The ball was snapped, and Cincinnati’s three-man pass rush broke free with their sights set on quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Looking to make magic once again, Mahomes danced around the pocket, nearly finding enough space to make a play until Bengals pass rusher Joseph Ossai got to him for the sack and a 4-yard loss.
Pure athleticism from Joseph Ossai in chasing down Patrick Mahomes. Bengals drafted him for tenacity on plays like this. "Spy" runner never gave up. pic.twitter.com/0prGwwzNZI— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) December 5, 2022
Facing fourth-and-7 with the clock quickly approaching the three-minute mark, head coach Andy Reid had a tough decision:
Kick the long field goal or give your MVP quarterback a chance to convert on fourth down?
Time continued to tick away as Mahomes headed to the sideline with a slight limp. He cherishes these late-game moments and said after the game he always hopes for the chance to stay on the field on fourth down. But the call had already been made: kick the field goal.
Harrison Butker has struggled at times this season, as an ankle injury suffered in Week 1 has caused inconsistency for the usually reliable Chiefs kicker. In seven games this season, Butker had missed three field goals and two extra-point attempts. And though his field goal percentage was 80%, Butker looked like his pre-injury self in recent weeks, converting on eight straight field goal attempts, including a 26-yarder earlier in the first quarter of Sunday’s game.
With 3:24 remaining on the clock, Chiefs fans everywhere held their collective breaths as Butker attempted the kick from 55 yards out. The ball sailed to the right and failed to hook at the last second. Kansas City’s offense never got the ball back, and the Bengals ran out the remaining clock to end the Chiefs’ five-game winning streak by a score of 27-24.
Although it was far from the Chiefs’ best performance, the game was close throughout the afternoon and was well within the team’s reach. Ultimately, it came down to several critical moments in the fourth quarter where the team failed to execute – Butker’s field goal being one of them.
“That’s within (Harrison Butker’s) range,” Reid said after the game. “You (need to) get that combination of the snap a little higher and the kick a little stronger. You have to get that going, but it didn’t happen.”
Although many questioned Reid’s decision not to go for it on fourth down, Kansas City’s head coach remained firm that the call was the right one to make at that moment.
“If I don’t think he can make that, I’m not going to do it,” Reid continued. “It’s pretty simple. But I felt like he’s been in a good place, and we just have to execute it better all the way around. It really shouldn’t come down to that too, but it did, (and) if we’re going to be a good football team, we’ve got to make sure that ... you always take care of those things.”
Some speculated Mahomes hobbling after the third down sack played a role in Reid’s decision to kick the field goal, but when asked that by reporters, the head coach vehemently denied it.
“No, I thought we had a chance to make the field goal,” Reid said firmly. “He’s OK. He’s all right.”
When asked during his Monday media availability, Reid confirmed the Chiefs were in “field goal mode” all the way, showing no regret for the call.
Mahomes supports the head coach
During his postgame press conference, Mahomes reiterated Reid’s words, letting the media know he was fine while expressing that he had the ultimate trust in whatever his coach decided to do on fourth down.
“Yeah, I mean I’m ready for whatever coach decides,” Mahomes said. “If we want to kick the field goal, I believe we have one of the best kickers in the league, so I’m going to give them a chance to kick the field goal, and if coach wants to go for it, I believe we can make it happen as an offense. Whatever coach decides — I know he’s been in these moments before — I’m going to trust in that. But we went for the field goal, and it didn’t go our way this time.”
Despite the result, Mahomes believes in Butker’s track record with the Chiefs and says he will continue to trust him in these late-game situations.
“We paid Butker, and we have one of the best kickers in the league, so we trust him in those moments,” Mahomes said. “He’s made a lot of big kicks. This one didn’t go our way, but if we’re in that moment again, I trust that he’ll make it.”