In what was widely viewed as a possible trap game for the 2-0 Kansas City Chiefs going up against the winless Indianapolis Colts, the Chiefs seemed to fall right into the trap — falling to the Colts 20-17.
From start to finish, the Chiefs’ play was riddled with mistakes, miscues and untimely penalties. When so many things go wrong, there are many people who can shoulder the blame; surely there is enough finger-pointing to go around.
Many will look at the horrendous play of the entire special-teams unit — from coordinator Dave Toub’s bad decision on the fake field goal to Skyy Moore’s two mental lapses on his punt returns. I understand those who will turn their focus to the curnch-time penalty called on All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones that gave Indianapolis the last breath of life it needed to survive. It would even be easy to lock in on the feud that seems to be happening between quarterback Patrick Mahomes and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
All of these things played a part in Kansas City’s loss.
But despite how badly the game was being played, this still felt like one of those games that the Chiefs would figure out a way to win — just like they have done so many times before — but there was one play where I said to myself, “Kansas City may not win this game.”
The turning point
With 10:04 left in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs were leading 17-13. They were facing third-and-13 — and with the way the offense had looked all afternoon, converting the third down wasn’t likely to be as automatic as Chiefs fans have become accustomed to seeing.
As the ball was snapped, pressure got to Mahomes — just as we had seen through the whole game — but he stepped up and fired a pass through a tight window to connect with wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who turned it into a 53-yard gain.
It seemed to be just the spark the Chiefs needed to put the game away. After a short run for three yards by Jerick McKinnon, the Chiefs faced second-and-7 with 8:53 left on the clock. It felt like the perfect time for Kansas City’s stars to make a huge play that would negate all the mistakes the team had made.
Mahomes dropped back again, delivering a near-perfect strike into the hands of future Hall of Fame tight end Travis Kelce in the end zone. But this time — unlike in the heroic stories we are used to reading about the Mahomes-Kelce connection — the story ended differently.
Kelce dropped the pass. He looked at his hands in disbelief.
The Kelce catch would have given Kansas City a two-score lead that the team likely would have been able to sustain. But even without the touchdown, the Chiefs were clearly in field goal range. Two plays later, however, backup placekicker Matt Ammendola was wide left on a 34-yard attempt that would have given the Chiefs a seven-point lead.
The bottom line
Rookie returners muff punts and backup kickers miss kicks — but All-Pro tights ends don’t normally drop routine touchdown catches. That turned out to be the one mistake that the Chiefs simply couldn’t overcome.
While it’s a tough loss, it’s only one. If we have learned nothing else about these Chiefs players over the last few years, it is that they always seem to find their footing and bounce back.
Hopefully, this will turn out to be an early wake-up call — and the Chiefs won’t fall into the next trap.