It’s time to criticize Andy Reid’s play-calling again after Chargers loss

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 02: Head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on against the Oakland Raiders during their NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 2, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 02: Head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on against the Oakland Raiders during their NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 2, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The Kansas City Chiefs totally imploded against the Los Angeles Chargers, and it’s time to criticize head coach Andy Reid’s play-calling again.

It’s not the loss to the Los Angeles Chargers that hurts, it’s how the loss happened.

Year after year, the Kansas City Chiefs begin a promising regular season run that builds hope and sets sights on a deep postseason run. Year after year, the Kansas City Chiefs also find a way to disappoint fans. After beating the Baltimore Ravens last week, it looked like the Chiefs had finally gotten over their random December loss. Then, the Chargers came to town.

In a key primetime division matchup where Chiefs safety Eric Berry was set to see his first action since 2017, legendary tight end Tony Gonzalez was being inducted into the Chiefs Ring of Honor, and the Chiefs had the ability to clinch the AFC West and a first-round bye, everything pointed to an easy Chiefs win. Not to mention the fact that the Chiefs were on a 9-game winning streak against the Chargers and had beaten 20 of the last 21 AFC teams they faced.

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Then, disaster struck. The Chiefs made the game look like a blowout in the first quarter, picking off Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers on the game’s first drive and rolling on to take a 14 point lead with ease. But something changed. The Chargers scored in the second quarter to make the score 14-7 and were knocking on the door to score again. The Chiefs defense came up clutch with a red zone interception, but the offense came onto the field and went 3-and-out. No harm came out of the stagnant offensive drive, however, because there was less than a minute remaining and the Chiefs headed to the locker room up by a touchdown.

The Chiefs offense came out of halftime with a nice scoring drive and looked back to normal. They headed into the fourth quarter and had an 8-minute drive to take a 28-14 lead. Then, the offense disappeared and the Chargers scored 15 unanswered points for a surprise win.

While defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and the Chiefs’ defense deserve to be blamed, head coach Andy Reid and the offense also deserve to be called out. The Chiefs had the perfect opportunity to end the game in the first half; instead, the offense disappeared when the team needed it the most.

Reid is clearly a mastermind when it comes to drawing up plays that leave opponents defenses scratching their heads. But Andy Reid is not always a mastermind when in charge of calling plays, and it showed Thursday night against the Chargers. After a great kick return by Tremon Smith, the Chiefs were starting with the ball in Chargers territory early in the second quarter. Instead of capitalizing on the great field position, they settled for 3 plays that led to 7 yards and a punt.

Later, the Chiefs had less than a minute on the clock and the ball on their own 20-yard line to attempt to at least get into field goal range. Instead, after penalties, they took 4 plays to go 19 yards and ended up punting the ball away. Another wasted chance for the offense.

Despite the wasted chances, the Chiefs were handed another opportunity to put the game away. They had the ball at their own 45-yard line and, with a score, could’ve taken a 28-7 lead. Instead, the Chiefs went three-and-out again and gave the Chargers a window of opportunity.

Giving credit where credit is due, the Chargers defense performed admirably to stop the Chiefs offense. However, the Chargers defense was not the only problem. Andy Reid’s atrocious play-calling reared its ugly head again, causing the offense to stagnate.

Even before the Chiefs punted the ball four times, the play-calling was questionable. The Chiefs capped their first offensive drive off with a last-second touchdown pass from quarterback Patrick Mahomes to wide receiver Demarcus Robinson. But the play was clearly not drawn up to go to Robinson at all. Instead, it was always designed to go to tight end Travis Kelce near the front pylon, who was blanketed by Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward. This is evidenced by two things: first, Mahomes was staring Kelce down the entire time and second, Robinson walked half of his route before realizing Mahomes was in trouble and needed another option.

Being 2nd and goal from the six-yard line, it seems like it would have made sense to call a play that had more options than just Travis Kelce. Apparently, Andy Reid thought differently.

