I’ll never understand why NFL head coaches, who make so much money, can’t do the right things at the end of a football game. The latest to fall pray to my angst is none other than Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach, Andy Reid. On Sunday, he made the biggest blunder of the 2013 season and it could cost his team a shot at the AFC West.
Granted the Chiefs still have five games left this season and Kansas City will make the playoffs. But they won’t last long in the post-season elimination rounds, if their head coach doesn’t start making better strategic decisions. In my book, Reid, not the Chiefs injury plagued defense and slow footed secondary, was the biggest culprit in Kansas City losing their second straight AFC West game.
With the bottom end of the fourth quarter clock rolling down to extinction and the Chiefs down 34-31 to the Chargers, they mounted an impressive offensive drive that pushed their potential game winning drive to the five yard line.
So with the Chargers conceding a potential score and refusing to stop the clock at that point in the game, Reid did the unthinkable calling a timeout with just over ninety seconds left to play.
It was one of the worst move he’s made since becoming the Chiefs head coach. By doing so it brings to light those that criticized his game management skills with the Philadelphia Eagles. The knock in Philly was that could only take you so far in a game when the stakes get higher.
Had Reid left the clock rolling he could have forced the Chargers to use a time out so when they got the ball back, they’d have had fewer timeouts and less time to construct their game winning drive. He even said after the game, the last thing he wanted yo do in the waining minutes of the game was put the ball back in the hands of Rivers. So what did he do? He gave Rivers the time to win the game for San Diego.
With a better strategic move, Reid could have run off another twenty seconds or more. After all at that point in the game, Reid had already played the entire second half without his top pass rushers, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, wo were lost to potentially devastating injuries. So how does he justify stopping the clock when Rivers had already posted 24 points on his defense in the second half?
Granted the strategy session worked for Reid because on the next play after the timeout, Alex Smith, who was brilliant on the day, launched a missile in the end zone that was caught by Dwayne Bowe. That quick strike that took a precious five seconds off the clock and it gave the Chiefs a 38-34 lead with enough time for Rivers to lead what everyone knew he’d do, win the game. Sill at worst his time ties the game with a few precious seconds left on the game.
Regardless after the score, Rivers made mulch of the Chiefs defense and threw the game winning touchdown to a man that hadn’t caught one since 2010.
When Chargers receiver, Seyi Ajirotutu hauled in Rivers 26-yard touchdown pass, Reid’s Chiefs fell to 9-2 and lost all control of their playoff destiny and quest for home field advantage.
In that critical moment despite the fact his own offense was destroying the Chargers defense, Reid refused to seize the moment in a game he had to know - the last offense standing with time on the clock would score.
In my book, there’s NO excuse for calling a time out at that point in the game when the Chargers were conceding the clock and inevitable score - field goal or otherwise.
Now the Chiefs, who must wait on the medical reports that could cripple their defense even further for the remainder of the season, have removed all further margins for error. Had they won this game Kansa City still would have had some error room in the event neither linebacker can play next weekend against Denver.
For all practical purposes, Reid’s colossal mistake pushed the Chiefs into an absolute must game win next Sunday against the Broncos. They have to be salivating at the Chiefs suddenly leaky and deflated defense, that to a man, they probably feel they can post sixty points on them. If the Chiefs lose that game, they’re sunk in the AFC West.
As of this writing, the Broncos were set to take the field against the New England Patriots, Reid had better hope and pray to the NFL gods throughout the evening that Tom Brady can out duel Peyton Manning.
Still with back-to-back losses by the Chiefs, we learned a few things about this football team. One the offense can play in a shoot out game and proved, if they don’t shoot themselves in the foot, they could deliver the counter punches.
Secondly we found out the Chiefs front seven defensively have zero depth. Lastly, and the one most critical, we learned the Marcus Cooper experiment may have come to a sad conclusion.
For the second straight week, he’s been torched by his inability to recognize simple crossing pattern. Against the Broncos last week and the Chargers on Sunday, he was assigned to guard against those very plays on the field of battle. His inability to do just that, tells me in two games, he’s fallen from potential rookie of the year candidate to just another seventh round draft pick playing for his second NFL team.
But worse than Cooper, was the play of veteran cornerback, Sean Smith. He was beaten badly on Rivers final touchdown pass. Like Cooper, he's been torched the last several weeks but none more devastating as the one he gave up against San Diego. Initially I was a big fan of the Chiefs signing of Smith in the off-season but he’s nowhere close to the cornerback he was with the Miami Dolphins. In fact, he may be the most unphysical corner the Chiefs line up on the field.
Still as upset as I am with the loss, I’m convinced KC’s offense isn’t the problem. If Smith is given time to throw the ball, he’ll torch opposing defenses. He shut up a lot of his critics against the Chargers.
And that was aided by the fact Guard, Geoff Schwartz, and Right Tackle Donald Stephenson, both started Sunday on Reid’s revamped offensive line. With Jon Asamoah, a somewhat dinged but healthy enough scratch and Eric Fisher out with a bad shoulder, Schwartz was solid on the interior of the Chiefs line and Stephenson was a beast at right tackle. That infusion was the reason KC’s offense had its best output of the season.
Thus if Reid continues to allow a healthy Asamoah to start next weekend over Schwartz, he won’t have learned a thing from this loss. In fact, after the loss, he said it was his personal goal to learn from the mistakes the team made. Time will tell if he’ll back those words up by correcting his mistakes.
Granted as mad as I might be at the moment at the NFL’s third highest paid Head Coach, it’s hard too slap Reid with any sense of malice. But over the last two games, he’s made coaching blunders that have extended KC’s losing streak to a pair of games.
Last week against Denver, failing to give the ball to Running Back, Jamaal Charles on third and potentially fourth and goal situations from the one-yard line, were simply inexcusable. Playing safe on the road and settling for a chip shot field goal, sends the wrong message to his players. Yes I want them to be patient and tactical but sometimes you just have to play man on man football and trust that your men can make the plays.
Further looking back at the end of the first half against Denver, he didn’t attempt a long field goal that could have given KC some halftime momentum. Instead, once again he played it safe.
What’s concerning to me is Reid’s sometimes passive approach. I know he has a plan, a style and one that has garnered much success in the NFL but as the games get bigger and bigger the rest of the season, his decisions on the sidelines are costing him opportunities to win football games.
To his credit, Reid’s done a terrific job so far in Kansas City. For the most part, he’s carried his players to the highs and lows of their now 9-2 start. But unless he wants them to end the season 9-7, Reid better amp up his game. The house money chips the Chiefs had been playing with though ten games have all but been cashed in.
Thus if he doesn’t start doubling down a bit more, making better decisions based on the way his team is playing at the time he’s making them on both sides of the ball, the season of promise the Chiefs nation had been yearning for the last decade, will become a familiar ring to the faithful.
Sadly it’s one they’ve trumpeted before many times that will lead to severe and bitter disappointment that will linger like a bad smell in the basement this entire off-season.
WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
Does this game fall on the coaching style of Andy Reid?
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