Does the Steelers loss deflate the “Chiefs are different” notion?

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger /
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Is it time to re-evaluate the possibilities for a Kansas City Chiefs team that has again fallen prey to the Pittsburgh Steelers? Today, we discuss.

By Sunday evening in Week 5, the NFL’s last unbeaten team had fallen. The Kansas City Chiefs lost a 19-13 heartbreaker to the Pittsburgh Steelers before a near-capacity Arrowhead Stadium.

After sleepwalking through the first three quarters of the contest, the Chiefs rallied and had a chance to win with an offensive drive that began with 1:42 remaining in regulation. Tyreek Hill’s 32-yard punt return gave the Chiefs fantastic field position to start the drive on their own 44-yard line. Kansas City would drive to the Pittsburgh 40 and have two chances to score the go-ahead touchdown, but two overthrows to a wide open Demarcus Robinson and a James Harrison sack would nullify their late-game heroics.

And so another chapter in the Chiefs-Steelers saga ends in defeat for head coach Andy Reid and company. The real question is does this loss dispel the notion that the Kansas City Chiefs have turned the corner? That depends entirely upon who you ask. The optimist will note that the Chiefs are up 1.5 games in the AFC West and still in control of their own destiny with a one-game lead on the rest of the conference (effectively negating the Steelers’ tie-breaker should it stay that way). The pessimist will point to this game as evidence that securing the home field advantage in the AFC still may not prove sufficient in getting the team past the divisional round. The realist will cite an unexpected 5-1 start with ten games left to play in the regular season.

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There are a number of ways to interpret the Chiefs loss to the Steelers on Sunday. The reality is that Kansas City was never going to go undefeated. It was only a matter of time before the team would drop a game. It’s not surprising that it comes to a team who was smacked 30-9 one week prior by a young Jaguars team. Cornered teams are never fun to play—especially one that’s seemingly had Kansas City’s number over the years.

The narrative surrounding the Chiefs will certainly change and invariably be tied to the postseason woes of yesteryear, but true analysis does reveal that this team’s evolved. The Chiefs are still a Top 10 offensive team in every statistical category. Following their playoff exit to the same Steelers team in January, it was that side of the football that needed transformation. To this stage in the 2017 season, that’s exactly what we’ve seen from Reid’s offense.

It’s also helpful to note that the Chiefs are 5-1 despite the loss of one of its best defensive players, three offensive lineman and its No. 2 receiver. If you’re counting at home, that’s five starters missing from the lineup. No team navigates an NFL season without injuries, but that’s a significant number of key contributors on the sidelines. All things considered, this team is far exceeding expectations in light of the challenges faced.

Kansas City has five divisional games left to play. The 2-4 Los Angeles Chargers still have to come to Arrowhead. The Chiefs have a pair of contests scheduled with the wilting Raiders and the 3-2 Broncos. It’s reasonable to think the Chiefs could come away from that slate of games 4-1. That would put the team at 9-2 on the season with remaining games with the New York Giants, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and a Dallas Cowboys team likely to be missing Ezekiel Elliott (due to suspension). There’s good reason to think that barring injury, this Chiefs team wins 11 or 12 games.

There are no moral victories in the NFL, but losses have a way of shaping teams that succeed in January and February for the better. Sunday’s loss could prevent this Chiefs team from peaking too early in the season. Going forward, the Chiefs are unlikely to continue as a national media darling. A tough loss to an AFC superpower should also disabuse Kansas City of any sense that they can take the next step without being an opportunistic and focused squad going forward. A 5-1 team with less pressure has a good shot at getting its head on straight for the stretch run.

Kansas City will have an opportunity to rinse the bad taste out of its mouth on Thursday when the Chiefs square up with the 2-4 Oakland Raiders. The Chiefs will then have 11 days to prepare (and heal up) for a home matchup with the Denver Broncos and a road meeting with the Dallas Cowboys before their Week 10 bye. A refocused Chiefs team could enter that bye week 7-1 with eight games to play. Even a 6-2 team would still be well within reach of the top seed in the AFC at the season’s midway point.

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Have you reconsidered what’s possible for this 5-1 Chiefs team after Sunday’s loss? Are you convinced the Steelers are unbeatable should Kansas City face them again in the postseason? Do you expect to see an angry team in Oakland on Thursday Night Football in response to such a heart-wrenching loss? Use the comment section below to weigh in. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.

Until next time, Addicts!