All week every national prognosticator claimed this would be the week the Chiefs fell victim to their first loss. Even SI jinxed them as cover boys to seal their fate. But none of that had anything to do with the outcome of the game. On Sunday the better team won and in the NFL that's all that matters.
I admit this stinks. The Chiefs were the darlings of the NFL through nine weeks and now the band wagon members of the Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots will likely move ahead of the Chiefs in most of the rankings.
For the Chiefs they need to learn from this. They have to dedicate themselves to getting to the post season and getting home field advantage. But before they talk about all that, they have to understand that they lost on Sunday because the Bengals wanted it more. Maybe the nine game winning streak had the team feeling overconfident. Not likely. They simply didn't show up to play and that's disappointing.
Looking at this game, Kansas City had opportunities with great field position to go for the jugular in the first quarter with four of five drives starting at their own 40 yard line. Three of those times they went three and out. But they were predictably stale on offense and they couldn't decide to pass or run. They never stuck with anything. They never attempted to change things up offensively. What about a no-huddle offense, more four wide receiver sets.
On defense they played soft. They stopped putting pressure on Kitna in the second half and he killed them. Eric Warfield played like a rookie. He missed deflecting the pass from Kitna to Warrick and then he failed to tackle him. That might have been the ball game. Then in the fourth quarter he was unable to tackle running back Rudi Johnson before he tore off a 54-yard run. Jerome Woods was not a factor in the game and the linebackers seemed to be in another world. The defense lacked any aggressiveness and after learning from their mistakes in the Oakland game, they fell back into the trap of the 32 defense and gave up big play after big play.
But they weren't the only culprit. The Chiefs punting was atrocious. Not that I could do it any better but it was terrible. Kansas City has to be concerned when their punter is unable to boot the ball for more than 35 yards per punt. Jason Baker is struggling big time and he appears to be pressing. Just punt the ball as far as you can and see what happens.
Sounds easier said than done. But he has to improve over the final six games of the season. Field position battle is not as important to the Chiefs but it is critical to their opponents. The Chiefs won the field position battle in the first half but had no such luck in the second half.
On offense the Chiefs needed to shake out the cobwebs. With good field position the offense never established any momentum. Instead of going at the Bengals defense straight up they tried trickery and motion. They need to just go back and pound the ball. They need to get the ball into the hands of Priest Holmes. He only touched the ball 16 times for a very lackluster 62 yards.
The Chiefs really have no identity on offense. They run well and they pass well but they need to find a balance. Green needs to look for Holmes and Gonzalez and filter in the rest of the components. Eddie Kennison and Johnnie Morton should be secondary targets at the outset of games.
But this loss brings the Chiefs back to the pack. Indianapolis, Tennessee and New England all won. Thus the lead for home field advantage is just one game. The Chiefs have tie breakers at this point over all the other 8-2 teams so in essence they have a little cushion.
With the Oakland Raiders coming into this week, the Chiefs need to regroup and keep the bitter taste of this loss in their mouths. After the Raiders, the Chiefs embark on back to back road games in San Diego and Denver.
The Chargers game could have the same result as the Bengals game though Doug Flutie looked human today against the Broncos. Jake Plummer returned to Denver today and played one of his better games of the season.
The Colts looked impressive offensively today at home against the Jets but their defense is in shambles. The Patriots appear to be lacking the offensive firepower to be a real contender and the Titans only managed ten points against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars at home. The Titans without a running game will be exposed in the playoffs.
The Chiefs still control their own destiny which in the NFL is all you can ask for. If they win out the rest of their games, they'll have home field advantage in the playoffs and be in the drivers seat to make it to Houston for the big game on February 1st.
If not, they could probably afford to lose one or two more games and probably be in a good spot. The Colts and Titans play one more time this year and the Patriots and Colts play a head to head game later this month. So something has to give.
But if the Chiefs are not careful they could lose two of their next three games and that would be a major disappointment after their 9-0 start.
It's never good to lose a game but after Sunday's contest the players were mad, angry and in unison understanding that they beat themselves. If they take that attitude the rest of the season and play to their potential the next nine weeks, the loss will have been a positive.
However,if they lay an egg in two of their next three AFC West games, then the loss to the Bengals was even more meaningful and the hopes for an easy AFC West division title and home field advantage could slip through their hands.