It’s not the end of the world but you wouldn’t know that if you listened to Chiefs fans on Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs lost at Tennessee to the Titans 35-32 to fall into a tie for first place in the loss column with the Oakland Raiders.
The defense which most thought was on its way to being fixed took a step back. After three much improved games defensively, the Chiefs’ defense looked like what we saw in the first part of the season in Tennessee. That’s to be expected. Nobody likes it. We would prefer the defense continue to improve and be a top five defense come playoff time. But this game showed that they still have work to do. There were several nice plays by the defense but in the end the run defense let the team down.
As much as the defense struggled in this one, the Chiefs still would have won if special teams would have played the way we have seen them play under Dave Toub. But that didn’t happen either. Two mistakes on the field goal unit in the last few minutes of the game prevented the Chiefs from having a chance to win this game. And if you think Tennessee was offsides on the blocked field goal take a look at this:
It’s not the end of the world but don’t tell Chiefs fans that right now. The fans, players and coaches will all be upset tonight. They should be upset. It will be better tomorrow. The team needs to move on quickly and prepare for a Monday Night Football game in Mexico City next week before getting a week off. The bye week might come at the perfect time this season.
The loss drops the Chiefs into a tie in the loss column with the Oakland Raiders. Nobody thought we would be saying that at any point this season. The division is up in the air. The Chiefs should still be the favorite to win the division but they need to start winning games.
The Chiefs have lost four of their last six games. They haven’t lost by more than seven points in any game this season. They have had a chance to win all of them but things aren’t falling their way right now.
Until the Chiefs can get on a roll winning games, it makes no sense to spend time thinking about anything other than winning the AFC West. The Chiefs are still the favorite to do that. And if the Chiefs make the playoffs, they have a chance to win the Super Bowl but the defense must improve. The special teams problems are likely a one-time disaster.
Take your pick of plays. This game was crazy. I chose the last play of the game in which the Titans blocked the Chiefs’ second field goal attempt in the final 1:27.
QB Patrick Mahomes played as well as ever in this game. He looked pretty good moving around but lacked some of the mobility we normally see out of him. He seemed to be bothered just a little by the knee brace he was wearing to protect his injured knee. And maybe he wasn’t bothered by the brace. Maybe it was just awkward for him. Maybe it’s just me thinking I saw that because of the recent injuries. He has never been an outstanding athlete. He just makes plays. Mahomes was off a little on some passes, lacking the accuracy we are used to seeing, but overall was pretty good.
It feels a little strange to say he was pretty good when he completed 71% of his passes for 433 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Pretty good? How about terrific?! Yes, I guess you could say he was terrific. It always surprises me when I see his numbers after a game. I think during the game that he played a typical Patrick Mahomes game. What hasn’t sunk in yet with me is that a typical Mahomes game is an outstanding game for most NFL quarterbacks.
Even though it looked to me like Patrick Mahomes was not as good as usual moving around, it didn’t stop him from making outstanding plays. One of those plays was a play in which he felt the rush, stepped up in the pocket and then jumped in the air and threw the ball to WR Mecole Hardman who took it 63 yards for a touchdown. Yes, he threw the ball while in the air and he had some zip on it. He is truly amazing. At least he said after the game that he had worked on making those kinds of throws. He is human.
TE Travis Kelce just amazes me. He is the best tight end in football and it’s not even close. Kelce was targeted seven times in this game and came down with seven receptions for 75 yards. Sometimes I wish the Chiefs would target him even more even at the expense of targets to Tyreek Hill. Kelce gets big yards for this team. He was terrific once again in this game.
DT Chris Jones hit Tennessee QB Ryan Tannehill on the Titans’ first possession and forced a fumble that the Chiefs recovered. Later he ran over the Titans lineman who was trying to block him and hit Ryan Tannehill for another sack. Jones finished with seven tackles, two sacks and a tackle for loss. The defense is better with Chris Jones in the game. Is he worth the money he will be asking for this offseason? We will talk about that after the season. Let me just say, I would love to have him back but I wouldn’t go overboard trying to keep him.
DE Tanoh Kpassagnon was aggressive recovering a fumble caused by Chris Jones on the Titans’ first possession. Jones made the hit and knocked the ball loose. Everybody thought Ryan Tannehill had the ball but Kpassagnon went for the ball and got it. Replay upheld the call on the field It set up a field goal for the Chiefs.
DE Emmanuel Ogbah sacked Ryan Tannehill with a perfectly timed stunt on a third down in the first quarter. Unfortunately he was injured during the game and we later learned that he is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
DE Frank Clark had four tackles and a sack. He did say after the game that he thought the defense came out soft on the final drive and the Titans were more aggressive.
Room for Improvement
Special teams, but especially the field goal unit, was as bad as the defense in this game. The Chiefs had two field goal attempts in the last 1:27 of the game. If they had made just one of those two attempts the Chiefs at least force the game to go to overtime and probably win. One attempt failed when the ball was snapped before holder Dustin Colquitt was ready for it and Colquitt threw the ball away for an intentional grounding penalty. That put Tennessee in great field position for their game-winning drive in which the Titans scored a touchdown with just 23 seconds remaining. Somehow, Patrick Mahomes got the Chiefs back into field goal range with one last attempt as time expired. This time the field goal was blocked.
The defense took a step back in this game. We saw such good run defense last week against Minnesota as the Chiefs essentially shut down Dalvin Cook. That was not the case this week with Derrick Henry. Henry rushed for 188 yards on 23 carries. That’s an average of 8.8 yards per carry.
WR Tyreek Hill was terrific in many ways in this game, as usual, but his dropped passes really hurt. Hill caught 11 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown but he was targeted 19 times! I can recall two times when the ball hit his hands and he tried to run before making the catch and then failed to do so. At least one of those drops cost the Chiefs a first down.
RB Damien Williams fumbled in the second quarter. The fumble was returned for a touchdown giving Tennessee a 13-10 lead. For the game Williams gained 77 yards on 19 carries. It will be interesting to see how Andy Reid handles the running back position next week.
WR Mecole Hardman fair caught a Tennessee punt at the three yard line at the end of the first half. Special teams coach Dave Toub had some words for Hardman when he went to the bench.
S Juan Thornhill had his worst game of the season against Tennessee. He missed a tackle attempt of Derrick Henry which led to a long touchdown run. He missed on other tackles as well giving Tennessee additional yards. Thornhill wasn’t the only defender with problems tackling in this game, but we have become used to Thornhill being really good so this game was quite a drop-off for him.
What We Learned
Winning the time of possession doesn’t necessarily mean you will win the game. The Chiefs had the ball for 15 minutes more than the Titans but lost by three points. 15 minutes! That is an entire quarter! How does that happen? We constantly hear how the Chiefs’ possessions are too quick and the defense is tired because of it. That wasn’t the case in this game. The defense was on the field for a quarter and a half. That’s it. And they were tired (I guess?)! That leads me to something else we learned…
Run defense matters and it matters more than some want to admit. The Titans beat the Chiefs with 225 yards rushing and just 146 yards passing. With under ten minutes to play and the Chiefs up 29-20, the Titans took 5:28 to drive from their own 25 to score a touchdown and get Tennessee back in the game. The drive lasted ten plays and only one of those plays was a pass which went for just 17 yards.
So what does it all mean? People used to say that you win football games by running the ball and controlling the time of possession. Today they say that you win football games by throwing the ball. Those theories might work over the long run but in any one game those theories doesn’t necessarily hold up. Ask the Oakland Athletics.
Kansas City travels to Mexico City next Monday night for a game against the Los Angeles Chargers.