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the Buffalo Bills rebounded with a close win over the Kansas City Chiefs,A week after the disaster in Carson that included five interceptions and a 50-burger put on them, who appear to be up a creek without a paddle as we enter the final quarter of the regular season.
Kansas City has lost five of its last six, including three straight. Sunday's loss to the Bills would probably be the most concerning of the defeats,After opening the season with five straight wins, had the Chiefs not just inexplicably fallen to the now 2-9 New York Giants a week earlier.
In both losses, the same theme emerged: The Chiefs' offense has fallen apart.
Gone are the home runs hit by Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt. Gone are the deep shots taken by Alex Smith. In its place has been jammed up running lanes, incompletions and the end to a respectable interception-less streak.
with tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz struggling in the opening drive. The latter improved his play from there, cutting down on mistakes,Sunday was a continuation of such struggles. Kansas City saw immense pressure from one of the league's worst statistical defenses from very early on,Womens Derrick Johnson Jersey, but the former continued to have problems. The frequent pressure got to quarterback Alex Smith after just a quarter.
a suddenly skittish Smith becomes panicked in a clean pocket,On this pass play early in the second quarter, frantically stutter-stepping before firing a pass at the feet of fullback Anthony Sherman for a (surprising) gain of four yards.
The Chiefs' offense only suffered from there in the first half, failing to execute much of anything thanks to an uncomfortable quarterback and a line that struggled mightily to block on zone plays. Fisher was as ineffective on a good amount of running plays as he was on pass plays. The tackle was responsible for this loss of yardage on a stretch play that didn't make it anywhere near the line of scrimmage.
One could vouch that center Mitch Morse should have had his head on more of a swivel,Womens Bennie Logan Jersey, who was shooting the A-gap after he recognized the play -- is a lot to ask in this situation. Meanwhile, but peeling back to block a blitzing linebacker -- in this case, anticipating backside leakage,Womens Bryan Witzmann Jersey, Matt Milano, Fisher was dominated by Bills edge rusher Jerry Hughes -- this will be a consistent theme in this piece -- who blew up the play in the backfield just before Milano arrived to clean it up.
Smith found Kelce down the seam on a quick pass for a gain of 25 and a fresh set of downs. The next play, shifting from longer-developing plays to quick hitters on its first possession of the third quarter. The first play was a bubble screen to Travis Kelce for a gain of 10. A few plays later, on third-and-11,Kansas City adjusted immediately in the second half,Womens Terrance Mitchell Jersey, Smith threw a quick out to Demetrius Harris off a run fake for a 5-yard gain.
this might be the new ceiling, because Buffalo has provided future opponents with the blueprint to pressure Smith. Evidently,This is where Kansas City succeeded last season. With this offensive line, it doesn't take long to rattle the quarterback. Want to beat the Chiefs? Get to him early and watch the offense flounder from there.
the Chiefs continued to open up the playbook in the second half,Womens Ramik Wilson Jersey, adding pre-snap motion to zone stretch plays and throwing in a jet sweep to Hill out of a heavy formation that included two tight ends lined up on the right and Albert Wilson brought in tight to the left. The intention: condense the defense to open up the perimeter. It worked,Likely sensing Buffalo had adequately prepared, but it also was a sign of a concerning issue with the Chiefs -- it appears as though they don't trust their offensive line.
Honestly, they really shouldn't -- at least not the left side.
Fisher -- a former No. 1 overall pick -- hasn't exactly lived up to his billing in his time with Kansas City. It was on display in the first half against Buffalo,Womens Demetrius Harris Jersey, during which Fisher had a rough go of it against Hughes. A pair of consecutive plays illustrated exactly how confounded Fisher was with Hughes' different attacks.
Fisher adjusted, angling his pass drop slightly outward in anticipation of beating Hughes to the edge and meeting him there. It worked on a first-down completion to Demetrius Harris for a gain of 28,Having been beaten a handful of times by Hughes' speed rush around the edge, with extra credit due to Smith for sliding away from backside pressure before firing the pass.
but Hughes took one step forward before quickly slanting inside, dipping and ripping while coming in contact with Fisher on his inside shoulder. Based on his drop and foot positioning,Fisher took the same angled pass drop, Fisher had already lost the battle.
The tackle attempted to turn his shoulders inside to salvage what he had of an engagement with Hughes, Hughes gets credit for this sack, as Hughes broke through the both of them and forced Smith to run away from the pressure, but it was too late. Assistance from left guard Zach Fulton (who had a fairly rough day himself) was in vain, directly into Cedric Thornton for the sack. In a perfect world, because he did all of the work.
Twice on the opening drive in the third quarter, Kansas City ran zone reads with the left end serving as the designated read man, meaning he'd go unblocked. That position was occupied by Hughes, who had a monster game up until this point. But for almost four minutes of game time, Hughes wasn't on the field -- and it showed.
