On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs were in a position to win their second game of the season. Trailing the Baltimore Ravens 36-35 with 1:26 left in the game, the Chiefs had the ball on the Ravens’ 32-yard line after advancing 43 yards on just three plays that had taken 1:48 off the clock. Kansas City had all three of its timeouts, while Baltimore had only one remaining. All the Chiefs needed was to gain a handful of yards and take about a minute off the clock — and a Harrison Butker field goal would all but guarantee them a victory.
On second-and-3, the handoff went to running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire — who hadn’t fumbled once in 265 touches during 17 professional games. But two yards behind the line, Baltimore’s rookie defensive end Odafe Oweh forced the ball loose — and recovered it.
Four plays later, it was over. The Chiefs did something they hadn’t done since November 10, 2019: lose a game decided by seven or fewer points. Since that 35-32 loss to the Tennessee Titans in 2019, the Chiefs had won 12 consecutive close games.
No wonder fans have been taking the loss so hard.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Kansas City running backs coach Greg Lewis said that Edwards-Helaire was holding the ball as he had been coached — “high and tight” — and that Oweh had simply “made a play.”
But as far as Lewis was concerned, that didn’t give the second-year running back a pass.
“If 12 people tackle him — I don’t care, nobody cares — in that situation — really in all situations — the ball must be secured,” he insisted. “That’s pretty much what I told him — and he understands it. We move forward with that.
“We’re working diligently every day with everybody involved — that’s running backs, tight ends, receivers, quarterbacks, whoever’s touching the ball from a defensive standpoint — that ball security is of the utmost importance. We preach it every day. It was an unfortunate deal that happened. We know it can’t happen — and Clyde knows it can’t happen.”
Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said that Edwards-Helaire had responded well to the coaching.
“It seems like he’s doing good,” he observed on Thursday. “I mean, we had a great conversation [Wednesday]. I thought [Wednesday] probably was his most prolific practice — and that’s not saying that he doesn’t always come out there and practice hard — but I thought he did a heck of a job because his focus is in a different place.”
Lewis said that during this week’s practices, the running back has handled himself “as a professional.”
“He’s come out, and he’s worked hard,” he added. “He’s done what he’s done each and every day. It’s not about worrying about what happened in the past — we can’t change any of that. We’re moving forward — and he’s working hard to continue to get better at his craft: his running, pass protection [and] catching passes out of the backfield. That’s what his job is. That’s what he’s coming up here to do.”
But Bieniemy acknowledged that at first, coaches had approached Edwards-Helaire carefully.
“You’ve got to understand: I’ve been in that situation as a player,” said the former running back. “As a former player, I know I didn’t want anyone speaking to me. And I know Clyde didn’t want to talk to anyone. Obviously, emotions [were] running high.
“But when the dust settles, the only thing that you want to do is put your arm around him. Nobody goes out there to intentionally fumble the ball. Nobody goes out there to intentionally throw an interception. But those are things that we can’t take for granted in those defining moments.”
Bieniemy had actually opened his press session with a little philosophy — something he’d clearly thought to bring up with Edwards-Helaire’s fumble in mind.
“Sometimes you learn lessons from life,” he said. “But sometimes, this game can give us lessons. The thing we have to realize as a unit is not to take the little things for granted. That was the biggest lesson out of all of it.”
Later, he expanded on that idea.
“Sometimes, you need to be humbled. And things happen. But for whatever reason, we had to go through that experience. But now, our job is to make sure we’re focused on the prize. The prize has always been to win the AFC West. And the only way we can get that done? We have to take care of business this up-and-coming weekend.”
And as far as Bieniemy is concerned, his starting running back will be up for the challenge when the Los Angeles Chargers come to town this Sunday.
“Clyde will learn from this,” he declared. “Clyde’s a tremendous football player. He’s a great kid — and we’re looking forward to him helping us to win more games than we ever could imagine. So I’m fired up and excited about making sure that our guys put that game behind them — and continue chopping wood.”