In their first nine games of the season, the Kansas City Chiefs were a defensively dominant franchise that appeared to be completely rejuvenated from last season’s forgettable failures. In their first nine games, the Chiefs never allowed an opponent to score more than seventeen points per game, which was an impressive feat for a team that had only won two games last year. Yet, despite the Chiefs miraculous defense, there was something to be said for a passing game that was meek and methodical thanks to quarterback Alex Smith. On top of that, seven of the Chiefs nine victories were against opponents who now have records below .500. While the Chiefs shouldn’t panic because of their two game losing streak, it is at least an omen that this team needs to be more complete and well balanced if their hope to be competitive down the stretch.
While quarterback Alex Smith has been a solid contributor and game manager for this revitalized Chiefs team, he lacks the tenacity and confidence to allow his team to score big at the most opportune moments. Luckily, Smith had a supremely reliable defense that was, until recently, seemingly unbeatable. Unfortunately, Smith’s lack of production finally caught up with him, as his conservative approach was ineffective against the Denver Broncos. Although the Chiefs only lost by ten to the offensively high octane Broncos, Smith’s miniscule passing yardage per game (206 yards per game, 26th in the NFL) and his unimpressive accuracy (he has completed 59% of his passes this season) were finally costing his team critical wins. Although Smith appeared display more offensive gusto in the Chiefs loss to the San Diego Chargers when he completed 68.4% of his passes for three touchdowns, he needs to maintain this type of poised confidence if he hopes to lead his team valiantly to the playoffs.
Surprisingly, even with Smith’s lack of offensive production, the Chiefs defense had almost always been able to bail him out not matter how dire the circumstances appeared to be. Even when the Chiefs nine game winning streak was snapped by the offensively dominant Broncos, the Chiefs defense still held its ground against one of the best passers in the game. However, in their recent devastating loss to the Charges, the Chiefs once prominently gifted defense was finally demolished at the hands of Phillip Rivers. With that being said, the Chiefs uncharacteristic slip ups on defense were attributed to two critical injuries to linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. As a defensive veteran, Hali had been key in garnering a hand full of the Chiefs many turnovers as he has forced four fumbles along with one interception on the season. On top of that, the Chiefs also had to contend with the loss of their third year linebacker Justin Houston who was just starting to become an ample contributor as he had forced one turnover and garnered 44 combined tackles on the season. While the Chiefs stout defense isn’t necessarily decimated because of these losses, it’ll be hard to replace these essential defensive athletes and will undoubtedly change how effective this defense will be in the future.
While it’s hard to imagine the Chiefs losing out the rest of the season, they’ll need to step up against the Denver Broncos at home if they hope to clinch home field advantage come post seasons play. More importantly, the Chiefs need to prove that they can handle the more dominant opponents in the league to prove that they are worthy of their 9-2 record that is now being questioned because of their easy schedule up to this point in the season. Without quality wins against division opponents, the Chiefs will once again succumb to another disappointing season.
When all is said and done, the Chiefs have the talent and the capabilities to be one of the best teams in the league. Despite their recent defensive injuries, the Chiefs still have an impressive secondary that is still proficient enough to get the job done. If Alex Smith can emulate his performance from his most recent outing, the Chiefs can easily become the Cinderella story of the NFL once again.