Of the teams currently jockeying for seed positioning in the crowded AFC playoff picture, the Kansas City Chiefs have had a mixed bag of results against them. In their matchups against the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills, the Chiefs got beat down and outclassed. Against the Los Angeles Chargers, turnovers doomed Kansas City in a relatively close loss. The same thing happened against the Baltimore Ravens, although they are on the outside of the bracket looking in.
In Week 17, a Sunday afternoon in which the Chiefs were in Ohio to play the Cincinnati Bengals, a multitude of things led to the team's loss. Drops, missed tackles, poor coaching decisions and some outside factors (officiating was spotty, at best) doomed one of the NFL's most talented teams. Of course, the Bengals' talented offense helped earn the well deserved win, but the Chiefs couldn't get out of their own way at many points in the game.
That's been a common theme in the 2021 season. Despite the talented AFC playoff field that will prove to be dangerous, the Chiefs remain their own biggest enemies. That won't change come playoff time, and Conner Christopherson of Arrowhead Report joined me on Wednesday's Roughing the Kicker podcast to highlight how even when Kansas City loses, it's more often than not by its own doing.
Talent, leadership and depth are not issues for the Chiefs. One could argue that the ancillary weapons at the wide receiver position are the only roster-based element working against the team right now. Outside of that, Kansas City has a star-studded roster filled with the league's best playmakers. Andy Reid is one of the best head coaches in football, and Steve Spagnuolo's defense has done a complete 180 after beginning the year as a historically poor unit. Tyrann Mathieu, Frank Clark, Patrick Mahomes and company are world-renowned teammates. The issues reside with consistent execution.
During the Chiefs' eight-game winning streak, they were slowly figuring out how to avoid shooting themselves in the foot. They were still dropping passes, they were still missing some tackles, blown coverages weren't completely absent and coaching mishaps still occurred. With that said, the offense began to hum along to a more harmonious note and the defense experienced one of the greatest in-season turnarounds in NFL history. Only so much can be taken away from the team's 3-4 start featuring those blowout losses to Buffalo and Tennessee, as the Chiefs are a different team now.
In some ways, though, they're the exact same.
The Bengals loss featured critical drops by Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Patrick Mahomes had two interceptions that were dropped. Daniel Sorensen was late on a coverage rotation that led to a touchdown. Multiple Chiefs blatantly whiffed on star receiver Ja'Marr Chase, leading to another score. Reid and Spagnuolo made puzzling decisions down the stretch. Just as much as the Bengals beat the Chiefs, the Chiefs beat themselves.
In a conference that doesn't have a single team that is head and shoulders above the rest, the Chiefs have reasons to be afraid of every team they'll face. To varying degrees, sure, but they exist. On the other hand, Kansas City likely poses as the biggest threat and holds the top spot on every opponent's most-feared list. The combination of raw talent, proven production, coaching greatness and the like are there. In order for the Chiefs to reach their third Super Bowl in a row, they simply need to stop slowing themselves down and giving other teams chances to speed up. Their pedigree is unmatched — it's up to them to live up to it and not let their bad habits creep up when it matters most.
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