While the Kansas City Royals continue to look like a legitimate postseason contender – thank you Alex Gordon for that walk-off two-run homer in Tuesday's 2-1 victory over Minnesota – the punchless Kansas City Chiefs look like a playoff pretender.
Game 3 of the postseason is the only game that really has the feel of a legitimate NFL game. The starters play a half or more, and you see a team's defensive and offensive schemes, rather than the vanilla playbook stuff in games one and two.
So, what happened in that 30-12 loss to Minnesota on Saturday?
“You know, tonight was disappointing,” said quarterback Alex Smith, who has not thrown a touchdown pass all preseason and was just 14 of 24 for 140 yards with two interceptions. “I mean it in a sense that basically it was game week. We treated it as such. There was a little more game planning that went into this and preparation. We got down there twice, which was the disappointing thing. To walk away with no points, the turnovers hurt.
“You'd love to get touchdowns all the time. In a game like today though, the field goals would've helped too especially going there into halftime. Going into halftime would've been a much different game if we could've walked away with points. Yeah, it hurts. You'd love to get down there and score touchdowns every time. With that, I think they are things we'll learn from. Mistakes I don't think I'll make again.”
He refused to point an accusing finger at his offensive line – which was missing Blue Springs High School grad Donald Stephenson, who will miss four regular-season games for violating the league's performance enhancing substances rules – which is classy, but still worrisome.
“I don't think that (missing Stephenson and depth on the line) had anything to do with it,” Smith said. “You know, really on the first one, it was just a matter of being late. He was open and I needed to see it a little sooner and cut it loose in there and tried to fit it in a little late. It cost me. Things are tight down there. When things are tight, things happen fast. Really disappointed in the second one. Third down trying to make it happen trying to move the chains there to force an in and I didn't see the guy until the end. Bad decision, but I think they are two things that are very fixable. Need to be fixed certainly.”
The Chiefs were without Stephenon and Pro Bowl players Dwayne Bowe – who will miss the first game of the regular season because of violating the league's substance abuse policy – and Jamaal Charles, who I believe is the best running back in the league.
Again, Smith would not put the blame on the reserves.
“I mean, it's still about execution,” the veteran quarterback said. “I think when you turn the film on tomorrow when we look at it, whether or not Dwayne's (Bowe) in there or Jamaal (Charles) or whoever's out, we're expected to come in and execute. So much of it comes down to the little things. I mean, it's the next guy up. It's not unreasonable to think that you are going to go in this season without those guys. It's the nature of football. You're not going to be able to use that as a crutch. We've got to be able to make plays with whoever is out there.”
Like his quarterback, Chiefs coach Andy Reid placed the blame for the team's lack of offense on his broad shoulders.
“I can do a better job there with play calls and designs of plays and so on,” Reid said. “That's all very correctable. Very seldom are you going to see a team return a punt against our special teams and that just normally is not an M.O. on Dave Toub's special teams. We can clean that up. Between those things there, we have the guys to fix the problem and have a solution there.”
The Chiefs face one of the toughest schedules in the league this season and will miss Bowe (one game) and Stephenson (four games) to kick off the campaign.
Is it time to push the panic button?
Well, I'd at least know where it was located, because things could go wrong quickly and frequently.
Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at 350-6333 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC