The Chiefs faced a really good test last Sunday.
Kansas City’s team fell just a little bit short at Arrowhead to the Indianapolis Colts 19-13 in Kansas City, which was the Chiefs’ first loss of the 2019 campaign.
Now, many KC fans will look at the loss and feel as though it was a disappointment — which it is if you factor in how the Chiefs were a favorite heading into the game — but this is a great learning tool for the Chiefs moving forward. Not to mention, teams want to lose now early in the season rather than later when it really counts, though the unconsummated rival New England Patriots (6-0) seem to keep on winning and home field throughout the playoffs will likely come down to the Patriots and Chiefs — the two teams we thought would be there in the end anyway. But let’s not forget that the Patriots went 18-0 in 2007 and all the way to the Super Bowl only to lose 17-14 to the New York Football Giants.
So, get a loss out of the way now, and go back on a winning streak soon.
With the season in its infant stages, though, Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo can look at the game as a mid-to-late-season-playoff game template, although the template was created last year in the AFC Championship Game versus the Patriots.
In fact, both of those games resembled each other in terms of how both the Colts and Patriots were able to defeat the Chiefs. Both teams used ball control offense in an effort to keep Patrick Mahomes off the field. Last week, the Colts used a ground-and-pound attack that rushed 180 yards and used up 37:15 of the clock, giving the Chiefs just 22:45 to work with; the Colts’ Marlon Mack rushed 29 times for 132 yards.
Colts’ quarterback Jacoby Brissett made just enough throws to keep the chains moving to put himself in a position to score a 1-yard rushing touchdown with 3:44 left in the first.
The Colts also made an adjustment on defense after allowing scores on the Chiefs’ first two possessions, though Mahomes threw for 321 yards and a touchdown. After those two possessions, however, the Colts’ burly defensive line took over the Chiefs’ offensive line, and the Chiefs lost Chris Jones and Xavier Williams to injuries.
Along with the Colts playing in the Chiefs’ backfield constantly pressuring and sacking (4) Mahomes, the Chiefs shot themselves in the foot with 11 penalties for 125 yards, compared to the Colts’ seven penalties for 50 yards.
Last year in the playoffs it was eerily similar versus New England in the AFC Championship Game. In that game, the Patriots rushed the ball 48 times for 176 yards, keeping the ball 43:59, which included overtime. The Patriots’ Sony Michel ran the ball 29 times for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Tom Brady threw for 348 yards and a touchdowns, and the team in general shut out Mahomes 14-0 in the first half.
The game plans were similar, but two glaring issues stand out in both those games — situations that head coaches should be able to correct in pep talks and practices. Penalties were mentioned in the Colts’ game, but the Chiefs couldn’t get off the field last year versus the Patriots in a critical moment because of Dee Ford — who is now on the 4-0 San Francisco ‘49ers — lining up offsides, preventing a would-be interception from Brady, which would have put the Chiefs in the Super Bowl versus the Rams.
A colossal mistake, yes; but these are correctable errors. And if the zebras still throw flags, it will be up to the Chiefs’ coaching staff to constantly communicate with referees to see how they are calling the game. Now, the flags aren’t the only reason the Chiefs lost these two games, but eliminating the mental mistakes will certainly give Kansas City more of a chance to win a ballgame.
Reid can also fortify his offensive attack with some semblance of a running game; last week the Chiefs ran the ball 14 times for only 36 yards.
Still, this week on Sunday versus the Texans, the Chiefs have an opportunity to play well versus a good team. They can stop the penalties and Reid can diversify the offensive playbook a tad bit more — he can’t repudiate the run game. Spagnuolo can call a much better defensive game plan, too, despite the rash of injuries that most NFL teams face during the rigors of the season.
Nothing is a sure thing in sports, and Reid and the Chiefs will be battle-tested once more in preparation for the playoffs as the NFL season progresses.