In the grand scheme of things, the Kansas City Chiefs' three-point loss to the Cincinnati Bengals doesn't spell doom. Kansas City has already locked up the AFC West and will host at least one playoff game. With that said, the loss and a Tennessee Titans win knocked the Chiefs down a peg to the AFC's No. 2 seed.
In what was a thrilling game filled with big plays and plenty of star power, many things didn't go the Chiefs' way. They repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with drops, missed tackles and penalties. Many of those penalties were the result of officiating that was notably inconsistent throughout the afternoon. The Chiefs' offense sputtered in the second half and their defense couldn't contain star rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. After the game, Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said he and his teammates simply didn't respond the way they should have to the Bengals' resilience.
"This is a response-driven league," Mathieu said. "I just didn't think we responded well enough today. I know some people are going to talk about certain calls that were made late in the game and outside of that, I still feel like we could've responded a lot better defensively. Hats off to those guys. They've got a great, young core that can really play football. Those guys were prepared. I just didn't think we responded, really, the way we were prepared to respond."
Facing adversity is nothing new for this Chiefs team, as it started the season with a 3-4 record before rattling off nine wins in a row. Through 16 contests, their 11-5 record is still one of the best in football. Does losing to Cincinnati hurt? Sure. Was it a frustrating game for everyone involved? Almost surely. But everything the Chiefs want — outside of the first-round bye, they will need some help in order to catch that — is still in front. of them. Mathieu preaches business as usual following the tough loss.
"You just go back to work," Mathieu said of the Chiefs' next steps. "You don't point fingers, you don't blame coaches, you don't blame a particular play, a particular series. You just go back to work. You keep bonding with your teammates, you keep that chemistry alive and you keep believing in your coaches as well. I think the reason we've gotten this good and we've gotten better as the season's going on is because we believe in our coaches."
Up next, the Chiefs will travel to Denver to square off against the Broncos. It remains to be seen exactly what seed Kansas City finishes with but even if their final ranking in the AFC playoff picture isn't the most favorable, the team has responded in the past. That wasn't the case on Sunday, but history indicates that a bigger and better future could be ahead.