On Sunday afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs found themselves on the receiving end of a loss — one that was similar to losses they’ve handed to other teams during the Patrick Mahomes era.
Whether it’s by converting a crucial third down or getting a stop in a critical situation, it’s usually the Chiefs who find a way to make a play when they need one. This time, though, it was quarterback Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals who did virtually whatever they wanted against Kansas City’s defense on the way to a 27-24 victory.
It wouldn’t be right to blame one specific area of the defense. The pass rush was virtually non-existent. Tackling was mediocre. The unit couldn’t get off the field on third down. So where should we begin?
The Kansas City defense came into the game with the league’s fifth-most sacks — and in Burrow, it was facing a quarterback who was tied for third in sacks. Seems like a recipe for success, right?
The Chiefs were only able to get to the Cincinnati quarterback once — and that came late in the fourth quarter. For the majority of the game, Burrow had what seemed like an eternity in the pocket to sit back and dice the defense up.
“Their offensive line at times did a good job,” head coach Andy Reid told reporters after the game. “Other times, he was slippery — and he kind of worked his way through [and] made some plays with his legs. I thought we had decent pressure on him throughout [the game].”
Despite being without star running back Joe Mixon, backup Samaje Perine ran the ball 21 times for 106 yards — his highest total since Week 11 of 2017. Burrow also ran for 46 yards (one shy of his career high) and added a rushing touchdown. Regardless of who was carrying the ball, the Chiefs had a tough time wrapping up and taking them to the ground
“I think we tackled as well as we had been,” said Reid. “We need to do a better job with that. That’s something [where] we’ll look at the tape and get it fixed.”
Perhaps the defining play of the game for the Chiefs’ defense came on the final drive. Leading 27-24 with three minutes remaining, the Bengals were facing a third-and-5 at the Kansas City 32-yard line. With a stop, the Chiefs could force a field goal that would keep it a one-score game.
Cincinnati ran a screen play to wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who had four Chiefs defenders within six yards when he caught the ball. Chase bounced it outside, got to the sticks and moved the chains. This play felt like a microcosm of the game; the Bengals went 7-11 on third down.
“Yeah. We’ve got to do better there,” said Reid of his team’s third-down defense. “We’ll go back and look at that. We had a third down on the offensive side. Then we had a chance to fix [it] there — and didn’t do a great job on that.”
In a game where the Chiefs’ offense was less than perfect, their defensive teammates came up short time and time again. Now it’s back to the drawing board for that unit, which will need to come up with answers — because before the season is over, it could very well face the Bengals’ offense again.