Although the Kansas City Chiefs are celebrating their seventh consecutive AFC West title, the team didn't make Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans very much fun to watch. Kansas City needed an overtime touchdown to win 30-24.
As far as Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid was concerned, however, this was to be expected. Going into the game, he knew that a Houston team coached by Lovie Smith was not to be underestimated. What Reid was not expecting were his team’s costly mistakes. They made the game a lot closer than it needed to be.
“We’ve got to do better in the penalty area [and the] turnover area,” Reid told reporters after the game. “We’ve got to make sure we fix this.”
On Sunday, the Chiefs were called for 10 penalties that added up to 102 yards — as opposed to the Texans, who were assessed with just four penalties for only 33 yards. Although some of the flags may have been questionable, Reid believes there is a simple solution to fix the problem.
“You’ve got to work on your fundamentals and techniques — and then you’ve got to trust them when you’re out there,” he explained. “That’s what we’ll do. That’s the simplest way.”
Penalties aside, Sunday’s matchup was the ninth consecutive game where the Chiefs’ offense committed a turnover. Kansas City had two in the game — both of them fumbles that led to Houston touchdowns.
“Ridiculous,” said Reid of the turnovers. “You can’t have that. The guys know that. Nobody tries to turn it over, but you’ve got to do the best you can [to] hang onto the football — and take care of the football, if [you’re] the quarterback.”
Of the two fumbles, the one committed by rookie running back Isiah Pacheco seemed to stand out the most. It was his fourth of the season — and Reid seemed to be sending him a message about the importance of ball security as he benched him for the rest of the first half in favor of veterans Jerick Mckinnon and Ronald Jones.
Reid often puts young players right back in/gives them the ball again after a fumble; interesting that he didn't do that with Pacheco ...— Vahe Gregorian (@vgregorian) December 18, 2022
“Just keep your eyes up,” recalled Reid of Pacheco’s mistake. “He put his head down — and they were able to get underneath that. Just keep your eyes up and you have a better chance of hanging onto that thing. He had two hands on it, so he did good there. But sometimes when you bend over like that, they can get you.”
Fortunately, Pacheco’s time in Reid’s doghouse was short-lived; he was back on the field for the first carries of the second half. He ended up with a productive day, leading the team in rushing by running hard for 86 yards on 15 carries.
“You’re going to have hiccups with the young guys,” observed Reid, “but they play their tail off and go a hundred miles an hour. So you can live with that because they’re going to make some plays that are big-time plays — and then there’s going to be a mistake here or there.
“It pays off for you down the road after they get through all this — and they’ve progressively gotten better as the season has gone on. Then we’ve got enough veterans in there that can help them with that peer part of it that you get — and our guys are good with that.”
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes also doesn’t waver when his guys commit a turnover.
“I don’t even have to say anything,” he explained. “I think guys know — especially with how Coach Reid calls the game. When something like that happens, we’re going right back to you. You saw that with Isaiah. He started running the ball and started running extremely hard — even harder than he usually runs.
“Coach Reid does a good job of keeping those guys involved and not letting them hang their heads. They know that we all believe in them on this team, and that’s what it takes to be a great team.”
The other mistakes in Sunday’s game came from placekicker Harrison Butker. The longtime Chiefs kicker was 1-for-2 on both extra points and field goal attempts — including a missed 51-yard field goal that would have ended the game in regulation.
“You know what? Being a kicker is a little like being a batter,” noted Reid. “Sometimes you get in a slump. He’s a great one. He’ll get through it — and then he’ll come out of it even better than what he was. You got to keep kicking — and that’s what we’re going to do with him.”
Since returning from an ankle injury in Week 6, Butker has been uncharacteristically hard to trust in clutch situations. He has a field-goal conversion rate of 76.2% in 2022 — well below his career average of 88.5%.
In the case of Sunday’s missed kicks, former Chiefs’ punter Dustin Colquitt volunteered his opinion on what might be causing Butker’s inconsistency.
He’s an exceptional punter….If you look back at the holds on the extra point, the #laces are facing the sidelines, and on the missed 50+ yarder he pulled the ball to him at the last second and forced the ball to go to the right -he’s been missing the spot all year.— Dustin Colquitt (@dustincolquitt2) December 19, 2022
Whether it was penalties, turnovers or missed scoring opportunities, the Chiefs have a lot to clean up as they prepare for the playoffs — where they will see much stiffer competition. Still, a win is a win — and ultimately, that’s all that matters to Kansas City’s head man.
“The important thing is we won the game,” said Reid. “They’re tough to get in this league. We’re going to enjoy this one on the way home, and then we’ll get ready for a good Seattle team coming in on Christmas Eve.”