Kansas City ran plays away from his replacement, Ryan Davis, executing the same zone read play twice in a row to the right while Davis stayed home. By the time Hughes returned, the Chiefs were inside Buffalo's red zone. They scored immediately, on a play-action bubble screen to Wilson for a 19-yard touchdown. It was yet another quick hitter that didn't even allow Hughes the time to get to Smith.
For those who were wondering, he won his battle -- but the ball was already thrown.
From there, resulting in a loss of three., it was downhill for the Chiefs' offense. They continued with their quick hitters, mixing in a couple of counters that went for insignificant gains, plenty of pre-snap motion for misdirection purposes and some off-the-wall plays. At one point early in the fourth quarter on third-and-2, but the frustration and resulting desperation became clear when Kansas City starting digging deep into the playbook with bubble screens, the Chiefs shifted Kelce behind center in a modified pistol/full house formation, running a zone read to the right that the tight end incorrectly read
Who can realistically expect a tight end to read a defender properly in a rare situation, at NFL speed?
Here is where Chiefs fans should worry. Plays like this, and the defined shift to shorter passes are concrete examples of two changes in thinking from the coordinator box: Kansas City knows (or at least knew by halftime of Week 12) that it cannot rely on its line to protect Smith for three-plus seconds. It also knows the unit cannot block effectively enough to run anything outside of shotgun-based zone reads.
This shrinks Kansas City's offense back down to the 10-and-in, perimeter-based scheme it predominantly ran last season, which also gave us that painful,Authentic Bennie Logan Jersey, field-goal-filled AFC Divisional Round loss to Pittsburgh. But the Chiefs have less weapons at their disposal this time around, making it all that much more alarming.
It starts and ends with the offensive line. Should they protect well, Smith will have more time to attempt to stretch the field. But they'll also have to protect well enough to give him the confidence that he won't need to pull his eyes down and attempt to escape. That requires consistency,Authentic Bryan Witzmann Jersey, which is something the Chiefs currently don't have.
The Chiefs’ season has taken a wrong turn into Loserville. But they’ve been there before recently and found their way out.
Six games into the 2015 season, the Chiefs’ weren’t kaput but toe tags might as well have been ordered.
They stood 1-5, precisely the current Chiefs’ record in their past six games ahead of Sunday’s visit to the New York Jets.
We know what happened then, in 2015,Authentic Terrance Mitchell Jersey, and it was amazing. The Chiefs won their seventh game, and their eighth, and so on. Their winning streak stopped only because the regular season did.
The 2017 Chiefs have five regular-season games remaining after this losing stretch, but can some degree of muscle memory kick in?
“Our backs were against the wall and every game was a must-win game,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said of their start in 2015. “We pulled together,Authentic Ramik Wilson Jersey, and once we started winning we made it habit.
“It always is just one win away from getting that ball rolling in the right direction.”
No teams or seasons are entirely alike. There are personnel changes on the roster, in the starting lineup and coaching staff. But if nothing else, the Chiefs’ belief that they can dig their way out of a hole is based on experience.
Here’s what quarterback Alex Smith said in 2015 a few days after a loss at Minnesota dropped the Chiefs to 1-5: “Obviously, with where we’re at there’s a great deal of urgency,Authentic Demetrius Harris Jersey, and I think our guys know that.”
Johnson on Thursday: “I don’t want to say must-win, but it’s there, and the Jets have to feel our sense of urgency, (our) hats-on-fire type of energy there to get this win. We’ve been making a habit of losing, and that’s not good.”
Johnson pointed out one of the big differences this season compared to 2015. The Chiefs opened 2015 on the skids and charged home to become the second team since the AFL-NFL merger to reach the playoffs after starting 1-5.
These Chiefs were the toast of the NFL in starting 5-0. They dropped games to the Steelers and Raiders,Authentic Mitchell Schwartz Jersey, but have since lost consecutive games to the Cowboys, temporarily regained their footing with a victory over the Broncos, Giants and Bills.
This week, hammering home fundamentals, the Chiefs have talked about attention to detail, not pressing. But at least one analyst believes it’s next to impossible for a team to get its mojo back once it’s reversed fortune as much as the Chiefs’ has.
“Once it kind of dies and that engine stops; it’s hard to restart it in the NFL,” said Phil Simms, the former Giants quarterback and CBS analyst. “And Kansas City does look like that team right now.”
But eventually, a game in which Ben Rothlisberger didn’t play because of an injury. A week later, those Chiefs started catching some breaks. Their losing streak was broken with a home victory over the Steelers, the Chiefs blasted a less talented Lions team in London. Next came the bye week.
Also, from a fan outrage standpoint, if there was ever a perfect time to slump, the 2015 Chiefs found it. Across the Truman Sports Complex parking lot, the Royals were wrapping up a division-winning regular season and starting a postseason quest that would end with a World Series title.
When KC’s attention shifted back to the Chiefs, just as it has this season. And the they took advantage, the schedule broke easier, piling up victories all the way through the playoffs when they won at the Texans for their first postseason triumph in more than two decades.
Chiefs players who were with the team then said they don’t remember many details from that victory over the Steelers in 2015. But they recall the confidence generated from that one game.