When the Kansas City Chiefs figure out how to be productive in all four quarters of a game, they might actually pickup another victory during the 2015 NFL season.
That did not happen Sunday afternoon when they were unable to make up enough ground from a horrid first-half offensive performance and fell 16-10 to the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
The Chiefs have now lost five consecutive games, standing 1-5 on the season. There are 10 games left on the schedule and with the engine of their offense – running back Jamaal Charles – lost due to injury, it’s hard to believe they can make significant improvement with their current level of performance.
“Right now we are 1-5; that’s what we are,” head coach Andy Reid said after the game. “We’ve got to fix that.”
It’s over a month now that the Chiefs have been unable to solve their problems that have featured strong first-half performances at home that are blown in the second half. On the road, they have poor production in the opening quarters and can’t escape in the final 30 minutes.
In losing to Denver and Chicago at Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs held first half leads of 14-0 against the Broncos and 17-4 at halftime in last Sunday’s game against the Bears. The road trip losses to Green Bay, Cincinnati and Minnesota were very similar. Against the Packers they were down 14-0 after the first quarter and it was 14-3 after the first 15 minutes versus the Bengals.
On this Sunday, they trailed the Vikings 10-0 at halftime with the Vikings controlling the ball, clock and momentum of the first 30 minutes.
“It was 51 yards of offense in the first half and 50 yards of penalties; completely unacceptable,” said Reid. “In the second half we came out and we were able to move the ball and the defense continued to play good defense and we put ourselves in a position to win the game. We didn’t finish it there.”
The 51 yards came on 20 plays, and quarterback Alex Smith averaged less than four yards per pass attempt and was sacked twice. There were three offensive penalties; all wiped out plays for positive yardage.
“We really just had so many self-inflicted things in the first half,” said Smith. “Self-inflicted in the penalties; you can’t even get going when you’re going backwards, especially against a team like that on the road. You’re just making it impossible.”
Reid saw the same self-inflicted problems.
“In the first half we may have been trying too hard to make something happen,” Reid said. “In the second half, the guys settled down and functioned the way I know we can function. We have to find that part of it.”
Despite that horrid first half with the ball, the Chiefs were never out of this game thanks to their defense. Facing one of the best running backs in the league, the K.C. defense stifled Adrian Peterson throughout the game, but especially in the first half. Peterson had 16 yards on 17 carries in the first and second periods and finished with 60 yards on 26 carries, a 2.3-yard per carry average.
“I think we did a good job, but we have to finish better and keep the emphasis on stopping the run from now on,” said defensive lineman Allen Bailey who was among the leaders in tackles with eight and he added a sack.
Minnesota picked up field goals of 24 and 45 yards from kicker Blair Walsh that were wrapped around a 4-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to tight end Kyle Rudolph. That TD possession was helped by a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty against Chiefs rookie cornerback Steven Johnson, who came off the edge on a late blitz and hit Bridgewater below the knee. That gave the Vikings a first-and-10 situation at the Kansas City 20-yard line and five plays later Rudolph got away from safety Eric Berry in the end zone for the scoring grab.
After Walsh’s second field goal, the Chiefs drove the ball to the Minnesota 16-yard line where they had a first down. They picked up nine yards on two plays and faced third-and-1 at the Vikings 7-yard line. Fullback Anthony Sherman was stopped for no gain, as was running back Charcandrick West on fourth down.
The Chiefs were upset by the officials ruling on West’s run because it did not appear that his knee or any part of his body touched the ground as he was being tackled. He rolled over the back of the defender and continued running into the end zone. The officials however, had blown the play dead.
“His knee did not touch the ground, that was the bottom line,” Reid said. “That’s why I tried to challenge it. If you could look at it, you would see that.”
With the start of the fourth quarter, Minnesota led 13-0, but the Chiefs offense moved, drove into the Vikings half of the field and settled for a 48-yard field goal from Cairo Santos to get on the scoreboard.
Cornerback Marcus Peters grabbed an interception on the next possession and Smith directed the Chiefs 77 yards on seven plays, with their only TD of the game coming on a 42-yard pass and run to wide receiver Albert Wilson. With the PAT kick by Santos, the Chiefs trailed by three points.
Even after Walsh added a 45-yard field goal with less than 5:00 to play, the 16-10 score made it a one possession game for the Chiefs. But they lost the next possession when running back Charcandrick West fumbled the ball away; it was actually inadvertently knocked out of his grasp by teammate Donald Stephenson.
“It doesn’t matter who hits the ball or how it happens; I just have to hold on to the ball,” said West, who had 10 touches in the game for 39 yards. “Fumbles are not acceptable.”
The Chiefs got one more chance, starting at their 20-yard line with 2:46 to play, but they had no timeouts to use, only the two-minute warning. Smith found running back Knile Davis for a 12-yard pass play on first down, then missed the next four throws and the Vikings pushed their record to 3-2.
Reid’s team is one of four clubs in the AFC that has won just one game. They also now have the league’s longest losing streak at five games after both Detroit and San Francisco won games. Coming up are the 4-2 Pittsburgh Steelers who may have starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back from the injured list.
“I think the bottom line is, we’re going to play next Sunday,” Smith said. “There’s going to be a game. We’re going to be out there, we’re going to put it on the line, and it’s going to be on national TV. We’re going to be playing. As bad as it is, you want to sulk, but there’s no time for any of that. You have to go, it keeps going. The ball keeps moving.”
If the Chiefs figure out how to keep the ball moving for four quarters, they might have a chance to enjoy another victory in the 2015 season.