KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Upon further review, the Chiefs don’t need another cornerback or a second pass-rusher off the edge.
They need Tony Robbins.
“Sometimes when you have hope, hope can do a lot of good things for you,” Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel explained Monday, roughly 24 hours after Atlanta had taken a two-by-four to his squad in a 40-24 loss. “As long as it was a one-score game, I think there was good hope on the team. Then, once it become a two-score game, then some of that will weakened just a little bit.”
A little bit? With 5:05 left in the third quarter Sunday, it was a 3-point game. With 4:02 left, the Falcons had a 34-17 lead. The Chiefs folded, collectively, like a bunch of lawn chairs.
Kansas City’s will didn’t weaken. It flat-out left the building, right along with everybody else.
“In that situation, you’re down, anybody wants to make a play,” running back Jamaal Charles offered Monday afternoon. “And they probably press. But we can’t lose focus, and (will) try to do better next time.”
Down 20-17, having kept pace with a nuclear Falcons offense that was made even more radioactive by an injury-depleted Chiefs secondary, Crennel’s men opened the second half with a statement-making, 11-play, 58-yard drive.
The hosts ate 5:53 off the clock and marched all the way to the Atlanta 22. It was perfect, everything the locals could’ve asked for, save for the end result: Ryan Succop’s 40-yard field-goal attempt, which would’ve tied the contest, missed to the right.
Confounding? No question.
But fatal? Really?
There’s 24 minutes left on the clock, and you’re folding the tent?
Is this roster that fragile, psychologically?
And yet, there it was. One miss, with miles to go, and the hands started wringing en masse.
Fans groaned. Shoulder pads slumped. Veteran scribes shook their heads.
It turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy: Atlanta got the ball back, drove 70 yards the other way, and punched in another touchdown to push the lead to 10.
With 20 minutes left on the clock, while Crennel was feeling around for his red flag, his roster was getting ready to raise a white one high over Arrowhead Stadium.
That’s not a talent issue. Or a physical issue. That’s mental. That’s spiritual.
Do Matt Cassel’s teammates have so little faith in their starting quarterback? So little faith in themselves? If the Chiefs don’t believe in what they’re doing out there, how the heck are the rest of us supposed to buy in?
“You know, as an offense, it’s our job to go out there and play,” Dexter McCluster, the Chiefs’ slot receiver said. “Matt’s our leader. Matt’s our guy. I’m behind him 100 percent.”
As for the rest of the populace, well… let’s put this way: The bandwagon gets a lot better mileage this week after all the jumping off Sunday night.
“We’ve got a great team and I believe in my teammates,” Charles said. “They’ve got great players on this team. We just have to come together and put it together for next week.”
The Chiefs give an awful lot of lip service to the sanctity of protecting their house. You just hope, deep down, it’s not a house of cards.
“Well, in the olden days, we’d have contact, padded practice for however long it took,” Crennel continued. “But this is a different day and age, so we have to work within the rules that are set forth.
“So you talk to them, you show them tape, try to get them to understand that every play is a play that must be played in the NFL and that the game is not over until it’s over. And there are always chances and opportunities for you to make a play to give your team some momentum, and then, before you know it, you’re winning the game.”
Pros, by nature, are mercenaries. You want to appeal to their heads, you appeal to their wallets. Crennel has a far tougher task ahead of him this week: Appealing to their hearts.