What do the Pats and Seahawks do that the Chiefs don’t? Simple: FINISH
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Since the start of the 2013 regular season, the Seattle Seahawks are 15-3 under Pete Carroll in games played after Nov. 15. The New England Patriots’ balls may shrink in the cold, but the wins do not: Team Hoodie is 13-5 after Nov. 15.
Through Nov. 15, Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs teams are 15-3. After Nov. 15, the record dips to 5-10. Hmm.
"Well, you go back and look at everything, so that’s what we will do," Reid said shortly after the book closed on 2014. "I don’t have an answer for you right this minute. But I do know we need to get better."
So as The Countdown to St. Joe begins again this month, the theme of "Finish," the mantra of last summer, is back on the table again, a damn good idea still largely unrealized.
The Andy Gang posted a 2-6 record in ’13 post Nov. 15, including that liver-imploding playoff setback in Indianapolis That Shall Not Be Named. That was followed up with a 3-4 mark in ’14, wiping away the warm fuzzies and capital built up in a 7-3 start.
Which brings us to our favorite part: Finger-pointing time. Lack of adjustments? Lack of conditioning? Over-conditioning?
One talk-radio theory doing the rounds is that the Chiefs wear down late because they’ve been thinned by the same physical, intense contact during training camp that seemingly has them so sharp during the first month of the regular season. It’s a long grind, a marathon, and by late November, any reserves needed for a closing kick have been exhausted.
As a stickler for fortitude and effort — Reid dislikes seeing people sitting on helmets, leaning on walls, that sort of thing; Arthur Fonzarelli has no place in his purview — the coach isn’t gung-ho toward that particular line of thinking.
"The obvious part is you look at the schedule; you have to look at that," Reid continued. "That’s also a factor.
"I was pleased that we had the schedule we had. I think we played 11 teams that ended up over .500. I think we won nine of those games, so that shows me that we can do some things there as a football team. We just need to be more consistent at it."
And in Reid’s defense, the back nine has, in general, appeared a bit more challenging than the holes at the front. During his first season in Kansas City, the Chiefs played five games against playoff teams (including Denver and San Diego twice each), all with winning records, in seven regular-season games after Nov. 15. Compare that with one playoff club (Philadelphia) — indeed, the only team it played with a winning record — over the nine tilts before that date.
Mind you, the big boys were more scattered this past fall, with four playoff opponents out of the seven total games after Nov. 15, and five teams with winning records. The Chiefs played just two playoff teams before Nov. 15 (Denver and New England, the eventual top two seeds in the AFC bracket), splitting those games. Four of the nine clubs they played before Nov. 15 wound up with winning marks.
"I love the fact that we had a strong schedule and we were able to test ourselves," Reid said. "That was from a standpoint of the teams we played and the travel that we put together to play those teams. That will pay off for us down the road as we continue to build this."
It’s baffling, in a way, considering that Reid’s track record as a closer, at least through the start of the 2012 season, wasn’t one of the larger grenades lobbed in his general direction from fans and pundits.
Over his final 10 seasons with the Eagles, only two squads (2012 and 2005) posted losing marks post-Nov. 15; from 2003-12, Reid’s post-Nov. 15 record was 51-41-1, or roughly 5-4 per year, a .556 winning percentage.
Then again, if we count the train wreck of ’12 and the past two campaigns with the Chiefs, the composite mark is a rather unsightly 6-16. Instead of putting a bow on the previous four months of hard work, a flag at the top of the sand castle, Reid’s teams have been whacking the poor thing with a tire iron.
Especially when compared to, say, the Colts, who, under Chuck Pagano, tote a 12-6 record over the past two seasons after Nov. 15. The Green Bay Packers, same timeframe: 10-6-1. As the days get shorter, the climb gets longer. There’s clearly a gap forming between the Chiefs and the other big boys, and it’s deeper than the respective dance cards.