It was an unfortunate start to defending the title belt, but I don’t believe the Kansas City Chiefs are in trouble. Not by a long shot. What I saw during the game was illustrative of a young team with a lot of new moving parts that haven’t had enough time to mesh. Nothing more and nothing less. It’s not time to panic at One Arrowhead Drive.
Like a complex machine, the gears must work themselves into their sweet spots. When you have the best player in the NFL working his magic to try and get everyone on the same page, that takes time. As I have said before, these players are trying hard, maybe too hard, to impress their leader, Patrick Mahomes. They want to be the reliable, trusted weapons that Mahomes needs for a deep run in the playoffs.
Losing to the Detroit Lions doesn’t mean this Chiefs team isn’t playoff-bound. There’s little doubt they’ll be playing deep into January and hopefully into February in Las Vegas. One clear thing to consider is the receivers didn’t give up, and though they had miscues, they were open. So, you must ask, if not for the drops, who knows?
Diagnosing the challenges ahead is relatively easy. The remedy might linger for a few games. The offense needs to settle down and do what they know how to do. Without getting mired down in X’s and O’s and developing a statistical analysis that is subjective, at best, let’s explore the human perspective.
This group of individuals is still trying to form a team. I know they are a team in their quest and goals, but these receivers haven’t progressed to the point of relying on one another. Will they get there? With Mahomes at the helm, I can guarantee it. Without a doubt, Andy Reid and his staff are going to review the tape and come up with the scheme fixes. They’ll look at the receiving core and take the positives, then work on the deficiencies, which appear simply to be concentration when the ball is in the air.
To be a Super team, every group has one thing in common, when they put aside their egos and don’t try to outplay themselves, amazing things happen.
Patrick Mahomes is the perfect example. He shoulders the problems as a true leader would and works to find the solutions that exploit the game to his advantage. The challenge is getting everyone to buy into the vision. People tend to offer lip service when these concepts are offered and then turn around and do it their way. Some of that can be blamed on immaturity while other cases can be blamed on selfishness and even other cases can be blamed on arrogance.
I’m not saying these are all the Chiefs problems, but I can tell you that I’m not far off. Like any great organization, it starts at the top. Andy Reid and his staff are excellent teachers and can coach their students up to a satisfactory level. Execution, on the other hand, comes down to the individual units and ultimately, the individual. The greatest, most innovative schemes in the world will fail if not executed correctly.
While I’m particularly highlighting the offensive challenges, the defense and special team have similar issues.
The defense played a better game than I expected without Chris Jones. Again, the moving parts are there but the gears aren’t quite meshing yet. I’m impressed with the push and pressure they got at times but only generating one sack is a testament to the Lions offensive line more than a ding on the Chiefs defense. Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme was correct for the game. His mix of man and zone sometimes bit him, but I think, overall, giving up 14 points on defense to the Lions should be celebrated.
Dave Toub’s choice to use Richie James is not the solution as a returner. They need to have a bigger or shiftier returner than James, and perhaps putting Skyy Moore back in the mix might elevate his confidence in the passing game.
Every team that faces the Chiefs, especially on punt returns, especially if the Chiefs defense continues to ascend, will become more as the season moves forward. They have a couple of running backs on the practice squad who could be difference-makers in the return game but who do you demote?
At times inspired at other times, the offensive coaches fell flat of the mark. Field position, clock management, and scheming all come together to either succeed or fail. It can be due to numerous things but at the end of the day, the coaches call the plays and players execute. I’ve already spoken at length about player execution. Even though you have the best quarterback in the game, executing trick and cute plays can backfire – as we saw Thursday night. So, when essentially nothing is there, begs the terminal question, why call them?
Why would you put that player as a decoy or second thought when a game is on the line? The coaches had to know heading into week one there’s a learning curve, but those types of plays should be done with a big lead, not with the game on the line. In this game, you put the ball into the hands of your best player. To do otherwise, just doesn’t make sense.
Is there a question mark about Mahomes? Is Reid worried about his health? What other factors are there to consider?
Sometimes I think Reid forgets this team has been the best team in the NFL the last five years. The fact at times he ignores the contingencies Mahomes brings to the table is puzzling. Now that doesn’t mean you have to run him into the ground with quarterback sneaks, but, when the game is on the line, put the man in the middle of the action, that you’re paying a half billion dollars to deliver a win every week.
As I said at the beginning of this piece, this was an unfortunate loss. Lessons will be learned by the people involved, and adjustments will be made. This loss will bring this team closer, and they’ll have an opportunity, to flush the taste of this loss and get back to the woodshed against the Jaguars a week from Sunday on the road. A visit to the Sunshine State will be good medicine for the Chiefs.