It’s easy to go to the ol’ standard and call this a trap game. This wasn’t a trap game. No, the reality is that, as fun as this ride has been, the Chiefs have shown many weaknesses throughout the season. They have always managed to find a way to push through them, but they have always been there. Those weaknesses may have only shown themselves sporadically; not showing all the cracks in one game, but they were always there.
Tonight, all the cracks showed. This wasn’t a trap game. The Chiefs weren’t unprepared. The refs didn’t rob the Chiefs. The weather may have been a factor, but it was not the deciding factor. These weaknesses like to show themselves one week, and then hide in the shadows giving us a false sense of security the next. Unfortunately like our shadows, they were always there. This was inevitable. It’s easy to ignore or overlook them when you’re winning, but when you lose to the 0-10 Oakland Raiders on national television, they have to be addressed.
The most glaring issue is the play of Ron Parker at cornerback. With Eric Berry injured at the beginning of the season, the Chiefs had to play Parker at safety, and he shined. Due to his success, the Chiefs decided to go back to Parker at corner once Berry returned. Regardless of Parker’s play, the Chiefs were winning, so they stuck with Parker. After a great game a few weeks ago, we thought maybe he had turned the corner and we were wrong, but it was still there. It was just hiding in the corner. Parker’s troubles finally caught up with the Chiefs tonight (though that late pass interference call was beyond poor). I don’t know if Phillip Gaines is ready, but the Chiefs cannot continue to ignore Parker getting abused.
Another issue is the reliance of quirky play-calling and leaning on Jamaal Charles to make up for the weaknesses at wide receiver. This weakness can be hidden by cute plays to De’Anthony Thomas, and the greatness of Charles, but when those plays get busted and that defender juuuust gets a finger on Charles before he breaks loose, the shadow is more like a glare. Reid can laugh off the fact that the Chiefs don’t have a receiving touchdown, and he’s not entirely wrong, but ignoring the role our receiving corps plays in that is why we are here today. Obviously injuries to Donnie Avery and A.J. Jenkins haven’t helped, but does anyone on the Chiefs coaching staff really believe things would improve that much with them? I hope not. Those excuses are just another way of ignoring the truth.
Alex Smith is not a game manager and his taking care of the football has at times helped us avoid the dark rooms, but sometimes the Chiefs need Alex to make it happen for them. It looked like he was going to do that tonight and he did bring the Chiefs a long way back in the second half, but when it came down to the time for Alex to get the Chiefs to overtime he took an inexcusable sack. This is in addition to the field goal the Chiefs had to take when Alex threw the ball away rather than giving his 56 million dollar receiver a chance. Alex can get out of the pocket as well as anyone in the league, but that late drive was not the time for that. He needed to get rid of it. He has to.
The play-calling has also been questioned regularly throughout the season. This has even been the case in wins, but it’s more fun to just be happy with a win, so we sugarcoat it. These cute plays Andy likes to run are great when they work and they make for fun football, but the reality is that cute plays are just that because they don’t work regularly. If they did, more coaches would be using them more often. When you’ve got 3rd and 2 and you are in the rain, you have to run the ball though. When it’s 3rd and 5, and especially when you’re losing and it is 3rd and 5, you can’t be running the football. When you’re trying to get in the end zone late in a close game you can’t afford to be running cute fakes to De’Anthony Thomas.
This wasn’t a trap game. The Chiefs fell into the trap that winning can create. It can make you ignore your flaws. It can make it easier to give it another week. And it can allow you to buy excuses. But your shadow is always there. The darkness is just a little harder to ignore when you lose in the black hole.