At some point, the Chiefs’ offense was going to become a concern if things didn’t change.
That point arrived Monday night, precisely when Marquez Valdes-Scantling let a would-be, go-ahead 51-yard touchdown go through his hands on a perfect pass from Patrick Mahomes with 1:50 remaining.
In a 21–17 loss to the Eagles, the Chiefs led 17–7 at halftime. The 10-point cushion came on the strength of a stunning 121 rushing yards, 14 more than the Eagles had allowed in any full game this season.
But in the second half, as has so often been the case for Kansas City, the offense shriveled up. The Chiefs, who entered Monday scoring a league-worst 5.9 points per game in the second half, scored zero over the final 30 minutes, dropping that average to 5.3.
“We’ve got to be better in the second half,” Mahomes said. “All season we haven’t played great football in the second half. We have to continue to work. Obviously had a pretty good first half running the football but we have to find a way to finish games offensively.”
And for Kansas City, it wasn’t simply a matter of the Eagles bleeding the clock. To the contrary, the Chiefs had four consecutive possessions in the second half where they could have extended their lead to two or three scores. On those drives, Mahomes and Co. produced two first downs across three possessions, while the other ended in a red-zone fumble by Travis Kelce.
“That’s football,” said corner Trent McDuffie, who had two sacks and a forced fumble. “It’s a team sport. Unfortunately, if the offense is doing great and the defense isn’t doing good, everything has to work cohesively. … We’re always confident, we’re always positive. We always have the mindset that we can get the job done.”
Furthermore, this is the third consecutive game in which the Chiefs failed to score after halftime. They have just one fourth-quarter touchdown all season, coming in a Week 7 win over the Chargers.
Kelce’s lost fumble continued another maddening season-long trend for Kansas City. The Chiefs had two turnovers in the red zone on Monday, and all told, have turned the ball over 19 times. Only the Browns, Vikings, Raiders and Commanders are worse. Only in Week 5, a win over Minnesota, has Kansas City avoided at least one turnover.
After the game, Kelce spoke tersely for 40 seconds.
“I’ve got to be better,” Kelce said. “I’m just not playing up to the level I have in the past. I have to be better.”
The tenor from Kelce and receiver Justin Watson was the same. It’s all fixable. The problem? Kansas City isn’t fixing anything. The Chiefs lead the league in drops with 30, per Pro Football Reference. No other team has more than 23.
“I don’t look at the scope of statistics or anything,” Watson said. “All of us as an offense, the only thing that matters is winning games. That’s the one stat that we came up short in, so we’ll have to figure out how to get that handled.”
Beyond the drops and turnovers, the Chiefs also committed crucial penalties. Against the Eagles, Kansas City was called for seven infractions including three before the snap, a trend made all the more frustrating in a home game.
And then there’s the looming, unending issue of personnel on the perimeter. The Chiefs have an All-Pro quarterback, perhaps the best tight end of all time and a talented running back behind an excellent offensive line.
Yet it’s all being wasted because the Chiefs have nothing reliable at receiver. In the drizzle at Arrowhead Stadium on Monday, Kansas City’s receivers were targeted 25 times and caught 14 passes for 113 yards—all told, a pathetic 4.52 yards per attempt.
Without a secondary weapon, the Chiefs have been rendered ineffective offensively. The season-long numbers suggest an above-average unit, as Kansas City entered Monday ranking eighth in yards and 11th in points per game, but nothing is coming easy.
For years, the Chiefs were an offensive juggernaut with Mahomes at the controls. Now, seemingly everything has become a chore, especially once coach Andy Reid’s script has been exhausted.
“We have a lot of hope in Pat Mahomes and Andy Reid,” defensive tackle Chris Jones said. “They’ve scored a lot of points and we never once doubted them. … We always trust that if we give them the ball back, we have an opportunity to score and I don't think that changes after one game.”
Of course, Jones is being kind. This comedy of offensive errors have persisted for far more than one game.
Still, Kansas City is 7–3 and fields perhaps the league’s best defense. The Chiefs have seven games remaining, including five against quarterbacks named Mac Jones, Jordan Love, Jake Browning and Aidan O’Connell (twice). Smart money says they’ll win 13 games or so and have a terrific shot at home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
But once the postseason rolls around, Browning, Jones, Love and O’Connell won’t be there. It’ll be Trevor Lawrence, Lamar Jackson, Tua Tagovailoa and potentially Josh Allen.
Even with Kansas City’s elite defense, the Chiefs will need to score some points. They’ll have to extend leads, not simply protect them. Through 10 games, that seems a monumental task for a team known for scoring with ease throughout the Mahomes era.
The good news? The defense is brilliant. Once again on Monday, the Chiefs stymied an elite offense, holding the Eagles to 21 points on 4.4 yards per play while recording five sacks and a takeaway. A.J. Brown was held to one catch for eight yards, while the rest of Philadelphia's offense only mustered an additional 230 yards.
Yet unlike previous years where the offense would have pulled away, the Chiefs are stuck in neutral, flooring the gas pedal only to see the engine seize.
“We’ve got to find ways to score,” Mahomes said. “At the end of the day, the defense is playing great football, has been all year. Offensively we have to find ways to finish football games.”
Everything remains in front of Kansas City, but at some point, the Chiefs must fix their never-ending parade of self-inflicted issues.
That point is now.