Even though the Kansas City Chiefs’ December record has slipped to a disappointing 1-3, the team’s top defensive star denied that his teammates’ morale is slipping.
“I think their energy is positive,” insisted defensive tackle Chris Jones before Wednesday’s practice. “I think that’s important for this week — to make sure everybody is in positive spirits, uplifting one another and being together. I think [there should be] attention to detail — especially on individual performances.”
On a team that has largely failed to meet expectations, we should expect that all players should be looking at their performances. But Jones is not suggesting an all-out blame game.
“I’ve been in this league, what eight years,” he recalled, “and [have] never been a part of a team that has been successful that has pointed fingers. I think it’s more so about taking accountability, seeing what you can do better, seeing what extra 10% you can give to your game. [It’s seeing] what you can add: whether that’s rest [or] sleep, whether it’s film, whether it’s extra curriculum after practice [for] improving yourself.
“Then I think that can contribute to the team being better.”
Many of Kansas City’s fans have taken a different approach with regard to the team’s second-half slump. They have been using social media to blame coaches for failing to hold players accountable for mistakes. On that, however, Jones defers to the locker room.
“I think we have to hold ourselves [accountable],” he declared. “I think the coaches can only do so much. The coaches can only call plays. We have to go out and execute at a high ability as players. So I think [it’s] more so taking accountability for yourself — and players holding each other accountable.”
During Monday’s 20-14 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, the Chiefs wasted an outstanding performance by their defense. The Raiders scored only six offensive points while being held to only 48 passing yards. Even so, Jones acknowledged key moments where the Chiefs’ defense did not meet expectations.
“You look at the end of the game,” he remarked, “we had an opportunity to get the offense the ball back — and we didn’t. Maybe if we got them the ball back, we probably would have scored. We’ve all got plays we wish we could take back.
“That was one of the drives we wish we could take back. [In] the last four minutes of the game, if we stop them there [and] get them to punt the ball back, Pat and them would go down there and score — and this would be a different type of feeling in the locker room and here today.”
While losing to the Raiders kept Kansas City from delivering an eighth consecutive AFC West title to its fans on Christmas Day, a victory in either of the team’s two remaining games will clinch the division. Though the Chiefs have won two of the previous four Super Bowls, Jones still identifies winning the division title as every team’s first goal.
“I think that’s what we strive for every year: to win the division and whatever after that falls in place,” he said. “Most important is winning the division. I think that’s our test; that’s what we’re looking forward to. In front of that, we have two games ahead of us — and two great teams.”
One of those teams will visit Arrowhead Stadium on New Year’s Eve. The Cincinnati Bengals have arguably been Kansas City’s biggest rival over the past two seasons. Though star quarterback Joe Burrow is out for the season, Jones has taken note of Cincinnati’s winning record with backup quarterback Jake Browning.
“Their quarterback has been playing lights out,” noted Jones, “so we’re looking forward to the Cincinnati Bengals. We know it’s going to be a tough game. They have a heck of a team.”