Every time your favorite team is 11-4, after winning eight straight, and loses a road game against a team playing their Super Bowl in week 17, it’s good to take a step back and look at the big picture.
For the moment however, we’re going to park that big picture in front of the neighbors’ house while we back a U-haul into the driveway to load up some of our grievances.
The Chiefs lost on Sunday 34-31 to a Bengals team that damn near drove their team bus into the stadium to take a victory lap around the players on the field. The same Bengals team that just this year has losses to the Jets, Bears, and barely beat the Jaguars, deployed a gameplan for the final three quarters that consisted mainly of throwing 50/50 prayers to single covered wide receivers and hoping to complete them.
They did. A lot. And that’s the frustrating part about yesterday’s Chiefs’ loss.
The Chiefs dominated the first half on the scoreboard 28-17, and that’s with leaving points on the field after a pre-halftime kickoff return for a touchdown was called back, and Tyreek Hill allowed a 62-yard pass to bounce of his shoulder pads. The game wasn’t close, the game shouldn’t have been close, but at halftime there was a brewing concern.
The Bengals received the ball to start the second half, and three plays in, connected on a 69-yard touchdown thanks to a defensive scheme that left Dan Sorensen with solo responsibilities on Ja’Marr Chase in a deep coverage position. And the momentum scares shifted immediately.
It was then you had to begin to wonder what the hell was this gameplan to cover the Bengals #1 target, and one of the NFL’s top receiving threats.
The Bengals first three touchdowns were all scored by Chase. A 72-yarder that Tyrann Mathieu gave up on a tackle attempt:
A one-on-one with Charvarius Ward that would be the theme of the day:
And the busted coverage in the zone to open the second half. All plays to the Bengals star receiver that could have been accepted if they were isolated plays, but when they kept happening, a change should have been expected.
Then came the icing on the cake. An all-time “oh my God they’re going to it again” moment.
With 3:19 left and the ball on the Chiefs 41-yard line and the score tied at 31, the Bengals faced a 3rd and 27 that should have been the most obvious “play prevent and force them into a field and get the damn ball back to Pat” decision of any defensive coordinator’s lifetime. The Chiefs also had three timeouts left, the Bengals only had one.
The sequence of plays leading up to 3rd and 27 went as follows:
1st down: offensive holding
1st and 20: Chris Jones sack
2nd and 27: deep pass incomplete
It’s the second down incomplete pass that’s not good for my rage. The Chiefs line up on the outside receivers in press like they have all day. Tyrann Mathieu stays over the top of Chase at the top of the screen, giving Ward double-team help.
At the bottom of the screen though, Juan Thornhill gives help to the slot corner to the inside, leaving Rashad Fenton alone one-on-one with Tee Higgins. If not for a great play from Fenton, this pass is completed.
The next play is 3rd and 27. The very next play. Only this time all three cornerbacks are on an island with no help over the top. The very next play.
Frustrating. It wasn’t until writing this I remembered how close the Bengals were to converting on 2nd and 27 as well. There’s no inventive offensive design needed to combat this style of defense. You just hope the blitz gets picked up, and the receivers win at the catch point. Which they did, a lot.`
To make matters worse, this is the play that got the Bengals down field before the first down holding call that setup this gruesome sequence of events.
These plays look like carbon copies just flipped for the receiver being thrown to. The biggest drive of the game with the Bengals nearly stopped in their own territory, and then stopped for a sure field goal attempt, the Chiefs were beat in identical ways they had all game and didn’t make an adjustment.
Steve Spagnuolo got the perfect opportunity to close the game out by forcing a field goal and getting the ball back into the hands of Patrick Mahomes, and instead put the game into the hands of his corners that were getting beat badly all day.
Icing on the cake is the decision to move Chris Jones to the EDGE, JUST TWO PLAYS AFTER he’d sacked Burrow.
Such a wild sequence of questionable play calling and one that is shocking to see from a coaching staff as experienced as the Chiefs’.
The 3rd and 27 decision to zero blitz when a forced field goal was nearly guaranteed was then surpassed in head-scratchiness when the Bengals faced 1st and Goal with two minutes left from the ½ yard line and the Chiefs never got the ball back despite having two timeouts.
The Bengals ran eight plays, including the game winning field goal:
1st down (2:00) – QB sneak, no gain
2nd down (1:55) – QB sneak, no gain
3rd down (1:46) – handoff, no gain
4th down (:58) – off setting holding penalties
4th down (:50) – illegal use of hands penalty, Chiefs, new set of downs
1st down (:45) – kneel
2nd down (:03) – spike,
3rd down (:00) – field goal
That’s how the Chiefs, with Patrick Mahomes standing on the sideline and two timeouts in their pockets, decided it was best to defend a goal-to-go situation from the half-yard line and two minutes left. By hoping upon hope the Bengals would boner their way into a mistake and keep the game tied.
I don’t come away from this game thinking the Bengals are a juggernaut. I don’t come away, necessarily, thinking Joe Burrow is some big-time quarterback. He may be, but this game isn’t proof if it.
I come away from this game thinking Ja’Marr Chase is the big-time star, and the Chiefs coaching staff stubbornly stuck with a game plan that was ill-advised from the start and when it was apparent it wasn’t working.
The second half of this game was a coaching disaster. You’re going to have those sometimes – it happens. You just hate to see it happen when the #1 seed is on the line and the outcomes to bad decisions were so obviously predictable.