The Kansas City Chiefs offense appeared to be humming during its first three drives Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers before all three ended on turnovers — first an interception, then a Tyreek Hill fumble, followed by one from Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
It is impossible to know, but had the Chiefs simply taken care of the football, it seemed all three of those drives were on their way to ending in seven points. The Chargers instead managed 14 points off the turnovers — creating a (very hypothetical) 35-point swing.
“We work on protecting the ball every single day,” said Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy during a Zoom appearance with the media on Monday. “That’s one thing we take a tremendous amount of pride in... We don’t want our players going out there playing afraid of turning over the ball. We just need to make sure we’re focused in those intense moments where we don’t lose sight of ball security. We’ve got to make sure we’ve got two hands on the ball in traffic, two hands on it on the way down. On top of that, in certain situations, we want to make sure we’re securing the catch. We never want to just throw an errant throw to put ourselves in a predicament where that team has an opportunity to put hands on the ball. So, those things are important.”
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ first interception came on a no-look pass that bounced off the hands of wide receiver Marcus Kemp — and then his second came as he was trying to improvise with tight end Travis Kelce, a process that usually translates into big yardage.
“The good thing is that we’re giving ourselves a chance to still be in play when the game is on the line, and if we eliminate just those mistakes, we will be sitting in a different position,” said Bieniemy. “We are who we are right now because of the turnovers. We’re a 1-2 team, and so we have to correct everything, make sure we’re getting back on track and getting this thing going in the right direction moving forward.”
On the bright side for the Chiefs, their offense has largely been good in 2021, coming in at fifth in points per game and sixth in yards per game at this writing. When the idea was floated that the rest of the league may be catching up to the Chiefs offense, Bieniemy outright laughed.
“My bad for laughing at your first question,” Bieniemy told the reporter. “I don’t think anybody has caught up with us because obviously, we’re putting the numbers up. I thought our guys played hard. I thought they went out there and did enough to put us in position to be playing to win the game at the end of it. And so I think our guys are maximizing the opportunities that are being presented. Now, one thing that we have to focus on... is making sure that we’re negating all the little things that’s keeping us from being the team we need to be. And we all know there’s no hidden agenda when talking about that. It’s the turnovers. We don’t turn over the football, we’re sitting in a different predicament.”
Perhaps the Chiefs would have beaten the Chargers and would be sitting at 2-1. But that is not the case.
“We’re a 1-2 team — and that’s who we are,” acknowledged Bieniemy. “The one thing we’re going to rely upon — you heard me say this earlier — we’re going to rely upon our leadership. We’ve got great leaders in that locker room. We’ve got great leaders on this staff, obviously, our head coach being the best, so we’re going to rely upon our leadership in making sure that our guys have no cause for concern. Yes, we are 1-2. Yes we are. You know what? But we’re going to go back to work...we’re going to [get back to the] basic fundamentals of what makes us special. Some of those things are just making sure that we can secure the football. Offensively, we’ve got to respect the process. We’ve got to make sure that we have a sense of urgency and a sense of purpose in everything that we do, and then on top of that, we have to focus on the little, minute things.
“Yes, we are doing some good things on offense. But it’s the little things that we need to make sure that are not just being swept underneath the rug. There is no need to be concerned or turn on the fire hydrant and go into a panic. No, we just need to line up, be ourselves, go out there. Hey, play with some poise, have some fun and let our personality show, but doing that, we need to make sure that we’re taking care of the football. And if we can do that, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win a lot of ball games this year.”