Remember Red October? Last month, the undefeated Chiefs, with their Patriots-destroying, league-changing college offense, were the only fun thing about the NFL. Alex Smith was an MVP candidate. Kareem Hunt was the most valuable player in fantasy football. Everyone was drinking Andy Reid’s Kool-Aid.
But since starting 5-0, the Chiefs have gone 1-5. Smith is closer to losing his job than he is to receiving the league’s top honor. Hunt has 281 rushing yards in his last six games after piling up 609 yards in his first five. Those sexy college concepts have reverted to the dink-and-dunk-and-dink-again offense for which Smith and Reid have become famous. Coming off a bye week with noted bye-week aficionado Andy Reid, Kansas City went into the Meadowlands last week and put up nine points in a loss to the not-totally-trying-to-win Giants. After Sunday’s 16-10 home loss to the Bills, the Chiefs are officially in panic mode.
The Chiefs’ offense was helpless against Buffalo. Kansas City had 55 rushing yards in total, 35 of which came from Smith, an especially disappointing total given Buffalo’s recent struggles against the run. Hunt was held to 17 rushing yards on 11 carries, adding another disappointing game to the back half of his season.
Hunt’s decline has mirrored the Chiefs’ inability to move the ball the last six games. Against Buffalo, the Chiefs had their lowest yardage output of the season, with just 236 total yards. Down six points in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs had two possessions where they could have taken the lead, but they stuck with the conventional playcalling and short throws that have become their hallmark. Both drives stalled at midfield, on fourth-and-4 and third-and-8, respectively—the latter finishing with a game-ending interception. Fans booed as he walked off the field. After going eight games without an interception, Smith has thrown four over his last three outings—half as many as he threw all of last season.
This has been a terrible stretch for Smith, whose long-term future with the team has been in doubt since the Chiefs traded up in the draft to select Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II 10th overall. The division lead that once seemed insurmountable is evaporating, and as their playoff security dwindles, the calls for a dynamic, Mahomes-led approach will only grow louder. The Chargers, who started the season 0-4, are now one game out of the division lead. To stop the skid—and avoid becoming the latest 5-0 team to miss the playoffs—Reid and his staff might have to consider letting the future of the franchise emerge a bit earlier than expected.