Had the Kansas City Chiefs lost their AFC West showdown with the Oakland Raiders on Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead, we could have punched a front row seat to the off-season. But that didn’t happen as the Chiefs played one of their better games from start to finish in 2014.
Granted the Oakland Raiders were just a two-win team heading into this game but they began the Chiefs slide into average three games ago with their hard fought Thursday night win. However, in the re-match Kansas City came to play and showed the rest of the AFC, this team might not be done yet.
Now I’m not going to say the Chiefs played a flawless game but it was pretty darn good effort by a team with so much on the line. No matter what happens going forward, if the Chiefs can defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road and do the same at home against the San Diego Chargers; they’ll make the post season for the second year in a row.
Against Oakland, much maligned Chiefs Quarterback, Alex Smith, threw a pair of catch and run touchdowns to Tight End, Travis Kelce and Running Back, Knile Davis that sealed the win. For the afternoon, Smith threw for 297 passing yards and completed 18 of 30 passes. To his credit, despite a few dropped passes, he kept chucking the ball down the field.
However, this victory had much to do with a stout Chiefs defense and solid special teams. KC’s defense forced Raiders Quarterback, Derek Carr to throw the ball 56 times, and Chiefs return man De’Anthony Thomas, added to the overall effort with his first career punt return for a touchdown.
Add that with a solid effort offensively and the Chiefs have managed to find enough internal cache to put them back in the post-season discussion. I’ve said it many times, and I suspect it’ll be the case this January; there isn’t a team in the AFC playoff picture from top to bottom - that isn’t severally flawed in one aspect or another.
Count the Chiefs in that class as well. But once you get into the post season, anything is possible. Outside of their complete inability to defeat the Denver Broncos anywhere on the planet, the Chiefs have the running game, special teams and enough defensive chops to win on the road in the playoffs.
The question will be, not what happens if they get into the post-season dance, but how will the coaching staff adjust should the Chiefs get there. Andy Reid has been both sensational and lackluster in coaching Kansas City to their current 8-6 mark.
Reid is the true wild card for this team right now. We all know the shortcomings the Chiefs have on both sides of the ball but those can be overcome with great in-game coaching decisions.
Against Oakland Reid made most of the right calls, and for their part, the players did a solid job executing the Chiefs game plan. That has to continue to be the case against the Steelers and Chargers.
Right now this team faces a slippery slope dancing between extinction and euphoria. They have a chance to erase the stench of a slow start to the season and their three game losing streaks towards the end. If they can do that, perhaps this football team can create some January magic.
I’m not stating this team can get to the Super Bowl, but if Reid is ever going to get this franchise over the hump, they need to win a post-season game this season should they qualify for the playoff lottery.
The victory over the Raiders was a good place to start but the task ahead won’t be easy. Defeating Oakland was relatively simple, but winning on the road at Pittsburgh next Sunday, might come down to Reid’s defining moment in Kansas City.
It’s clear to me this franchise, under his capable direction in nearly two seasons, has yet to win that really big defining game. In facing the Steelers next Sunday with the ability to secure a post-season birth on their own merits, none is more critical to Reid’s tenure to date as head coach of the Chiefs.
Photos: De’Anthony Thomas (Justin Olson Warpaint Illustrated) / Knile Davis (John Rieger USA Today Sports)