Kansas City Chiefs - TeamReport
NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - INSIDE SLANT
Through the first nine games of the 2013 season it was hard to put a finger on what the Kansas City Chiefs were capable of achieving in their first year under Andy Reid.
Those same Chiefs are now riding a three-game losing streak that has pulled back the curtains a bit and revealed a football team that isn't ready to be a real contender.
The opponents have been better and tougher, and the breaks haven't always gone their way. They have played three games against two quarterbacks that are having outstanding seasons in the AFC in Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers. And, healthy is not a word that can be used when talking about the Chiefs after 12 games.
There's no shame in losing by 10 points in Denver, and then losing in the last 30 seconds to a division rival like San Diego and then falling by seven points to the Broncos again. But a real contender does not lose all three games. A real contender does not lose back-to-back home games. A real contender does not drop three consecutive games against division opponents.
"These last two, we had a chance to win it; we were in these games," said quarterback Alex Smith. "Earlier in the year we were coming out on the other end of these. We just have to continue to fight. There's still everything we want in front of us."
Everything the Chiefs wanted was to win the AFC West, post the AFC's best record and play host to postseason games at Arrowhead. That went up in smoke when they lost twice to Denver in three weeks. While they trail the Broncos by just one game in the division standings, they lose the key tiebreakers because of that series sweep and a poor 1-3 record in the AFC West.
As the games have grown bigger in value in the second half of the season, the Chiefs have not responded with bigger and better performances. The defense has fallen apart, while the offense has improved but has been unable to win three shootouts. The formula that produced nine victories has been disrupted and overall Reid's team has not been able to adapt.
That should not come as a surprise because the Chiefs roster does not have a lot of experience in the NFL playoffs. Only 27 of the players on the 53-man roster have participated in an NFL postseason game and just 15 have started a game in the playoffs. Only one has scored a postseason NFL touchdown - running back Jamaal Charles in 2010. There are four players that played in the 2012 NFL playoffs: wide receiver Donnie Avery (Indianapolis), cornerback Dunta Robinson (Atlanta), tight end Sean McGrath (Seattle) and linebacker Dezman Moses (Green Bay). Smith was the backup quarterback in San Francisco.
The key players on this team - Charles, wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, left tackle Branden Albert, defensive end Tyson Jackson, nose tackle Dontari Poe, outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, inside linebacker Derrick Johnson, cornerback Brandon Flowers, cornerback Sean Smith and safeties Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis - have never been part of a winning performance in the playoffs. All of those players are starters and among the team leaders.
Do the Chiefs have the experience and confidence necessary to be successful in January?
"I will tell you this is not a business to be in if you don't have some confidence," said Reid. "You have to learn from your mistakes and learn quickly. You have to have a short memory is what you need to have. Then the success comes after that."
Smith says the Chiefs don't need to change a lot of things to return to their winning ways.
"I don't think anyone needs to do anything crazy at all," said Smith. "We need to keep doing what we've been doing. We won doing it and we'll win again."
Reid has been in these spots before and he thinks his team has the character to rebound.
"They're willing to learn and take coaching, hard coaching at times," Reid said. "I think that in the long haul it will pay off for us in a good way."
SERIES HISTORY: This will be the ninth meeting between these teams since the merger of the American Football League and National Football League. The Chiefs hold a 7-1 edge, winning the last meeting between the teams 14-6 in 2009 at FedEx Field.