KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A season that began full of optimism has reached the brink of disaster following a four-game losing skid.
It is no longer a matter of counting Chiefs’ victories, instead the focus falls on finding the next possible win between Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings and the Week 9 bye.
And with any hope of somehow salvaging the season, the Chiefs must not allow the mounting defeats to snowball out of control.
Even then, there are no certainties when considering how the Chiefs inexplicably blew an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter at home against the Chicago Bears in Week 5 to eventually lose 18-17.
“I think when you lose a game like that and it’s really disappointing because you’ve got the game where you’d like it to be,” defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “You’d like to – you’re need to – finish that game, that’s first. You’ve got to finish it and we talk about that. That’s on us. We’ve got to finish the deal out.”
The margin of error is small in the NFL, but a magnifying glass is required for the Chiefs, who sit on a 1-4 record and four games behind the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos (5-0).
Kansas City will also go the rest of the way without two-time All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear in his right knee against the Bears.
Still, the Chiefs aren’t out of the playoff chase if going by league history and not the team’s performance through five games.
Since the NFL installed the current 12-team playoff system in 1990, a total of 15 teams rebounded from at least three games under .500 after the first five contests or later to make the playoffs.
Need more hope? Six 1-4 teams went on to win their division.
And then there is Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who has never started a season with a 1-5 record in the previous 16 years as a head coach. The last time a Reid-coached team experienced a five-game losing streak came in 2012 with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Chiefs, however, can’t depend on history in an unforgiving “what have you done for me lately” league, and must rely on themselves to fix the present.
“We need to get over this hump and work our way through this,” Reid said earlier in the week. “There’s got to be a sense of urgency that takes place to get that done and I trust that we’ll get that part done.”
Quarterback Alex Smith agreed.
“It’s a sense of urgency,” Smith said. “If you’re having to motivate people at this level, there’s a problem, and it’s usually not the case. Guys don’t get here unless they’re internally motivated for the most part, and I think it’s a matter of collectively doing it, just working it out, continue to focus in and in some ways not let some of this stuff be a distraction.”
The key for Smith and his teammates is blocking out the sting of two home losses where the Chiefs blew fourth-quarter leads late in each contest.
And to accomplish that goal means developing a finishing mentality regardless of adversity when presented the opportunity to close out a game.
“Bottom line, it’s a mindset,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “There’s such a flow of a football game, the ups and downs, highs and lows.
“Obviously you try to eliminate the lows, but if there is a negative play in a game you just have to forget about it and move on. It’s easier said than done, but that’s the mindset. You sort of have a short-term memory; you forget about it, you focus on the next play. And you try to capitalize on the next one and you try to snowball and build on that.”
Pederson said mental toughness starts with players working together in order to get on the same page, especially on offense.
“You just put successful plays back-to-back and that’s what builds that continuity and that’s what builds that trust and sort of having that aggressive attitude as an offense,” Pederson said. “But the key is stringing out positive plays in order to get to that spot.”
The Chiefs won’t have to look far if they seek an example of overcoming adversity.
All the team needs to do is follow the lead of their next door neighbors, the Kansas City Royals, a team that overcame a 6-2 deficit earlier in the week against the Houston Astros to win, 9-6.
“Definitely a lot of grit there, a great example to all of us,” Reid said. “All of us could take a little bit from that and use that.”
TALE OF THE TAPE
• The Chiefs rank 18th in rushing (109.8 yards per game) and 21st in passing (233.8 yards per game).
• The Vikings rank second in rushing (136.5 yards per game) and 32nd in passing (165.3yards per game).
• The Chiefs rank 13th against the run (98.6 yards allowed per game) and 27th against the pass (284.6 yards allowed per game).
• The Vikings rank 26th against the run (125.5 yards allowed per game) and 12th against the pass (232.2 yards allowed per game).
THE LAST TIME
The Chiefs defeated the Bears, 22-17, in Week 4 of the 2011 season.
Sunday’s matchup marks the 12th meeting between the Chiefs and Vikings, and the Chiefs hold a 7-4 edge in the all-time series.
The Chiefs and Vikings played in Super Bowl IV on Jan. 11, 1970, which Kansas City won 23-7 for its only league championship.
• Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah played for the Vikings from 2008-11, totaling 122 tackles and four interception with Minnesota.
• Chiefs spread game analyst/special projects Brad Childress served as the Vikings head coach from 2006-10.
• Chiefs running backs coach Eric Bieniemy served in the same capacity with the Vikings from 2006-10.
• Chiefs defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas served as the Vikings defensive coordinator from 2001-01.
• Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer served in the same capacity with the Chiefs from 2006-08.
• Vikings wide receivers coach George Stewart played guard for the Chiefs in 1981.
• Vikings linebackers coach Adam Zimmer, the son of Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, served as a defensive assistant with the Chiefs from 2010-12.
• Vikings cornerback Terence Newman played collegiately at Kansas State and is a native of Salina, Kan.
Chiefs running back Charcandrick West on the originality of his first name and if he ever got with his parents on where it came from:
“No. I was trying to learn how to spell it.”
Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton on the controversial pass interference call against rookie cornerback Marcus Peters in Week 5:
“I thought Marcus played the play pretty well; I’ll just leave it at that.”
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer on how special Terence Newman is to continue playing at a high level in his 13th season:
“Well, he’s a Kansas Stater.”
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson on the debate if he or Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles is the LeBron James of the NFL:
“I’ll say I’m the Michael Jordan and we’ll leave it at that because it’s always a debate. Will LeBron be better than Michael? I’ll say I’m the Michael Jordan of football.”