Nov 24, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) runs the ball as San Diego Chargers linebacker Thomas Keiser (90) attempts the tackle during the second half of the game at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chargers won 41-38. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs vs. Chargers Fallout: What We Learned From Kansas City's Loss

My heart still hasn’t stopped pounding. Coming into this week, I was sure that the Kansas City Chiefs would rebound in championship fashion and defeat the San Diego Chargers at home in Arrowhead Stadium. In fact, I believe I’ve said repeatedly this year, “the Chiefs WON’T lose at home this year.”

Damn, was I wrong.

The Chiefs came into this game tied for first place with the Denver Broncos; don’t let that second place/fifth seed stuff fool you. That doesn’t count until the season is over and it most definitely is not over. Yet.

The Chiefs walked into this game tied for first place, but they head back to their locker room firmly in second. Barring a Denver Broncos loss tonight to the New England Patriots, the Chiefs will be in second place next week when the Broncos come into Arrowhead.

The hype all week has been “which Chargers team will show up in K.C.?” Kris Kilduff and I actually mused over that exact same mantra on AA Radio this week. Even more importantly, we tried to figure out which Phillip Rivers would show up?

I guess the answer became clear in the last 82 seconds of the fourth quarter. The Phillip Rivers that wins football games.

Still, how did it even get to that point? How did the Chiefs defense — who only allowed 27 against the high flying Broncos offense — allow the Chargers to not only score 41, but a touchdown to win the game with just 24 seconds left on the clock?

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The first thing we learned from this game is that even though linebacker Derrick Johnson may be the heart of this Chiefs defense, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are the soul.

It is possible to fight a man with one hand tied behind your back. However, when you try to fight with both of them handcuffed, you look like a drunk on a Friday night.

Losing Hali hurt the Chiefs for sure. Though it’s likely we won’t know the extent of the injury to his ankle until at least tomorrow, the result for this game wasn’t good. Hali didn’t return. And for a guy who makes his living on moving around and getting to the quarterback, an injury to his ankle is huge—no matter the severity. When teams play the Chiefs, Hali is the man they game plan for on the defensive side of the ball.

As if that didn’t hurt enough, a couple of series later, the Chiefs leading sack machine, Justin Houston, appeared to have his right arm bent awkwardly backwards, and went down. Where as Hali appeared to be in just a little bit of pain as he got up and gingerly walked on his ankle, Houston was down and in serious pain on the ground for a good amount of time.

Neither player would return to the sideline from the locker room after half time. 

When half of your pass rush is out, that’s not good. Especially when your team that started the season so well in that department has only recorded one sack in the last three games.When both members of the sack leading duo in the NFL are lost though, it spells certain disaster.

That’s exactly what happened.

Even while Hali and Houston weren’t getting to the quarterback, they were providing pressure, forcing the quarterback to get the ball out quickly. This allowed the Chiefs secondary to shine because they weren’t forced to cover receivers for several seconds on each play. The longer a play takes, the harder it is for the coverage, because the receiver knows where he’s going. The defense can only react.

With no pass rush, the secondary was really picked on today and it showed. Rivers ended up completing 27 of his 39 passes for 392 yards and three touchdowns. He did this without throwing an interception. Largely, he was allowed to do it unmolested, even though the Chiefs broke their two game sack-less streak late in the fourth quarter with Eric Berry getting to Rivers. For all the good it did. On the very next play, the Chargers quarterback threw the game winning touchdown.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Even before H2 (Hali and Houston) went down, the Chiefs defense hasn’t looked the same as it did the first seven games of this season. Yes, the Chiefs have been attacking and up until last week they have been winning, but it hasn’t looked the same. Where Andy Reid’s offense has continually opened unseen pages of the playbook, it almost appears if Bob Sutton’s defense has reached the end of their story.

That doesn’t bode well for this Chiefs team moving forward.

The defense has been their identity. It’s been what has won them games more often than not.

Today, it lost them a game. It lost them a game in a big way.

While the Chiefs defense has been the biggest bright spot on this young team who — at Week 12 — has now lost as many games as it won last year, the offense has been the “red headed step child.” Everyone has been down on the offense. After all, running back Jamaal Charles has accounted for 37 percent of the Chiefs total production and when one person owns over two thirds of the offense, that’s not good.

Most of all though, the highest criticism has come against Alex Smith.

