The Kansas City Chiefs are exhausting and inexplicable
By Jacob Harris
It’s time to stop projecting what the Kansas City Chiefs can do until they do it. It’s also not the time to stop believing that it’s all possible.
Look, I was an idiot. I often am, but I was especially a moron last week when I said “The Kansas City Chiefs are going to the Super Bowl.”
Somehow, someway I let this team get me to drink the Kool-Aid again. Again! Wow, I’m dumb.
Two weeks ago, Skip Bayless tweeted the the Chiefs played with “more spirit and fight” with Matt Moore than they have with Patrick Mahomes this season. As is tradition with nearly all of Skip’s tweets, he was almost universally mocked for it. Approximately 99.99% of the time, Skip is spouting off wild garbage takes just to spark some sort of negative reaction to drive eyeballs to Undisputed. The other .01% of the time, Skip is spouting off wild garbage takes just to spark some sort of negative reaction to drive eyeballs to Undisputed, but he also stumbles upon a grain of truth. This is one of those cases. The Chiefs, as a collective, were far more buttoned up and focused with Moore at quarterback.
This doesn’t so much count against the rest of the offense, who seem ready to play no matter what. But the defense and special teams in particular were visibly much, much less of a mess in Matt Moore’s two starts during Mahomes’ injury. I’m sure Bayless would try to frame this as the team playing better for Moore. The reality is closer to the team playing better because they lost their MVP safety blanket.
At this point, it’s the only explanation I can think of. I’m sure it isn’t conscious. The defense isn’t literally thinking to themselves, “We don’t have to try. Mahomes will take care of it.” But anyone who’s played competitive, organized sports at any level will tell you it’s easy to fall into the trap of relying on the one great player on the team.
Over the last season and a half, when Mahomes is playing, the rest of the team has ostensibly had carte blanche to breathe easy and not have to treat every drive like it matters. Because if they screw up, Mahomes will pull some magical nonsense play out of nowhere and save the day. When Mahomes was out, the comfort of knowing their quarterback was a demigod was gone. You can “next man up” all you want, but once Mahomes went down, it was obvious the entire team went into full batten-down-the-hatches mode.
Suddenly, the defense started to click. They sacked Joe Flacco like a million times after Mahomes left the game with his knee injury. Then the next week, Moore’s first start, they sacked Aaron Rodgers a bunch. Sure, they lost, but it was way closer than anyone expected. Then, finally, last week they put it all together. A complete game. Not only did they beat the Minnesota Vikings, but they completely shut down Dalvin Cook and Stefon Diggs. They played like a defense that knew they couldn’t afford to give up points.
But now Mahomes is back, and apparently that feeling is gone. And again, this is just a theory from my sofa. Maybe I’m completely off base here, but it’s almost visible. It’s intangible, but you can feel it. This team has let the Mahomes hype poison them. There’s an unearned arrogance in the way they play. They become sloppy, undisciplined, and at times even lazy. And every team that beats them relishes in it.
How is a defense that was able to neutralize the Vikings’ offense caught so off guard by the Tennessee Titans? How, one week after neutralizing Dalvin Cook, are you not prepared for Derrick Henry? How are you surprised by Ryan “Former College Wide Receiver” Tannehill’s athleticism? Literally the first line of Tannehill’s draft profile is that he’s super athletic. Like, it’s a known thing, guys. I mean, this level of unpreparedness is equally on Steve Spagnuolo, but getting truck-sticked by Ryan Tannehill is just a bad, bad look.
Anger isn’t even the right emotion. I feel exhausted and helpless. I feel like I’m watching my dog piss on the carpet after I walked him around the block for 45 minutes in the freezing cold while he did nothing. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do other than just try to get all the pee out of my carpet and beg my him in a language he doesn’t understand to not do it again.
I’m done predicting this team will win anything. But I’m also not going to predict they’ll lose anything. They have all the talent in the world, not only enough to win a Super Bowl, but to win Super Bowls. But talent is just talent; you still have to do the work. Since Mahomes arrived I’ve played a small part in the unrelenting choir that has heaped otherworldly praise upon this team before they’ve even won anything. This has obviously gone to the Chiefs’ head, and turned them vain. I’m tired of crowning a team that doesn’t deserve it yet.
It’s time for the Chiefs to get over themselves and actually earn their acclaim.