Red zone deficiency sinks Chiefs in 19-17 loss to Bucs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Leaving points on the field continues plaguing the Kansas City Chiefs offensive, contributing to a 19-17 defeat against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that sent the team to its first loss at Arrowhead Stadium in more than a year.

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson pulls in a 3-yard touchdown catch late in the team's 19-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arrowhead Stadium on Nov. 20, 2016 (Photo courtesy Chiefs PR, Chiefs.com)

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson pulls in a 3-yard touchdown catch late in the team’s 19-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arrowhead Stadium on Nov. 20, 2016 (Photo courtesy Chiefs PR, Chiefs.com)

Chiefs coach Andy Reid remained at a loss to explain the team’s red zone struggles.

“It’s probably a little bit of everything,” Reid said after the game. “I’m going to take responsibility for it because we’re not getting into the end zone for touchdowns the way we need to.”

The loss ended a five-game winning streak for the Chiefs. It also ended a 10-game home winning streak extending back to week five of last season. The Chiefs last lost at Arrowhead Stadium to the Chicago Bears 18-17 on Oct. 11, 2015.

The Chiefs appeared poised to seize a 17-12 lead over Tampa Bay early in the fourth quarter. On second-and-goal from the 6-yard line, quarterback Alex Smith faked the handoff to running back Spencer Ware and threw a slant over the middle toward wide receiver Chris Conley.

The Chiefs saw on film safety Chris Conte buying into the run fake and abandoning the spot for Conley’s route. But Conte stayed home and intercepted the predetermined throw, returning it to midfield and setting up a Tampa Bay touchdown drive.

“He has been biting on that and he didn’t do that,” Reid said. “Lousy call.”

Conte said he prepared for the throw coming his direction.

“I was just patient on that play,” Conte said. “It’s a play that we’ve seen before in practice, so I was ready for it.”

Conley said the Chiefs needed to react more quickly.

“The guy made an exceptional play,” Conley said. “He was able to sniff it out, ready it and get back into the passing lane before the ball could get there.”

Smith often owns the luxury of choosing his own targets or calling an audible at the goal line, but not on that play, Reid said.

“Not that one,” Reid said. “That one’s me.”

The 14-point swing gave the Bucs a two-possession lead and all the momentum they needed. Smith blamed himself for the turnover.

“I lost vision of the safety down there,” Smith said. “You got to see it. It’s a bang-bang play. Obviously it was probably the difference maker today in the game.”

Red zone trouble affected the Chiefs right out of the gate. The offense marched steadily down the field on the game’s opening drive, reaching the Tampa Bay 4-yard line in 10 plays without even facing a third down.

On first-and-goal, Reid called for a jet sweep run to tight end Travis Kelce that resulted in a 5-yard loss.

“Certainly it’s coming down to execution down there,” Smith said. “If felt like even on the opening drive we were rolling, then all of a sudden we put ourselves in third-and-9 there at the 9. It’s tough.”

The Chiefs settled for a field goal to take a 3-0 lead, but an early touchdown could have altered the game’s final outcome.

Kansas City did end its touchdown slump, however, with an 11-yard scramble by Smith just before halftime. That ended a streak in which the Chiefs scored just one touchdown in their last 32 possessions.

How the Chiefs permanently solve their red zone woes, however, still proves elusive.

“I don’t think there’s one thing you can point to,” Smith said. “I don’t think there’s one thing that does it.”

Smith rallied the Chiefs late, finding wide receive Albert Wilson for a 3-yard touchdown pass on third down with 2:27 left in the game. The touchdown came after the Buccaneers stuffed Ware twice after first-and-goal from the 2-yard line.

Wilson still believes in his teammates, and hopes the late touchdown can provide momentum going forward.

“Once we start hitting it, we feel like we’re unstoppable,” Wilson said. “Once we get that going, we just got to start it the first play of the game and just get going.”

 

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Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and the Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.


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