Smith, who came to the Chiefs in the off season via a trade with the San Francisco 49ers, was never believed to be Mr. Right. H was more of Mr. Right Now. However, there were reasons to be excited about Smith. Last season, prior to being replaced by Colin Kaepernick after a week 10 concussion, Smith had the highest completion percentage in the NFL at a tad over 70 percent. Though he would never wow the crowds with his “big arm” or huge stats, Smith promised to be a solid QB for the Chiefs. At the very least he would be a damn sight better than Matt Cassell or Brady Quinn, who led the Chiefs under center last season.

However, Smith has failed to shine. Yes, he’s had some decent games. He started well against the Jacksonville Jaguars and played well against the New York Giants. But, he hasn’t shown the accuracy he had last season. As the season has progressed, it would seem the Chiefs search for a quarterback would have to continue.

However, to say the Chiefs offensive woes were entirely Smith’s fault would not only be unfair, it would be inaccurate and just plain silly.

One would only have to watch the tape of the Chiefs first loss of the season last week to the Broncos on Sunday Night Football to see that the receivers are just as much to blame for the Chiefs less-than-inspiring offensive production.

However, this week Smith did what he should have been doing all season. He put this team on his back and did everything he could to win.

That’s the second thing we learned about this team today.

Alex Smith can and will play quarterback as good as anybody. Smith completed 26 of his 38 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns. He led scoring drives every single time he needed to.

The biggest complaint against Smith this season is he won’t — or can’t — throw the deep ball. Today, Smith hit on ten plays for over 15 yards including a scoring strike of 32 yards. Smith can air out the ball when he needs to. Perhaps the biggest knock against Smith the last couple of games is the fact that he holds onto the ball entirely too long. Often, the result of this is a sack, which happened three times on the day. Unfortunately, in the Reid offense, there’s not a lot of separation from the defensive backs and if receivers don’t immediately get open, chances are, they won’t.

The question has been asked time and time again this season, if the Chiefs are down late in the game, can Alex Smith carry them to a victory? Can Alex Smith win in a shootout? What happens if the defense has a bad day? Can Smith and the Chiefs offense do what needs to be done?

The answer, it would seem, would be no. Without absolutely no help from the defense, Smith wasn’t able to secure the victory. Though he did everything he could. He even did what he normally doesn’t do, trying to get the win. He made a mistake with the football and threw an interception. Detractors could blame this loss on him. After all, that interception led to a Chargers touchdown. Still, with the Chiefs defense that has been around all season, that shouldn’t have been a problem for them. They should have created a turn over of their own at some point. They didn’t.

Smith did everything he could in this game and it still wasn’t quite enough.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Is that okay, though?

The Chiefs were the worst team in the league last year. They’re not even supposed to be here right now. This shouldn’t even be an issue. They should be 6-5, at best.

Yet, here they are, 9-2 with all the expectations that go along with being in that position.

Is the season over? Not hardly. Right now, the race in the AFC playoff picture is to 11 wins. The first team there will secure a playoff spot. The Chiefs are two games from that point.

Yes Denver is coming into Arrowhead next week to play this injured Chiefs team only two weeks removed from handing them their first loss, which then led to their second loss. But it’s the NFL…

The Chargers beat this Chiefs this weekend, but the Miami Dolphins beat the Carolina Panthers, the St. Louis Rams beat the Chicago Bears and while I type this, the Arizona Cardinals are pounding the Indianapolis Colts (the only team to beat the Broncos mind you) up and down the field.

The bottom line is, until it’s over, it’s not over. The Chiefs have had a rough couple of weeks, but these losses will define how this team performs moving forward.

We learned a lot about this Chiefs team today in the loss to the Chargers.

But I think we’ll learn the most about them in the weeks ahead, leading up to the playoffs. Because if the offense that showed up today pairs with the defense we saw at the beginning of the season, this team will truly be unbeatable.

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Tags: Alex Smith Justin Houston Kansas City Chiefs Tamba Hali

  • DTVTechGuy

    I think you nailed something… Sutton needs a chin check. BAD defensive play calling in this game. I agree it looks like he hit a wall.

  • jdilla415

    You somehow still spun this as a negative on Smith. It’s like you wanted to give him credit, but couldn’t quite explicitly say it. This was more that just a bad day for the defense. It was horrendous. Way worse the offense has ever played this season. So to answer your question can the offense carry the team when they aren’t playing welll, the answer is a resounding yes. Did we watch the same game. Under 2 minutes, offense drives down the field and scores for what should have been a W. All the D had to do after not stopping rivers all day, was have one good series.

    • Jason Seibel

      If you’ve read anything I’ve written here on AA, you’d know that I’m the ultimate Alex Smith supporter. I thought he had an awesome day, but it wasn’t quite enough. The Defense was mostly to blame, but that INT was huge!

