“What if” and “that’s because” – the beginning of those two sentences have defined the Chiefs 1-2, last place in the AFC West, start to the supposed “Take it Back” season. The Chiefs are angling to “take back” their fans to the disappointment of the pre-Mahomes era unless some things change and quick.
This week the Kingdom pacified themselves with several “what if” and “that’s because” scenarios of which will no longer hold water after Sunday’s collapse at home against the L.A. Chargers. The Chiefs have suddenly become vulnerable, predicable, and reeling under .500.
The reason the defense, particularly the run defense, is struggling? “That’s because” they played two run-heavy teams in Cleveland and Baltimore and it should be expected. Well, yes, those teams boast solid running games, but the Chiefs played two NFL teams, both of who made the playoffs last season and will most likely make the playoffs again this season.
In those games, the defense was a mess, not unlike moments on Sunday. Although they squeaked out a win in week #1, the writing was on the wall, and Baltimore more than took advantage. “That’s because” the Ravens were executing a game plan that the Chiefs appeared completely unprepared to defend. For the Chiefs to placate themselves with the fact they played so poorly because the opposing teams are strong run teams is ridiculous. Clearly the first two weeks they should have been better prepared for those teams. Still, they were 1-1.
But “what if” CEH doesn’t fumble or Mahomes doesn’t throw the pick in Baltimore. Then the Chiefs win. Again, the loss to Chargers shows where the Chiefs are at, they believe the hype, they played with a level of arrogance. The Mahomes no-look pass that ended up an interception is a prime example. Marcus Kemp was unguarded and wide-open, who was Mahomes looking off? No one. It was pure hubris for a highlight reel that was completely unnecessary. Cute plays are fun when you win, but when you are losing, this type of play just looks like an over-inflated ego.
Last season there was talk of the Chiefs were getting bored, this season they appear overconfident as if they aren’t playing other professional football teams. Teams that see them as the dragon to be slain in the AFC are willing to take every chance for a win. Sunday was a team loss, both sides of the ball are struggling with fundamentals. Well, “that’s because” the offense was making up for the defense, or is it vice-versa? Force-feeding Edwards-Helaire ended up with, statistically, one of his best outings as a pro, but netted another turnover. “What if” he didn’t fumble again?
The defense, after a strong start, buckled at times when the game was on the line, again. “That’s because” of the turnovers, take those away and…..you can’t take those away. The defense performed well above what they had from the first two weeks, but they played a start-up team that hadn’t seen the playoffs in some time and flopped. “What if” there wasn’t miscommunication, missed assignments, and general confusion during several critical moments? When the defense needed to step up and end the game they failed and the streak continues in surrendering touchdowns in the red zone. The Chargers offense was last in the NFL in red-zone scoring. Not anymore.
“What if” Dan Sorensen doesn’t miss his assignment or Hitchens does the same thing? Get the ball in the red zone against the Chiefs and score a touchdown, it’s automatic. The Chargers know this, hence going for it on fourth down late in the 4th quarter. A rookie head coach out-coached the defending 5-time AFC West Champions. The Chargers watched the film and knew they could confuse the defense by going hurry-up in certain situations and it worked.
The Chiefs are two games back of a red-hot Raiders team who may actually be for real, but probably not. The class of the NFL, top of the AFC, and a pick to return to their 3rd consecutive Super Bowl are in a must-win game week 4. “What if” the Chiefs played to their potential, “what if” they didn’t end three straight drives (final drive against Baltimore and first three drives against L.A.) with turnovers and ‘what if” this defense had one more stop on Sunday?
All those scenarios are irrelevant, the Chiefs are in last place in their division. This team has dug themselves a hole, not unlike so many games they have started slowly and let Mahomes magic lead them to a victory. Except for this season, that strategy has failed twice and three of their last four games going back to the Super Bowl.
The NFL has caught up to the Chiefs and “that’s because” the Chiefs aren’t going to magically walk down the field after four turnovers and win week after week. Teams know they have to play aggressive to beat the Chiefs and the Chiefs have not answered the call. They are in uncharted territory, “that’s because” the defense is a liability who can’t tackle, collapse at the worst times, or are saddled with losing the turnover battle.
Or is it that the offense is struggling, “that’s because” the defense is so porous, Mahomes is pressing or untimely fumbles. There is no room for error or time to lament their woes, they aren’t going to win simply by showing up. The Chiefs have delivered confidence to an AFC West division opponent and an AFC opponent in the Chargers and the Ravens. In doing so, they have delivered confidence to every team on their schedule.
The Chiefs travel to Philadelphia for their week 4 match-up, another rookie head coach, and a team ripe with injuries who will be coming off a short week after their Monday Night game against Dallas. “What if” the Chiefs win against the Eagles? We’ll be saying “that’s because” the Chiefs didn’t have terrible turnovers, Mahomes made better decisions, the defense stopped a team in the red zone and stepped up when they need to, if not? 1-3 and the hole gets deeper and “that’s because” the Chiefs are flirting with a start they will be hard-pressed to overcome. This team needs a win, a decisive team win, or risk watching this season go off the rails and also risk watching the playoffs from home.