It was a near picture-perfect first half for the Kansas City Chiefs, but the inability to finish in the second half contributed to the crucial loss in Cincinnati.
A brutal 34-31 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals cost the Chiefs the one seed in the AFC but also displayed some flaws that the team has had this season. This article will not examine the shenanigans that were defensive play-calling from the Chiefs or even go into the “Jamar Chase game”. This article serves to examine the fact that while the Chiefs offense did put up 31 points, they sputtered down the stretch, scoring only three points in the second half.
“The Chiefs offense shouldn’t have to put up 40 every week to win!!”
I have had this response muttered endlessly to me this week in various podcasts, or live shows on Twitter Spaces. The Chiefs’ defense while they played poorly had carried the team for nearly a month in half while the offense was figuring things out. This was a game where the Chiefs were well aware of the kind of weapons they were up against, the Bengals film and stats spoke for themselves. This was a week when the offense was going to have to be on point all game and finish drives in the endzone, not with field goals.
In the first half, they were on point, from Patrick Mahomes to Mecole Hardman, to Joe Thuney, Darrel Williams, and even Nick Allegretti.
The Patrick Mahomes of seasons past is back. For another consecutive week, Mahomes has looked elite when throwing and delivering the football. He was comfortable from the pocket, but also throwing on the run. He showed the ability to do the routine but also the extraordinary.
The ball was spread evenly all game, Mahomes completed 26 passes for 259 yards, two touchdowns, doing so by throwing to ten different targets. He was making no-look throws with ease once more and showing why he is the best quarterback in the NFL.
The Chiefs run game and the offensive line also showed up in a huge way. Pre-game Orlando Brown tweaked a calf and was a late scratch to the game. This put Lucas Niang who was just returning from injury at left tackle, but just a few plays in the suffered a season-ending knee injury. This would push Joe Thuney from left guard to tackle and bring in Nick Allegretti to left guard. Against the odds, the Chiefs showed why offensive line depth is important while they gashed the Bengal’s defense all day.
The team rushed for 155 yards on the ground, averaging 6.7 a play. Darrel Williams played the best game of his career, running for 88 yards averaging a whopping 6.3 yards a carry and two touchdowns to go along with 19 receiving yards. Derrick Gore had another explosive run of 23 yards. Things were rolling. It was physical, it was precise, it was the domination of a team.
Unfortunately, it would not last as the team who put up 28 in the first half could only put up three in the second half. Two possessions ended in punts while the last for the offense would end in a field goal.
The largest momentum swing would come on the second drive of the half. On a third and short Patrick Mahomes completed an insane classic roll-out throwback to Blake Bell for a first down. Andrew Wylie would be called for holding, which would bring the play back turning it from a third and short into a third and long.
The Chiefs would get some yards back, but on a third and medium Andy Reid elected to punt the ball. I disagreed with the decision to punt, because the Chiefs had not proven one time all day they could stop the Bengals, but also because the Chiefs had been unstoppable at that point on pass plays from the five to eight-yard range. This was a situation where I would have liked to see Reid keep the offense on the field and try to convert a fourth down. The field position game wasn’t a factor with the way the Bengals offense was playing so it seemed like a chance to let Mahomes and company take control and make a small lead even larger.
The Bengals would go down and score taking the lead. The Chiefs would come back and drive the ball all the way down the field, getting stopped on a crucial third-down situation deep in the red zone.
A zero blitz forced Mahomes into an incomplete pass, and lead to a Chiefs field goal. The offense would not see the field again. A devastating loss, a preventable loss. Cincinnati blitzed Mahomes for what seemed like the first time all season, and it paid off. There was no hot read, and Darrel Williams who had been the go-to third-down hot route out of the backfield could not get out due to the pressure. Well executed by the Bengals, and again the Chiefs settled for a field goal.
The Chief defense played poorly, but in a big-time game vs another big-time offense we should expect the Chiefs to be aggressive offensively and while they were in the first half they could not finish in the second half and got conservative. Mahomes is playing his best football of the season, the chance is worth taking offensively, specifically on fourth downs.
The Chiefs have not had to play in the Wild Card round during the Mahomes era, but now they enter unchartered waters. It looks highly likely regardless of the Week 18 game in Denver that they will end up playing in the Wild Card round due to the loss against Cincinnati. The offense has been lethal for a month now, it is time for their coach to trust them to make plays, and it is time for them to use the run game and offensive line to shock teams. Everyone expects Mahomes to be awesome, and he has become the player we all know he can be once again. The run game could be the shock and awe that breaks the back of defenses in the postseason. The only thing stopping them is finishing drives. Finishing plays. Finishing games.
They didn’t finish against the Bengals, but it should be a lesson learned. They have the ability to score every time they possess the football. Now is the time to show it.