Chiefs look vulnerable as they lose ground in AFC
The defending Super Bowl champions suddenly look vulnerable as they've fallen behind three other teams in the race for the AFC's top playoff seed.
The Chiefs started slowly for a second straight week and lost 27-19 to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night for their third defeat in five games.
Kansas City (8-4) fell a game behind Baltimore and Miami and a half-game behind Jacksonville, which hosts Cincinnati on Monday night, in the race for the AFC's best record and lone first-round bye.
“Obviously, we’re not where we want to be at, but I feel like we’re close," said Mahomes, who went 21 of 33 for 210 yards with a touchdown and an interception. "We’re playing a lot of good football teams really well, winning some of those games, losing some of those games. We’re kind of in the go-zone now where we’ve got to try to get it going through this stretch and all we can do is learn from this game and be focused on another challenge this next week coming to Arrowhead.”
Catching up to the other AFC heavyweights could prove challenging.
A defense that has ranked among the league’s best all season kept taking hits Sunday rather than dishing them out. Linebacker Drue Tranquill left with a concussion in the first quarter and safety Bryan Cook was carted off the field with an ankle injury in the second half.
Those injuries took a toll as Green Bay put up the highest point total the Chiefs had allowed all season.
“You can’t give up 27 points on the road in a hostile environment like this," defensive tackle Chris Jones said. “It’s tough.”
If either Tranquill or Cook misses substantial time and the defense takes a step back, it will put even more pressure on Mahomes.
The two-time MVP has shown plenty of times he’s capable of carrying that burden. That was evident last week, when the Chiefs rallied from an early 14-0 deficit to win 31-17 at Las Vegas.
But after Kansas City gave up touchdowns on three of Green Bay’s first four possessions, Mahomes couldn’t bring the Chiefs all the way back.
He threw an interception in the fourth quarter with Kansas City trailing by five that set up a field goal for the Packers.
Still, the Chiefs had one more shot.
The Chiefs got the ball back at their own 30 with 1:09 left and no timeouts. Mahomes quickly got his team into Packers territory, but the Chiefs stalled out at the Green Bay 33.
Pass interference wasn’t called on a long incompletion to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. A pass into the end zone on the game’s final play was knocked away.
“It is what it is, man," Mahomes said about no penalty being called on the pass to Valdes-Scantling. "Obviously, the guy was probably a little early, but at the end of the game, they’re letting guys play. I’m kind of about that. I’d rather you let the guys play and let the guys win it on the field. But it’s a hard job, man. We’re in that situation, I can’t be wanting a flag, I have to try and go out there and win the game myself and with the rest of my teammates.”
Mahomes and star tight end Travis Kelce, who had four catches for 81 yards, could use more help. Wide receiver Rashee Rice must build on his breakthrough performance against the Raiders. Isiah Pacheco ran for 110 yards Sunday night but got ejected on the game’s final series.
Another Super Bowl run remains possible for this Chiefs team, but they're hardly a dominant bunch. They can't afford to make the mistakes that proved costly Sunday night.
“That’s a good football team and they executed better than us, and that’s the bottom line,” Kelce said. “We’ve just got to keep rallying together and keep just fighting and growing together.”
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL