This is obvious to anyone but I can't think of any other way to start this so here goes:
Not good enough.
The Chiefs weren’t good enough in a 28-17 loss to the Cowboys here on Sunday, and if we’re honest, they haven’t really been good enough in at least a month.
They are 1-3 after a 5-0 start, and even if they’re better than the record in the last four games, there may not be anyone other than Harrison Butker who doesn’t need to be better going forward.
You can pick your pet issue about this team, and I can pick mine, and we’d both be right. The defense’s execution stunk. The scheme was questionable. The offensive line had a rotten day. Alex Smith finally threw an interception, the receivers didn’t get loose, the defense both bent and broke.
This team has real expectations. The highest expectations for a Chiefs team in quite some time, at least since 2003. Anything less than a Super Bowl will be viewed as a disappointment, and anything less than an AFC Championship game won't even be progress.
I still believe this is a very good team. The Cowboys are a bad matchup, and the Chiefs were sloppy enough on their own that they deserved to lose. I still believe this is a team with more strengths than weaknesses, a team that will win its division and have a chance to advance in the postseason.
I still believe all of that for reasons that include but are not limited to Andy Reid as a coach, a roster that’s a good mix of youth and experience, and an offense as explosive as any.
But even if you agree with me on that, we’re going more on faith and what we saw the first five games than anything in the last month.
All teams have flaws. The Chiefs have been showing theirs more than most.
▪ The first time the Chiefs had their starting offensive line back since week 2 and, well, that was ugly.
Too many false starts, not enough holes for the run game, and Mitch Schwartz — who really was terrific last week against Von Miller — had a nightmare.
There were times that seemed to get in Alex Smith’s head, because he went happy feet more than he needed. That’s always been one of the markers of his limitations, and it was there against the Cowboys.
▪ There’s a lot the Chiefs need to clean up to be good enough for a Super Bowl run, and normally we focus on the run defense, and Bob Sutton’s scheme, and that’s all fine. It’s all true, too.
But the Chiefs played a really sloppy game here, including too many penalties. Once, they turned a 2nd and 10 into 3rd and 19 with a false start, short pass, and another false start. What should’ve been a pick-6 went right through Eric Murray near the sideline.
On defense, they had the Cowboys 3rd and 15 from their own 13 late in the first half, but let Dez Bryant behind them and then blew a coverage and the Cowboys were in the red zone in two snaps.
Some of this overlaps, obviously. Scheme and defensive execution had a major part in a few of those mistakes.
It’s just that there was a general sloppiness here that just can’t win many games, particularly on the road.
▪ My Southwest flight to Dallas was basically me, Lamar Hunt Jr., and 140 fired up (and lubed up) Chiefs fans, but even after that I didn’t expect to see quite so many Chiefs fans at the game.
Goodness, gracious, most fans I can remember seeing at a Chiefs game. The upper deck must’ve been 75 percent Chiefs fans, and they were well represented in the lower bowls, too.
Maybe that shouldn’t have been surprising. Lots of Chiefs fans in Texas, or even in Oklahoma, parts of which are just as close to Arlington as Arrowhead. But for years, San Diego used to be the standard for me. That game always seemed to be the one with the most Chiefs fans on the road.
The Cowboys’ stadium holds about 25,000 more fans than the Chargers’ old stadium, so there’s that, but still.
▪ Twitter tells me that Tony Romo relayed a note from the production meeting with Chiefs coaches that they planned on going with more 3-4 base defense, and less nickel and dime sub packages.
I have no doubt about the information, or that Romo came across it honestly, and maybe I should wait to see the snap counts before saying too much ... but it didn’t look like that’s what happened.
Dallas ran a lot of three receiver sets, which puts a defensive coordinator in a tough spot for running a 3-4. Again, this is just watching live, and a lot can get missed, but it seemed like the Chiefs had five defensive backs on the field most of the game.
One of the potential problems with defense is that you’re largely dictated by what the offense does. If they go with three receivers, you probably have to get into at least nickel, maybe dime. In the Chiefs’ situation, that means an offense can choose to run against a weak personnel group, getting the favorable matchups in a fairly straightforward manner.
Feels like we talk about this a lot, but Sutton needs to be more creative in knocking the offense out of those comfort zones, in surprising the quarterback with blitzes or coverages he’s not expecting.
▪ Tyreek Hill’s freakish touchdown at the end of the first half should be a forever highlight, and for good reason, because there might not be another human being on the planet capable of doing this:
But two things should not be overlooked.
First, what in the Sam Hill are the Cowboys doing here? Giving the fastest player in the league, one of the best one-on-one ball carriers in recent memory, an open field and full running start? Seriously? That’s your plan?
And coverage was only part of the problem. Looked like every Cowboy on the field was just punching the clock, waiting for the guy next to him to make a tackle. Good grief, that was horrendous.
Also, watch Demarcus Robinson on the play. Waves Hill toward him, and then takes out two Cowboys defenders inside the 20. One right after the other. How often do you see something like that?
The Chiefs are dangerously thin at receiver, and Robinson isn’t as good as Conley. But he has made the most of his opportunities. Earned obvious trust, made plays in the passing game, and lots of downfield blocks like this.
▪ The potato sack race celebration after Travis Kelce’s touchdown in the third quarter really was spectacular. I have nothing to add here, just couldn’t do this without mentioning it.
▪ Tamba Hali played his first game just days after returning to practice. I assume the timetable was sped by Dee Ford’s injury, so in addition to everything else, there are many grains of salt here.
But looked like the old man had some juice, even if it came in limited spurts.