KANSAS CITY, Mo – Make no mistake about it, the bottom dropped out of the Chiefs 2015 season on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
The 18-17 loss to the Chicago Bears told us plenty about this year’s Chiefs, as they’ve now lost four straight, are 1-4 and slipping deep into the land of AFC pretenders.
But what hurt even worse was the third-quarter injury suffered by running back Jamaal Charles.
The engine of the Chiefs offense, Charles went down on his 13th touch of the game and the preliminary diagnosis is a torn ACL in his right knee. If that’s proven in tests that will come on Monday, his season has come to an end.
The same might be said for the Chiefs, who coughed up another home victory, blowing an 11-point lead with less than eight minutes to play. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler threw two touchdown passes in the game’s final three minutes and allowed Chicago to move to 2-3 on the season.
Those touchdowns were set up by an ugly four quarter offensive performance by the Chiefs. Andy Reid’s team had four possessions in the period and all four lasted only three plays, gaining 4, 2, 4 and 23 points. That last possession ended with Cairo Santos attempting a 66-yard field goal that was well short of the posts.
“It’s not fun to be out there playing like that,” said quarterback Alex Smith. “We know we’re so much better than that. Nonetheless, we put that out there, especially in the second half.”
Poor defensive play in the fourth quarter didn’t help matters either for the struggling Chiefs, as Cutler threw the two scoring passes and the Bears offense rang up 220 of their 328 yards.
“We need to play better than that,” said cornerback Sean Smith. “That wasn’t good enough. We had some things go against us, but we have overcome.”
The Bears were down 17-3 at halftime as the Chiefs scored on defense and offense. Linebacker Ramik Wilson fell on a fumble by Cutler in the end zone for a touchdown and wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas and quarterback Alex Smith connected on a 19-yard touchdown play. Santos added a 35-yard field goal. The Bears got a pair of field goals from Robbie Gould.
But they trailed 17-6 midway through the fourth quarter. That’s when Cutler was able to avoid pass rush pressure from the Chiefs defense and took the Chicago offense down the field for a 22-yard touchdown play to wide receiver Marquess Wilson and then the winning score on a 7-yard play to running back Matt Forte with 18 seconds to play.
The Chiefs had the ball one more time and instead of a Hail Mary throw with two seconds left and the ball at the Bears 48-yard line, head coach Andy Reid decided to go for the long field goal on the game’s final play.
“It was a long shot either way,” Reid said. “He’s made those in practice, so we gave him a chance.”
The game really turned early in the third quarter, when Charles was unable to walk off the field without help after he was stopped for no gain on a first-and-goal run from the Chicago 9-yard line.
Losing Charles seemed to take the wind out of the Chiefs, as they were unable to reach the end zone and a 27-yard field goal try by Santos was blocked by Chicago linebacker Pernell McPhee. The Bears went down the field and eventually picked up a Gould field goal of 30 yards and the score was 17-6 at the end of the third quarter.
“The blocked field goal was a changing point in momentum,” said Reid. “You’ve got to shut that down at the time. If it does, then you’ve got to change it and we were never really able to do that.”
Cutler kept the Bears hopes alive through the fourth quarter and connected with Wilson in the end zone for the 22-yard touchdown. Wilson beat Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters on the score that capped an 11-play, 88-yard drive. Chicago went for two points, but Cutler’s throw to wide receiver Marc Mariani came up short of the end zone, setting the score at 17-12.
Kansas City’s offense was unable to hold onto the ball, and the Bears moved back down the field with help from a 24-yard pass interference penalty against Peters. Cutler fumbled the snap and had a Kansas City pass rusher grabbing at his feet, but he found Forte in the end zone for the game winner. Forte beat safety Husain Abdullah.
“I knew we had a shot,” Cutler said of the play. “We were just waiting to see if the guy (Abdullah) bit, so Matt could get around him, and he did. I knew where I was going with the ball.”
Health was a factor with the Bears, as Cutler did not have his best receivers available (Alshon Jeffrey and Eddie Royal) and rookie draft choice Hroniss Grasu made his first regular-season appearance, starting at center. Early in the third quarter, Chicago lost inside linebacker Shea McClellin with a left knee injury.
But Chicago was able to overcome the bad situation with a fourth-quarter performance led by Cutler that allowed them to grab a victory when it seemed all was lost. Just eight days ago, the Bears were sitting winless after three games.
“It’s huge,” Cutler said of the victory. “To go 0-3 and then win two that we won in the fourth quarter, it shows a lot about our team and gives us some confidence. If we lose the Oakland game or lose this one, you can’t build on that. To get ourselves back with two wins is big for us.”
And now four consecutive losing efforts are big in a different way for the Chiefs who are letting the season slip away.
“You have to fight,” said wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. “We have to fight for our jobs, we have to fight as a team together.”