The Kansas City Chiefs, with a chance to extend their fourth quarter lead, stumble and fall again to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Life is never simple for the Kansas City Chiefs.
The race for the No. 1 seed just got tougher following a tough 27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday evening. After the Chiefs held the Bengals to a field goal that shrunk their third quarter lead to 24-20, the Chiefs turned the ball over on their second play of the drive. Tight end Travis Kelce took a short pass over the middle for 19 yards before being stripped fighting for more yardage. Cincinnati capitalized immediately going 53 yards on 10 plays. They’d punctuate a good drive with an eight-yard pass from Joe Burrow to running back Chris Evans.
Over the next few days, people will lay blame at the feet of Steve Spagnuolo’s defense. In fairness, they weren’t great on Sunday, but one could argue they did enough to help Andy Reid’s offense back in the game. After the Bengals went up 14-3, their final six drives went as follows: punt, turnover on downs, field goal, field goal, touchdown, end of game. They would surrender a grand total of 13 second half points. It’s tough to argue they were a bigger culprit than a late-game turnover by Kelce.
Despite a respectable second half performance, they deserve their share of criticism. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked just once. Backup running back Samaje Perine averaged more than five yards per carry on Sunday and posted 155 yards from scrimmage. Surprisingly, the Chiefs young corners held their own on the outside, but did surrender big plays in key spots. A George Karlaftis sack forced the Bengals into a 3rd-and-11 situation with 1:59 remaining, but Tee Higgins got the best of rookie corner Joshua Williams to seal the game.
As disappointing as Sunday’s loss was, the No. 1 seed in the AFC is still in play for Kansas City. The Buffalo Bills have taken over the top spot in the playoff picture momentarily, but have matchups with the Dolphins, Jets and Bengals down the stretch. The toughest game remaining on Kansas City’s schedule is a Week 16 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks. They’ll need help, but it’s not unreasonable to think they could still secure home-field advantage.
Luckily, the Chiefs will soon get offensive reinforcements as Mecole Hardman and Kadarius Toney get healthier. Kansas City started this game with more red zone trouble. On the team’s first scoring drive, they were forced to settle for a 26-yard field goal. Kansas City had been the league’s best at coming away with touchdowns in red zone situations. They’ll need to clean this up in the lead up to the postseason.
It might sound crazy, but I’m encouraged by the play of the young secondary. They held the formidable trio of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd to 192 receiving yards on 14 catches. Unfortunately, the Chiefs’ veteran safeties left a lot to be desired on Sunday. It also didn’t help that the defense was only able to get home once today. Joe Burrow consistently evaded the pass rush and extended plays in key situations.
This loss stings, but it’s a great opportunity for the Chiefs to clean things up for the stretch run. They should be favored in their five remaining matchups and have an excellent chance to run the table. The Chiefs continue their December road tour, but have the hapless Denver Broncos and Houston Texans in Weeks 14 and 15. Get-well games may well prove to be just the doctor ordered to get this team on track and back in the catbird seat in the AFC.