The Road To Glory: Part IV

Kansas City Chiefs 41, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31

Photo courtesy of USA Today

There isn’t a regular season game — any regular season game — that can make up for the 31-9 loss the Chiefs suffered to the Bucs in Super Bowl LV. But Chiefs 41, Bucs 31 on Sunday Night Football in Week 4 at the very least exercised a few of Kansas City’s demons.

Super Bowl payback is a real thing, even if it did happen to occur 20 months after the fact. In retrospect a Chiefs blowout was the only outcome that made any kind of sense. Despite the final score showing only 10 points worth of separation, Kansas City were in control by three scores for the majority of the contest. They led 21-3, 28-10, 38-17, and 41-24 before Tampa Bay netted a garbage touchdown late in the 4th quarter.

The story of Super Bowl 55, and ultimately the reason the Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs in such dominant fashion, was because Kansas City fielded a M.A.S.H. unit at offensive line. Never forget that four of the five starters in that game were backups. Most people remember that game best not for Tom Brady winning his 7th Super Bowl ring, but for the chaotic mess that was Patrick Mahomes running for his life seemingly ever time he dropped back to pass.

So it comes with some irony that the way the Chiefs returned the favor on Sunday Night was by utilizing their now much improved offensive line to control the battle in the trenches. The Chiefs ran the ball 37 times for 189 yards (5.1 yards per carry), and critically were able to pound the ball into the end zone on two occasions from inside the 2 yard line.

I was apparently too busy to post last week’s article (a loss to the Colts) until Saturday night, and had to chop out a bunch of the shit I wrote about the offense because I just wanted to get the fucking thing posted before Sunday’s new slate of games. I spewed something like a three paragraph diatribe about how Kansas City screws around too much in the red zone. They run too many gimmick plays and try to get too cute a lot of the time. It’s really fun to watch when it works, and it works often enough that I don’t have to bitch about it until the Chiefs end up losing a given game, but it’s been a problem over the last 2-3 years.

Again I’ll say it: the Chiefs have a really good offensive line. I think they are capable of lining up and moving the opposing defense enough to score touchdowns the old fashion way. For some reason Andy Reid has been mostly averse to lowering himself to such simplicities during the Mahomes era, but if you asked me I feel a helluva lot more comfortable when the Chiefs are 3rd-and-goal from outside the five yard line than I am when they are inside the two. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

Pursuant to that thought, I think against the Bucs we saw what the Chiefs are capable of when their full complement of skill players are operating in space. Space is the key the Kansas City offense — which is why I like them better with more room in the red zone compared to when the field is so condensed — and all of Juju Smith-Schuster (5 catches, 46 yards), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (3 catches, 63 yards) and Skyy Moore (2 catches, 31 yards) had their best games as Chiefs on Sunday Night.

Granted, given how poorly the offense played over the last two weeks I think it’s safe to assume that Andy Reid had been holding a fair amount back. Of the four games (and three wins) up to this point it seems clear that the Bucs matchup was the one Kansas City wanted most. And as much I hate to say it, it probably contributed heavily to why the Chiefs laid such an egg against the Colts in Week 3. Hard to get up for a team like that when Tom Brady in a primetime game is what follows.

That will forever be the most frustrating aspect of the Chiefs, the idea that they are so good (and that they know they are so good) that they will take a half-dozen games off every year. Sure, they’ll usually end up winning about half the games they don’t show up for. But it makes fans like me dream of what they could accomplish if every single week they gave the type of effort and shared the same collective focus they showed against the Buccaneers last night.

I know that’s an impossible tradeoff, because the only way for them to reach such great heights is specifically due to the fact that oftentimes they preserve their good stuff for the big games. A time will come, however, when they aren’t good enough to fuck around like that and expect to compete for Super Bowls every year. Fortunately, that time hasn’t arrived.

And that is probably what makes me most satisfied with this win. There isn’t a team out there — not even the mighty Buffalo Bills who are the favorite to win the Super Bowl this year — that can beat the Chiefs when they are clicking like that. Kansas City looked average over the last two weeks against the Chargers and Colts, but when the lights came on against Tom Brady they brought their top-tier, god-level performance, and there was nothing the other team could do about it.

The schedule isn’t getting any easier, so it behooves Kansas City to continue building on Sunday night’s success. Next Monday they play the Raiders, the best 1-3 team in the NFL, and they follow that with the Bills (on a short week) and 49ers — each who own at least a share of first place in their respective divisions. If somehow the Chiefs can muster two wins in these next three games and enter their Week 8 Bye with a 5-2 record, they’ll be in prime position to take advantage of a much softer schedule in the second half of the season.

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