KANSAS CITY, Mo — Through something less than intense film study, Romeo Crennel found a theme to the Chiefs' offense when inside the opponents' 20-yard line.
"The fact we haven't scored," said Crennel, the Chiefs' interim coach, "that's the common thread."
Wasted chances in the scoring zone have been a season-long problem for the Chiefs. They've found the end zone 12 times in their 36 trips and that 33.3 percentage is worst in the league.
It's the biggest reason the Chiefs are next to last in the NFL in scoring and why, at 6-9, they're playing for nothing but pride in Sunday's season finale against the Broncos in Denver.
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The problem is even worse in their two games with Kyle Orton at quarterback. The Chiefs have just two touchdowns in nine trips inside the 20, or 22 percent.
They were able to survive with one touchdown in five trips inside the 20 against Green Bay because they got four field goals from Ryan Succop. But their 1-for-4 performance in last week's overtime loss to Oakland was more damaging.
One sequence in the second quarter, as it turned out, wound up knocking the Chiefs from playoff contention. From the Oakland 13, Dwayne Bowe dropped a pass in the end zone and on the next play Orton threw an interception.
In the third quarter, Orton had Jackie Battle open in the end zone on a third-down play from the 2 but his pass was knocked down at the line of scrimmage and the Chiefs had to kick a field goal.
"I was somewhat encouraged last week because we had two opportunities to score that we haven't had in the past," Crennel said. "We dropped a ball in the end zone and then we had another guy open (on a different play). If we can just get the ball over the outstretched hands of a defender... we didn't make the plays.
"But because we were down there and those plays were open, that was somewhat encouraging. When we get down there again, hopefully we can correct those mistakes and get touchdowns."
A catch by Bowe would have given the Chiefs a 10-3 lead, a huge advantage the way their defense was playing. Instead, the Chiefs never led in the game.
"He's our best receiver," offensive coordinator Bill Muir said. "You throw that ball to him 10 times, he'll catch it nine. As you look back over the season, that's what you're going to lament is that you had opportunities and you didn't take advantage of them."
Every offensive player, it seems, has a similar tale to tell.
"We've been beating ourselves when we get down there," tackle Branden Albert said. "There was one running play where if I did a better job on my man in a one on one block, we would have scored. It's things like that that are killing us. It's time we cleaned that up."
That would help the Chiefs beat the Broncos and perhaps keep them from winning the AFC West title and making the playoffs. But it would be too late to help the Chiefs save their season.
The season started miserably with the Chiefs scoring 10 points in the first two games and losing tight end Tony Moeaki and Jamaal Charles for the season because of knee injuries.
The Chiefs came alive offensively during a subsequent four-game winning streak but then tailed off for good. They also lost quarterback Matt Cassel for the year at midseason.
"It would be easy to say (injuries were) the sole reason," Muir said. "Obviously you can't lose talent like (that) without being affected. I think we had enough people to step up. Quite frankly, as players and coaches we didn't step up strongly enough or consistently enough."
Without Charles, the Chiefs tried to cobble together a backfield using Thomas Jones, Jackie Battle and Dexter McCluster. None was capable of giving the Chiefs what Charles did last season, though Muir said Friday in retrospect the Chiefs should have played McCluster more.
Without Moeaki, they lacked any kind of receiving threat at tight end. The Chiefs get one final chance to get things right but now perhaps bad offense is in their heads
"If we were able to get that touchdown, just a score sometimes changes the mentality on your team for that particular game," Crennel said, referring to Bowe's drop in the end zone against the Raiders. "Instead of guys saying, 'OK, here we go again,' they say, 'OK, now we've made it happen,' but we didn't make it happen.
"So now what we have to do is we have to refine some things so that we can get points on the board rather than coming away with nothing."