The Kansas City Chiefs dropped their third straight game Sunday, 35-28 to the Denver Broncos in front of a raucous Arrowhead crowd. The 9-0 Chiefs were looking to lock down the No. 1 seed over the last three weeks and now the best case scenario looks like No. 5.
For a while Sunday afternoon things looked like they were going the Chiefs way. Kansas City scored first and then had a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Then the wheels slowly came off, starting with Dexter McCluster for some reason deciding to field a punt — and being tackled immediately — at the three yard line. That field position seemed to zap the aggressiveness out of the Chiefs offense, something the Broncos were more than happy to take advantage of.
Peyton Manning took control as Denver went on to score 28 unanswered points. Three of those touchdowns were to Eric Decker (he had four on the day) as he terrorized the Chiefs secondary, specifically rookie corner Marcus Cooper.
Just when it looked like the game was out of reach, all of a sudden the Kansas City offense came alive, behind Alex Smith as he led a fantastic 17-play, 60 yard drive. All of a sudden it was just a seven point game nearly seven minutes left.
After the Chiefs defense held the Broncos near the 50, the Chiefs got the ball back at their own eight yard line with 3:32 on the clock and a chance to force overtime.
Buoyed by an unbelievable 26-yard pass to A.J. Jenkins (!!) on third and 14, Smith soon had the Chiefs offense knocking on the Broncos door. Facing first and 10 from the Denver 19, Smith had an incompletion to Dwayne Bowe, a two yarder to McCluster and a short four yard gain by Jenkins.
That brought up a fourth and four from the Denver 13 and instead of trying to use Jamaal Charles for the first time on the final drive, or utilize Smith’s scrambling ability, they went for the touchdown and a pass to Bowe was knocked away.
Now head coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs are left to wonder why they ignored their best player on the final drive, especially when the game was on the line. Or even the bigger issues, which is a defense that was the best in the league suddenly looks to have major issues after three straight embarrassing efforts.
But before they try to put the pieces back together in Washington next week, here’s a look at the players that helped the Chiefs nearly pull off the upset.
Offense: Alex Smith
Though he continues to be misused, Charles is the star of the Chiefs offense. But during this losing streak we’ve seen that Smith can deliver big plays when he’s given the chance.
Take away his one awful (that word’s probably not strong enough) interception in the end zone and Smith had one of his best games of the season. If his wide receivers didn’t hang him out to dry by dropping five catchable passes, we would be talking about a nearly 400-yard effort for Smith.
In addition to slinging the ball around the field, Smith was once again the Chiefs second leading rusher, picking up 46 yards on four carries.
Need something positive to take away from this losing streak? The Kansas City offense is alive and ready to score when the coaching staff doesn’t tie their hands.
Defense: Eric Berry
Someone on the CBS broadcast suggested Berry should be playing linebacker the way he was making stops against the run. Now that Berry has fully recovered from his ACL tear, Berry can make plays from wherever defensive coordinator Bob Sutton puts him and Sunday was no different.
Finishing officially with five tackles (though he was in on at least three others, by my count), including two for a loss, Berry was also one of the few Chiefs defenders that knocked Manning off his feet.
With RGIII next up for the Kansas City defense, look for Berry to help revive the missing Chiefs pass rush.
Special Teams: Junior Hemingway
It got to a point during the game I wondered if the Chiefs should just let Hemingway do everything. On top of catching three passes for 42 yards and a touchdown, the second-year receiver was a monster on special teams.
Hemingway finished with four special teams tackles, including one that helped to pin the Broncos on their own five yard line. Sure, Manning put together a 95-yard touchdown drive, but that’s not Hemingway’s fault. Like I said, would it have been so bad if he were used everywhere?