By Clark Judge | Dec. 14, 2018
Poor Andy Reid.
He has the best record in the AFC, the Offensive Player of the Year, and landslide MVP favorite, a record-setting pass rusher and one of the most pronounced home-field advantages anywhere. Yet with Thursday night’s last-second collapse vs. the Los Angeles Chargers, he may have suffered more than his first loss in 10 games to the Bolts.
He may have blown the Super Bowl, too.
Okay, so that’s a stretch. If the playoffs were to begin today, Reid’s Chiefs would be the No. 1 seed and the Super Bowl darling of everyone pushing quarterback Patrick Mahomes as the best thing to happen to Kansas City since burnt ends.
But that’s the problem. The playoffs don’t begin today. They begin in three weeks. And Reid’s Chiefs aren’t accelerating toward the playoffs. They’re winding down, barely escaping defeat last weekend when they survived Baltimore in overtime before getting caught at the finish line by a Chargers team that overcame a 14-point second-half deficit for the second time in three weeks.
Then there’s this: Both games were at Arrowhead Stadium where, until Thursday, the Chiefs were impregnable — one of only three clubs not to have lost at home.
I know, it happens. But so do forks in the road … or .on the road. … and there’s a sharp one looming just ahead for Andy Reid and his Chiefs. It’s called Seattle, and that’s where Kansas City plays next in a contest that is much more than a game.
It’s a barometer for a football team that, suddenly, looks vulnerable.
Because if Reid’s Chiefs were to lose there … and that’s not improbable considering a) Seattle’s 12th Man; b) the Seahawks defense; and c) their history of peaking for the playoffs in December … Kansas City may no longer have the best record in the AFC. It might not even have the best record in its own division.
That’s because with another Chiefs’ loss and two more Chargers victories, it would be L.A. – not Kansas City – that would be best in the AFC West. Meaning? Meaning the Chiefs would enter the playoffs as … you got it … a wild card.
Talk about last-minute surprises. For most of the past three months, there has been no better team nor story than Kansas City. The Chiefs won nine of their first 10 starts and produced points like McDonald’s does burgers – scoring billions and billions of them.
What’s more, in quarterback Patrick Mahomes, they have a quarterback who makes no-look passes, throws with both hands, leads the league with 45 touchdown passes and commands a jet-powered offense that hasn’t scored fewer than 27 points in any game this season and put up 40 or more in five.
And in defensive lineman Chris Jones, they have a guy who’s tied a league record with at least one sack in 10 consecutive games and someone who Thursday produced half of the five sacks of the Chargers’ Philip Rivers.
So all of that is good.
But this isn’t: The Chiefs really haven’t been the same since releasing star running back Kareem Hunt because of domestic-violence charges. Granted, they’re 2-1, but they beat lowly Oakland by a touchdown, escaped Baltimore and lost to L.A. Worse, their matador defense HAS been the same. It ranks 28th in points and 30th in yards allowed per game, and it wilted against Rivers and the Chargers — with L.A. scoring two touchdowns in the last four minutes.
We’re constantly reminded that defense wins championships, with the 2013 Seattle Seahawks and the 2015 Denver Broncos front-and-center examples – and, yes, there are exceptions. Like the 2011 New England Patriots. They reached Super Bowl XLVI with the 31st-ranked defense. But they ranked 14th in points allowed, not 30th.
They also lost the Super Bowl.
And New England has Tom Brady, a guy who’s been to eight Super Bowls and won a league-record five. The Chiefs don’t. They have an extraordinary young quarterback who’s started 15 games in his career. Granted, he may someday be compared to Brady. But not yet. And not now.
The Chiefs also have a history. They’re 1-11 in their last 12 playoff games and 0-6 in their last six playoff games at home. Andy Reid has a history, too. He’s 1-6 in his last postseason starts, including 1-4 at Kansas City, where he’s won more than twice as much (64-30) as he’s lost, and he hasn’t been to a conference championship game since 2008.
Just two years ago, Reid and the Chiefs won 10 of their first 13 games and didn’t lose once within their division — playing so well that then-quarterback Alex Smith was mentioned as a possible MVP candidate and the club earned its first playoff bye since 2003.
So what happened? Karma, that’s what. The Chiefs lost their opening playoff game to Pittsburgh.
That’s why there are all sorts of warning signs attached to Thursday’s defeat. Yes, it might have been nothing more than a speed bump. And, yes, Kansas City’s three losses this season have been by a total … a .total. … of seven points. But these are the Kansas City Chiefs, people, and this is Andy Reid. He’s been to one Super Bowl, and the Chiefs have been to none since 1969.
So it’s hard to overlook history, and Andy Reid must do more … much more … than that now.
He must conquer it.