This was not the only problem with the play. The Chiefs left wide receiver Chris Conley matched up to block against Chargers star defensive end Joey Bosa. He was able to shepherd Bosa into left tackle Eric Fisher, but if Bosa had continued around the edge he likely would have been able to bring down Mahomes from behind with ease.

If the Chiefs did not have Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, they would have been looking at a throwaway to bring up 3rd and goal and quite possibly would have ended up settling for a short field goal. Instead, Mahomes was able to escape pressure and find Demarcus Robinson.

The Chiefs second drive of the game was a very successful 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. On this drive, the screen game worked exceptionally well. It began with running back Damien Williams breaking off for a 32-yard catch-and-run to get into Chargers territory. Then, it ended with running back Darrel Williams catching a screen pass and taking it for 11 yards into the end zone.

Seemingly, the Chiefs would look at this success and attempt to replicate it by continuing to run screen plays. Instead, Andy Reid completely abandoned the screen game, which led to the Chiefs punting the ball four times and, ultimately, losing the game.

Reid has disappointed fans with his play calling in the past and continues to disappoint today. Last season, after a hot start and a midseason crisis, Andy Reid handed the play-calling responsibilities to offensive coordinator Matt Nagy. This change was welcomed with open arms by Chiefs fans, and the Chiefs offense started averaging close to 30 points per game after it. But something changed in the playoffs, and Andy Reid started calling plays again. Of course, the Chiefs went on to blow a lead and lose to the Tennessee Titans in the wild card 22-21.

During the offseason, the Chiefs lost Matt Nagy when the Chicago Bears hired him as their new head coach. The Chiefs promoted then-running backs coach Eric Bieniemy to offensive coordinator, but Andy Reid decided he would be in charge of play-calling again. Despite Andy Reid’s previous history, things seemed different this season. Patrick Mahomes was, and still is, playing on another level and the Chiefs offense was consistently putting up points. To this point, play-calling and moving the ball has hardly been a problem. In fact, the Chiefs have been moving the ball so well that punter Dustin Colquitt even jokingly thanked Mahomes for letting him punt earlier in the season.

But, as it happens year after year, Andy Reid’s play-calling eventually catches up to him and the Chiefs drop a game they should win. Sooner or later, as long as Andy Reid is calling plays for the Chiefs, they are going to lose games they shouldn’t.

There are further complaints besides Reid’s play-calling: his time management and questionable timeout usage. In Thursday night’s game, his timeout usage was, exactly that, questionable. After a defensive pass interference call in the endzone on the Chiefs, the Chargers got the ball at the 1-yard line. The crowd was loud and both sides were scrambling to get set. The play clock was all the way down to 3 seconds, and quarterback Philip Rivers was still telling his offensive line who to block. Just when they were about to take a delay of game penalty, Andy Reid called a timeout.

This timeout allowed the head coach Anthony Lynn and the Chargers to draw up a play that ended in a 1-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to wide receiver Mike Williams. Following this touchdown, after a blown assignment, the Chargers capped off a 15-point comeback by converting the 2-point conversion to steal the game.

While it certainly isn’t time for Chiefs fans to panic, it is time to reexamine Andy Reid’s position as the Chiefs play-caller. How many times do the Chiefs have to lose a game they should win before the problem is addressed? Perhaps it’s time to give Bieniemy the play-calling reigns.

The Chiefs have two games left this season, next week in Seattle against the Seahawks and back at Arrowhead in two weeks to take on the Oakland Raiders. Since it’s unlikely that the New England Patriots lose another game, if the Chiefs want home field advantage for the playoffs, they’re going to have to win out.

Next. It's Time For Bob Sutton To Go. dark

Over these next two weeks, Chiefs fans should be increasingly critical of Reid’s play-calling. While neither of these games are a cakewalk by any means, the Chiefs have the talent to win them. It’s a matter of whether or not Reid gets the team back on the winning track and starts calling the plays that work.