it day by day. We have to focus in and really get better as a team. We feel that if we can do that — and better ourselves — that we can do whatever we want to do. That's going to take us staying with the grind — staying with the process and really listening to this coaching staff and doing what they want us to do."
And Mahomes said that his teammates aren't paying attention to those who are claiming that with 10 games left to play, Kansas City's season is effectively over.
"We have a lot of guys in this locker room that have won a lot of football games and played a lot of great football," he observed. "So we don't really worry about what other people outside of this building say. I mean, we just focus in on what we know we can do — and what we're going to try to do the rest of the season."
Even so, Reid echoed a view that many people outside of the team facility have been expressing: that talk is cheap.
"We just need to do it," he said. "I mean, I've done a lot of talking — and haven't had the results that we need. There's not a lot I can say that I haven't said. We just need to get it done."