Familiar ending to Chiefs' season

By Steve Sell
January 08, 2018

The Kansas City Chiefs broke their fans’ hearts again.

Are we surprised? Of course not.

I knew when Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota threw a touchdown pass to himself — even though that made it just 21-10 at the time — the football gods were going to scowl down on the Chiefs again.

They were nearly perfect in the first half of their game with the Titans on Saturday. Alex Smith was right on target (though he was betrayed at times by his receivers) and the defense had Mariota and the Titans’ offense scuttled. A 21-3 lead seemed insurmountable the way the Chiefs were playing.

But we’ve seen this act play out too many times before. Remember the playoff game with the Colts and that 38-10 lead?

This was just so Chiefs. Building up expectations, only to crush them in a heartbeat.

Of course Andy Reid is going to shoulder the majority of the blame. He always does. That’s why he’s a player’s coach as he takes the bullet for the players, who are to blame for this one.

I put it mostly on the defense. The offense hands them a 21-3 lead to protect and what do they do? They turn to swiss cheese in the second half, giving up more than 250 yards and never getting a stop.

It just drives me crazy watching the Chiefs’ defensive backs trying to make a tackle. They simply try to nudge the offensive player to the sideline or shoulder tackle. There is no wrapping up or form tackling.

We knew all season this Chiefs defense was a bend-but-not-break unit. It had ranked near the bottom of most categories, though it didn’t give up a lot of points as the red-zone defense was decent.

The line missed Dontari Poe this year, no question. Chris Jones was dominant at times, but disappeared too much. Allen Bailey and Bennie Logan are simply pedestrian.

The linebacking corps struggled all year. Justin Houston is getting paid All-World money and wasn’t even up to All-Pro standards. Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali have aged themselves out of the league. Kevin Pierre Louis missed too many tackles and Frank Zombo is a special teams player forced into starting because Dee Ford was hurt nearly the entire season.

The secondary missed Eric Berry’s leadership. Marcus Peters was a powder keg, but did play much better once he finally melted down and was suspended. He came back from that more focused and played at a high level.

The other defensive backs were barely passable. Steven Nelson, Philip Gaines and Terrance Mitchell were the Toast Triplets as they were picked on constantly.

Offensively, we may have been the last of Smith. He would take up a large chunk of payroll next year and you have to wonder if he’s taken this team as far as he can. Smith has guided the Chiefs to four playoff appearances in five years, but just one win. 

That would leave the team in the hands of Patrick Mahomes, who showed a lot of promise against Denver but is still an unbroken colt. There’s a lot of polishing that still needs to be done, but he’s an exciting talent.

The Chiefs have a track team in shoulder pads. Tyreek Hill is the NFL’s most exciting player and Travis Kelce is the best tight end not named Rob Gronkowski. Kareem Hunt led the NFL in rushing despite playing behind an offensive line that probably rates no better than middle of the pack. There’s enough weapons to do heavy damage.

I look for changes to be made. I think Reid is safe, because before he arrived the town was saddled with the likes of Todd Haley and Romeo Crennel. At least Reid is good enough to get the Chiefs consistently into the playoffs, though his postseason failures remind us of the Marty Schottenheimer days.

The biggest upgrades have to be made on defense. Kansas City needs to hit free agency hard, especially at linebacker as I doubt Johnson and Hali are back. Good health for Houston and Ford is essential.

I don’t know how much help the Chiefs will get in the draft since they gave up next year’s No. 1 to acquire the rights to Mahomes. But look for most of the picks to be on the defensive side.

The Chiefs are going to have to work to make the playoffs next year as they’ll still have a difficult schedule since they won the division. The Chargers probably will be around .500 and the Broncos are rebuilding. Look out for the Raiders with Jon Gruden now at the controls.

The Chiefs gave us a lot of thrills this year, but the season ended at least one week too early.