They didn’t lay down. Of course, they didn’t really show up. But they didn’t lay down. If they gave points for pride, the Kansas City Chiefs might’ve covered.
But they don’t, and when Aaron Rodgers throws for five scores and toys with you the way a cat toys with a mouse before biting its little head off, sympathy is in short supply.
Which is doubly true when — down 17 with time expiring — you tuck and run at midfield and slide for nothing instead of, you know, flinging up a prayer.
Also, on 3rd-and-4 at your own 28, down 10 with 4:46 left in the first half, the outcome still in the balance, when you throw a swing pass to the flat rather than push for something even remotely vertical. And it turns into a 7-yard loss. And a former NFL kicker — a former Chiefs kicker, in the form of Lawrence Tynes — goes on Twitter and calls you out.
So let’s be straight: Even after a 38-28 setback at Green Bay on Monday night, the Chiefs (1-2) aren’t a lost cause — not any more than they were last year with an 0-2 mark that included a home loss to miserable, pre-Mariota Tennessee. The Chiefs’ best cover corner was out thanks to a DUI-related suspension, their third-best cover corner left with a knee injury in the first quarter, and backup safety Tyvon Branch got shoehorned into basically playing the role of nickel corner. Rodgers was always going to get his, one way or another.
That’s not the most fan-killing, soul-crushing thing on coach Andy Reid’s plate right now. It’s this: The Chiefs are dink and dunk, chain-moving, short-tossing, nibble-happy, conversion-centric offense that … can’t convert.
Kansas City was 2-for-10 on third-down opportunities at Lambeau Field, which moves the season rate to a less-than-stellar 5-for-30 — 16.7 percent, last in the NFL. And here’s the wacky part: That number actually went UP after Monday’s debacle, having come in at 15 percent (3-for-20).
So Reid has an execution problem, a play-calling problem, a protection problem (seven sacks surrendered; Rodgers got taken down just once), a roster problem, or an Alex Smith problem, although it’s probably a combination of all five right about now. His signal-caller still acts as if he doesn’t trust his pocket or his targets enough to throw over the top of a crowded box, which is bad.
Or doesn’t trust himself, which is worse.
The contrasts Monday between the two notable signal-callers from the draft class of ’05 — Smith was the No. 1 overall pick, Rodgers was not — couldn’t have been more startling, especially over the first two-and-a-half periods. Green Bay’s signal-caller looked as if he were conducting an orchestra, rolling smoothly through progressions, bobbing and weaving. The Chiefs’ signal-caller looked like the girl who snuffs it in the first 10 minutes of the movie “Jaws.” With 7:22 left in the third quarter, Smith had completed more passes to the Packers’ secondary (one) than to his wide receivers (zero).
The final score was deceptive — the hosts took a 24-7 lead into the break and pushed it to 31-7 midway through the third quarter before the Andy Gang finally threw caution (and some passes) into the wind. The silver linings started piling up at that point, with top wideout Jeremy Maclin (eight grabs, 141 yards, one score, all in the second half) running from the orchestra pit to the spotlight, and Maclin’s 5-yard touchdown grab in the third period registering the first Chiefs scoring pass to a wideout since December 8, 2013. Running back Jamaal Charles scored three times and Lambeau leapt. Linebacker Derrick Johnson is now — and deservedly — the all-time tackler in franchise history.
Although knowing No. 56, he’d probably trade that last one for a better showing on the national dais. The Packers (3-0) are all kinds of legit, in the penthouse club, among the handful of NFC favorites, boasting the best signal-caller in the game at the peak of his game. But the Chiefs spent a half not looking so much under-manned as generally under-prepared. The hosts’ third drive of the contest was kept alive thanks to three Kansas City penalties, including a 12-men-on-the-field flag on 3rd-and-1, negating an incompletion that would’ve given the unit a much-needed breather. One by one, little things added up, and Rodgers took those little things and turned them into big problem after big problem. And with a visit to Cincinnati (3-0) up next, a short week on Arrowhead Drive starts to feel just a little bit longer.