      • Jim Harper

        That pass was not perfect for sure. It was high, but in fairness to Alex it was a tipped ball, not some bad throw directly to a defender. That being said, overall I agree with your analysis. Alex played superb! Any time a QB puts up 38 points he should win that game. The defense cost us this one. You cannot lost Hali & Houston and expect to win. On top of that DeVito was out, so we were missing 3 very important starters. One other thing lead to this loss. Rivers had an unbelievable hot hand. The final pass to the end zone that doomed us was nothing if not a perfect throw to a receiver who had only caught 2 balls all year. All we can do at this point is root for the Patriots beat the Broncos tonight and bring it back even. As a life long Chiefs fan of course I want to see them go all the way, but truthfully I will be very happy with a playoff berth which at this point would be a home game against a very beatable foe. On top of that this team has already exceeded my wildest expectations this year. Bottom line folks, it ain’t over till its over! But that does not make this one any easier to swallow.

        • micah stephenson

          O yes that was a bad throw. It was too high. And as a wild card team our 1st playoff game will b on the road.

          • Jim Harper

            That is what you took from all that I wrote? Pathetic! And as a ps the patriots did us a big favor beating the donkeys. Go Chiefs!

          • micah stephenson

            You started off talking about the bad pass Alex made and that’s what I responding to. When our wrs tipped Cassels passes they were ints. Plain and simple. Alex had 3 td passes, how do that equal 38 pts? That’s 21 pts.

          • Jim Harper


        • Troy Utt

          Despite the INT I believe Smith played a great game! The one knock might be KC scored to quickly on their last scoring drive… Most often we would have seen them go into JC run the ball, eat up the clock mode, which is really what was called for even at that point. But I also understand Reids feeling of urgency to put quick points on the board & turn it over to the “D” with the way this season has gone… Problem was so much of that defense was out injured, & in hind-sight the call back-fired. Lucky for us Brady & Co. did us the favor by downing the Donkeys in OT. Now it’s up to the boys in RED to take care of business when Manning brings it back for the re-match in Arrowhead. Provided we are able to have our “D” back on the field, I like our chances of winning this game without the muggings, considering the way the offense has picked up! Should both those converge it should make for a great game, & maybe KC is just hitting their stride at the right time… WAR CHIEFS!!!

        • Tony Parker

          it wasn’t so much a perfect pass as it was Shawn Smith letting the wr go by him like he was expecting safety help. all he had to do was stay with him and not just let him run by him. If he does that there is no game winning TD. Terrible play by Smith imo.

      • Andy

        Demps int drop was huge. Right in his hands. For crying out loud, this loss was on the D, not Smith. I will take 3 td to 1 int any day.

    • Danny W

      I disagree totally. I thought this was another spin in the direction of much Alex Smith love.

    • micah stephenson

      Even when Alex has a good game, his best ain’t good enough on a consistent basis.

  • tm1946

    Do not see any way to spin this positively after watching the Chiefs for the last 4 games. If H2 is MIA, how far will the Chiefs go if, IF, they made the playoffs. One game with offensive production does not a season make. There are to many games with the exact instructions on how to beat the Chiefs. Not a whine but facts seem to indicate we hobble to finish the rest of this season, running out of options.

    • Frank

      That should go both ways. One horrendous D game doesn’t a season make. Beyond today the O and the D have had other shades, we need half (or more) the O of today and all the D of games 1-7.

      • tm1946

        H2 both get MRIs, who is their replacements and how many sacks have they recorded. Frank, we both may hate to face it but we are going into battle next Sunday with no bullets. Add to that, we may limp to the end of the season without another win. A biter pill but we just do not have enough left.

        • KCinTX

          We will go to the nickel or dime as our base D. Played in it most of the game against Denver. Just need to mix in some zone to counter the crossing routs.

          • tm1946

            And how did that work WITH Hali and Houston playing. Read what you wrote, this defense cannot handle crossing patterns and without H2, Denver will set records in our home.

          • KCinTX

            Chiefs didn’t use much zone coverage in the Denver game so I couldn’t say, but What they did in Denver worked way better than what I watched today. Going to the zone may help them cope with the loss of our pass rush.

          • Jim Harper

            Why not just throw in the towel then?

  • Erik Hild

    I think our fan base drank too much kool aid early. We are in the hard part of our schedule and every game here on out is a must win. Anytime a defense lets up 41 points they should get the majority of the blame. Chiefs will probably finish the year 13-3 or 12-4 and get a wildcard spot. I just hope this is the year the playoff win comes.

