What went wrong for Chiefs on Sunday night
It’s been a rough couple days after the Chiefs incredibly heartbreaking loss Sunday night at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Usually, the best time to react to a loss like the one on Sunday is not right after the game. We’ve all had the chance to step back, and think about the loss. After taking a look at some things, I wanted to share a handful of my reactions.
Alex Smith is an average quarterback that lacks the skill and ability to make a deep playoff run.
I get it. Alex Smith is 41-20 in regular season games with the Chiefs. That is seriously impressive on his part, I understand that. The guy can pile regular season wins together. But that’s the best you’re going to get from him.
In the playoffs, you need a quarterback that makes big plays in even bigger moments. At this point in his career, Smith doesn’t have that “it” factor. Sure, he’s had some nice comebacks in the regular season, but I just never see his style of play translating into a Super Bowl.
According to Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus, Smith had a 102.7 passer rating while under no pressure. When No. 11 was under presser, though, here’s Smith’s line: 0/7, 1 INT, 1 sack, 0.0 passer rating. You have to trust that your quarterback can make a play under pressure.
Take a look at the video below. At the first site of a Steeler coming at him, he immediately abandons the pocket and rolls right. He still had time to hang in the pocket and see Tyreek Hill streaking down the middle of the field wide open.
The All 22 shot of Alex Smith abandoning a clean pocket as Tyreek Hill breaks wide open for a sure TD. pic.twitter.com/YM7vAsD0ud
— Clay Wendler (@ClayWendler) January 16, 2017
It’d be unfair to put the loss in its entirety on Smith, though. Wide receivers dropped balls and his head coach did not help (we’ll get to that later). What is just so frustrating is that Smith looked great on the first drive of the game.
If you watched Smith the rest of the game, there were moments that he just did not look comfortable. He consistently took the play clock down to five seconds or less. He took a delay of game penalty in the second half that cost the Chiefs five yards on a big third down. Andy Reid had to use a timeout later on because he wasn’t sure Smith was going to get the snap off. Reid would have liked to have that timeout in his back pocket at the end of the fourth quarter.
To his credit, Smith did make some nice throws in the loss. His big third-down conversion after Travis Kelce’s inexcusable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty comes to mind. He just lacks that consistency. It’s hard to win in the playoffs when you can’t have faith in your quarterback to come through in the big moment.
Ben Roethlisberger didn’t have the best of games, either. However, he made the biggest throw of the game on the third down completion to Antonio Brown that sealed the game for the Steelers.
Where the Chiefs go from here at the quarterback position is complicated. I’m frankly not sure there is a better quarterback available that would be such an upgrade from Smith. Some are eyeing Tony Romo, but his playoff pedigree is just as unimpressive as Smith’s.
Andy Reid and the Kansas City coaching staff deserves blame, too.
Head coaches across all sports have one major responsibility: put your players in the best possible position to have success. Reid did not do that on Sunday night.
Tamba Hali played only seven snaps in the loss. That is asinine to think about. One of the team’s best pass rushers was on the field for only seven plays.
Hali played 7 snaps last night, 5 fewer than Zombo. That's not enough; not even close. Third on team in sacks/qb hits in only 50% of snaps.
— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) January 16, 2017
Now take a look at Justin Houston’s role in pass coverage. (That sentence alone should make you wonder what the hell is going on.) To have Houston covering Antonio Brown on TWO of the most important plays in the game is a head-scratcher, to say the least. You have to wonder what Reid and Bob Sutton were thinking there.
It’s easy to be the “Monday morning coach,” but what is so confusing is how the Chiefs can have a 15-play script to start the game on offense that looks amazing, but the rest of the game just makes you sick to watch. Those who believe Reid should not be the Chiefs’ primary play caller had more fuel to add to their fire after Sunday night.
Linebacker Justin March-Lillard, activated off of IR before Christmas, played only one snap Sunday. The Steelers were killing the middle of the field; you’d have to think it wouldn’t have hurt to see what March-Lillard could do in there for you. To me, this is another example of Reid falling short with his lack of in-game adjustments.
Travis Kelce has some major maturing to do.
Kelce cares. That’s great, but caring and showing maturity are not exclusive to each other. His inexplicable penalty cost the Chiefs 15 yards before a huge third-down on the biggest stage of the season.
We’ve seen this before from Kelce. The tantrum earlier in the season when he threw his towel at an official was inexcusable, too.
His postgame reaction was just as bad. You’ve all seen it by now. There is absolutely no place for his comments. He was upset, and he said what was on his mind. I guess you can respect that from him, but man, eventually you have to take ownership of your own actions on and off the field.
And by the way, I have no issue with the holding call on Eric Fisher. It was a hold. Many Chiefs fans are saying that James Harrison slipped, which made the play look like a hold on Fisher. If you look at the video closely, Fisher has his arm wrapped in with Harrison’s neck. Harrison tries to turn upfield toward Smith, then slips. The hold was first, then the slip.
The only merit I give the argument here is that holding happens on a lot of plays over the course of a game. It appeared the officials weren’t so nice to Hali or other guys on the Kansas City defensive line. If you’re upset because of that, fine. But that was a hold on Fisher. It’s hard to say that an official “can’t make that call in the moment.” That’s impossible.
I understand why many Chiefs fans are upset. Jeremy Maclin said this was the best team he’s ever been a part of. Anything short of the AFC Conference championship game hurts.
But, it’s time to move on now. The Chiefs have opportunities to make the team better. There could be some major personnel changes in the offseason.
Note: To all the dedicated Arrowhead Addict readers, thanks for welcoming me in this season. It was my first with the site, and it was a blast.