Let me say this right up front (in case the title of the article was unclear): Andy Reid is responsible the Kansas City Chiefs’ second loss of the season. I haven’t turned on the guy. He’s still a great head coach who has engineered the greatest year-over-year turnaround in franchise history. I’m convinced he should have a comfortable lead in the race for the Associated Press’ Coach of the Year Award. At the end of the day, he’s still a fallible head coach like every other, and his fourth quarter decisions cost the Chiefs a game on Sunday.
You chastise those you love, right? I could go into a deeply philosophical diatribe about how justice is indispensable to love, but I’ll spare you such an amibitious rant. I only dabble in philosophy on the weekends. I won’t wax philosophical, but I will tell you why I think the Walrus should fall on the sword.
Losses are always comprised of multiple missed opportunities. Clearly the Chiefs’ defense had no answers for Phillip Rivers on Sunday afternoon. They surrendered 41 points in the game. Rivers completed 27 of 39 passes for 392 yards and 3 touchdowns. There’s no question that the defense’s worst performance of the season contributed to the loss. Miscues pile up as a game wears on, but that’s precisely why late-game decisions are so important.
With 82 seconds left in regulation, there’s little time available to overcome an error in judgment. When Kansas City lined up to kick the ball back to the Chargers, you just knew they were in trouble. Alex Smith and the Chiefs’ offense had just scored the go-ahead touchdown (giving the Chiefs a slim 4-point lead). That drive featured five straight pass plays. The Chiefs had 1st-and-goal from the 5-yard line and never bothered to run the football.
To make matters worse, after the 11-yard completion to McCluster moved the Chiefs into a goal-to-go situation, Reid called a inexplicable timeout with 15 seconds left on the play clock. Here’s what he had to say about the timeout:
I was just calming the storm and making sure … we needed a touchdown at that point … that we had the right things in.
Doesn’t it make you wonder if a timeout would’ve even have been necessary with a run play called? Kansas City had a fresh set of downs from the Chargers’ 5-yard line, but never attempted to run. The very next play was a 5-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Bowe. After the kick, that left the Chargers with 1:22 and two timeouts.
You can’t pin this loss on Reid, the defense surrendered 41 points.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard this over the past two days. No reasonable person, with two wits about them, can gloss over Kansas City’s putrid defensive performance on Sunday. That’s precisely why I’m holding Reid responsible. He saw the defense struggle to defend San Diego throughout the day. He knew his top two passrushers had been sidelined with injuries. Why would he put the game back into their hands? Everyone knew the offense would eventually have to win a game. This was their opportunity to do so, but it was stolen from them by their head coach.
One play following the two-minute warning, if Reid was set on taking a timeout, he should’ve waited another 14 seconds to do it. He called the timeout with 15 seconds left on the playclock. He could’ve taken the game clock all the way down to 1:14. Had the Chiefs run the football once, San Diego is either forced to burn one of their final two timeouts or allow the clock to run down another 40 seconds. Had they run twice, San Diego is either forced to burn a timeout (perhaps their last) or allow the clock to run down 40 seconds. Either way, you’re chewing up valuable time in regulation and/or forcing the Chargers to burn timeouts. Mind you, Kansas City still had two timeouts they could’ve used for clock stoppages.
Okay wiseguy, suppose the Chiefs had run the football and failed to score a touchdown?
This is another question I’ve been asked since late Sunday afternoon. I’m not sure why running the football in that goal-to-go situation would’ve been Reid conceding points. Kansas City averaged 6.3 yards per carry on Sunday. The offensive line was winning the battle upfront. Is it possible that they might’ve gotten the push necessary to score the same six points on the ground? Unfortunately, we’ll never know. The Chiefs’ passing game has been anything but automatic this season. There was just as much risk involved with throwing the football. Pass plays might even be riskier in that situation because incompletions stop the clock.
It’s entirely possible that the Chiefs might’ve failed to score the go-ahead touchdown had they run twice and thrown on third down. Reid would’ve been forced to kick a field goal and send the game to overtime. There, it’s also possible the Chargers win the toss, score a touchdown on their first offensive possession, and never allow the Chiefs’ offense back on the field. I’m certain there would’ve been critics of that decision as well. Thing is, Reid should never make such a decision based on what fans think. There’s a group of people ready to question any decision he could possibly make in that spot.
What he should’ve done was follow conventional wisdom and practices in that scenario. Most NFL head coaches would’ve forced San Diego to either burn those timeouts or forfeit time on the game clock. That’s standard operating procedure in this league. Sure, there are coaches who go against the grain, but more often than not, that’s what happens.
The sky hasn’t fallen. I’m not relinquishing my spot on the bandwagon. With Denver’s loss to New England in the SNF game, the furniture where it was two weeks ago. To some extent, the road to winning the AFC West still goes through Arrowhead Stadium. A win this Sunday restores Kansas City’s one-game lead over Denver (and keeps them at the front of the line for home-field advantage in the postseason tournament).
Those truths don’t change the fact that Big Red allowed one to get away with poor game/clock management. This particular criticism shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s not even tough to come to grips with. It’s followed Reid throughout his career. Hopefully, that will be the last such error we see, in a crucial game situation, the rest of 2013. The final five games of the season figure to be close. The Chiefs simply can’t afford these kinds of fourth quarter gaffes going forward.
Am I being unreasonable to pin this loss on the head coach? Is it ever acceptable to hang a loss on any one person? Was the defense the real culprit in Sunday’s loss? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Use the comment section below to weigh in. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.
Until next time, Addicts!