    • tm1946

      Guilty as charged. As for “must win” games, Denver and SD beat us, got to face both again and do not see a lot of help left on the roster. Playoffs seem a bit much at this current state of affairs.

      • Jason Seibel

        Actually, this team is only 2 games away from the playoffs. 11 gets you in. Let’s be honest, they’re playing Oakland and The Redskins. Both of those games could definitely be won. So I don’t think the playoffs are outside the realm of possibility.

        • tm1946

          True and I see it but if H2 are gone, the winnable games are debatable. Even if they can play but not at 100% what would happen in the playoffs. Limping into the playoffs may actually be a moral victory based on last year but to get thumped by a playoff team with a stronger QB, WRs, defense or whatever does not seem that much fun.

          • Jim Harper

            Everybody gets beat up this time of year. Broncos lost Rodgers-Cromartie tonight too.

      • KCinTX

        Chiefs have 5 games to get healthy for the 2nd season. Winning the division with Manning in Denver was always going to be like hitting the lotto jackpot. Possible but improvable. Making the playoffs, even at the 5th or 6th spot, after picking a LT #1 overall is flat out impressive.

  • Arrowhead Magic

    For the first time all year, I wasn’t worried when we were down, because I knew the offense would do what they needed to do. This offense showed they have the ability to hang with anyone. We also learned that without a pass rush, our defense can’t do much. We’ll still make the playoffs, like Jason said 2 more wins and we’re guaranteed a spot, and that’s assuming the next wildcard team wins out, which is unlikely. So let’s not worry about what all the experts are saying or what other fans think. We know this is a good team, we know what they are capable of. So don’t hit the panic button just yet fellow Chiefs fans. Once Tamba and Justin get healthy, which hopefully is soon, the rest of the AFC better pay attention because this team will make some noise when January rolls around. Go Chiefs!!

    • Jim Harper

      Well Said

    • tm1946

      Sorry but what is this team capable of??

      Until today, the offense was probably going to score less than the defense and special teams combined. The defense led in sacks until 4 games ago, one sack (?) in last 2 stinking games. Special teams was going nuts until 4 games ago, very average since.

      There is no panic, 9 great wins but, come on, H2 will be impact players in 5 games from one walking on crutches and the other walking on the sidelines. Maybe next season.

      Not sure what noise you are expecting but hope you are correct.

      • Arrowhead Magic

        This team is capable of top ten level defense and hanging with any offense in this league. Now we just have to bring them both together in the same game, which isn’t that far-fetched.

        I think you are over blowing the seriousness of the injuries to Houston and Hali. I went back and watched them, they didn’t look nearly as bad as I initially thought. Chances are they’ll bounce back by next week, a few weeks at most. But we’ll know for sure tomorrow.

        And truthfully the only team that we need to worry about is Denver. If Houston and Hali don’t get hurt then this game is very different today. The Patriots and Bengals are too inconsistent. The Colts have stumbled even worse than we have. And the Jets and Ravens are garbage. I see us at least making the divisional round of the playoffs, after that it’ll probably be a third round with Denver, so we’ll see about that noise, but it definitely is not beyond our capabilities.

  • tomflex

    Offense at last….loved It. The line gave Alex time to hit deep receivers and he was on it. Notice also with the deep threat established… the running game also opened up. That’s the good news.
    Ok the defense fell apart but who would have thought Hali and Houston would go down in the same game?
    Good coaches find ways to adapt to injuries and I do believe we have good coaches. Might even work out for us. Now Denver has no Idea what to expect next Sunday….Everybody stay positive

    • Jim Harper

      Right on

  • Andy

    Leave Smith, Reids timeout out of this. Bottom line, Chiefs allowed 38 of the 41 points after Houston and Hali went out. Not too many teams survive with two stars out, in mid game.

    • Trey P

      The chargers best def players we’re gone

  • Trey P

    Played the wkrst d in the league thats why the offense was good and the D for a second straight weak didnt play a back up QB lol

    • micah stephenson

      They don’t care about the facts. Lol

  • Scott Zupek

    not one mention of how miserable our coaching staff is at play calling, clock management, playing the odds, understanding the game at hand ( every game is somewhat different. you play to how the game is going. since KC couldn’t stop SD/Rivers, why in gods name would you burn a timeout early, call pass after pass after pass when EVERYONE…every single person except our coaches KNEW Rivers was going to do EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED!? ). Amature our on the coaching staff. This loss is 100% on the coaching staff for not putting the T E A M in the best possible position to win….

  • Stefanie Smith

    Miami did not beat the Panthers. Just thought I should correct that.