The K.C. Chiefs lost a frustrating one on Sunday night against a depleted but proud Baltimore Ravens team. Cornered at 0-1 and staring down the barrel of 0-2 without several starters, the Ravens played their game and, in particular, did whatever they wanted on offense.
Things started off as well as they possibly could, with a Tyrann Mathieu pick-six that gave the Chiefs a 7-0 lead just one minute into the ball game. But I’m going to skip ahead to the part that mattered most.
Late in the 4th quarter, the Chiefs had already squandered a two-score lead, but the offense took over with 3:14 on the clock and needing just a field goal to take the lead. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes sliced and diced his way to the Ravens 39-yard-line, first connecting with Byron Pringle on a 23-yard completion, then ripping off another 13 yards on a completion to Travis Kelce.
At the two-minute warning, things looked very good for the Chiefs. Baltimore had already used two of their timeouts. Mahomes again looked Kelce’s way for 7 yards, and the Chiefs had 2nd-and-3 with just 1:25 to play. The Chiefs were in zero hurry at this point. Even without another yard gained, Kansas City could have had kicker Harrison Butker in position to kick a game-winning 49-yard field goal. That’s a chip shot for Butker, who is also one of the most clutch kickers in the league.
The only thing in the Chiefs way was the clock.
We all know what happened next. Second year running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire fumbled, the Ravens recovered, and four plays later the game was over. But the flaw in the plan wasn’t the design. It was the execution.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20. So we try to find ways to reinvent the wheel with our analysis of the blame. On the play prior to the fumble, the Chiefs had just elected to pass on 1st and 10 when they didn’t have to; and at that juncture, taking another 30 seconds off the clock was a very high-leverage play and it was the priority, even over getting a first down. You have to be able to rely on your first-round running back to take a handoff there.
Now that it’s happened, maybe the staff begins to look at Edwards-Helaire through a different lens. That will be an interesting discussion moving forward. But going into this game, it hasn’t been up for question who the RB1 is in the Chiefs’ huddle.
“Don’t take the ball out of the best player’s hands” is a quick and easy thing to blurt out when things go wrong. And it sounds so much more intelligent than “Don’t fumble the football.” Both are true, but the bottom line on Sunday night is that Andy Reid made the right call on 2nd and 3 at the Baltimore 32-yard-line. It’s not his job to prevent fumbles. It’s the player’s. It’s not pretty, but Edwards-Helaire has to wear this one.