KANSAS CITY, MO. – As a two-time AFC defending champion with the dynamic talent of Patrick Mahomes as quarterback, it goes without saying that the Kansas City Chiefs take the best shot of any opponent.
Defensive defender Tyrann Mathieu hinted that the Chiefs will be worn down under this burden.
“We just have to find a way to dig deep,” said Mathieu on Sunday evening after a 38:20 loss to the Buffalo Bills. “Every team we play wants to beat us. They want to beat us badly. … We’re going to Washington [this] Week and they’ll want to beat us.
“People stay up late [in preparation to play against the Chiefs], Coaches stay up late. These guys come to our stadium and just want to win. I say there is some urgency that you must have when playing for the Kansas City Chiefs. Everyone in this league wants what we have: the Mahomes and the Hills and all the success we’ve had, the teams are chasing that, that glory. “
The Chiefs, who started each of the previous four seasons with a win of at least four games, are 2-3 and in an unusual place – the last place in AFC West. They played on a difficult schedule – four of their five opponents look like they will make the playoffs – but untypically they didn’t do well.
Much of the problem lies in a defense that is last in the league and allows almost 33 points per game. This can be attributed to many factors, but one of them seems to be little doubt that, as Mathieu said, the opponents are investing extra time to prepare for them.
Washington manager Ron Rivera will be the last to attempt to beat the Chiefs on Sunday (1pm ET, CBS). He is familiar with being a particular focus of an opponent’s preparation, having played once for a Super Bowl championship team with the Chicago Bears in 1985 and later the Carolina Panthers to a 15-1 regular season and a Super Bowl place in the Trained in 2015.
“It’s very difficult,” said Rivera. “[Chiefs coach Andy Reid] won his [Super Bowl] and next season everyone was shooting at him and now everyone is shooting at him another time.
“To have lost [the Super Bowl last season] and just the trauma of getting it going again is difficult. It’s really. It takes a lot from you. [Reid] Having gone through two years in a row, I can only imagine how much that is for an individual. It is much work. You’re always in people’s crosshairs. Nothing comes easy at this point. … You are in a situation where you are the benchmark for a while. “
Rivera said the players felt as stressed as the coach.
“When I was a player for the Bears, from that point on, from 1985 onwards, I always felt like we were going to get the best shot of them all,” he said.
Nobody feels sorry for the chiefs. Carrying the bull’s eye is a problem any team would like to have, and Reid suggested doing it was a privilege, not a burden.
“I don’t want to be in any other position like the guys who have been here before,” said Reid. “And now you’ve got an influx of new people, so they haven’t been here in the last year or two.
“Everyone, we just need to improve our game and have the same urgency to get things done.”
Mahomes said, “I wouldn’t want it any other way. I want to be as prepared as possible to play in the playoffs to try and make it to the Super Bowl every single team then I’ll be up for the challenge. “
The problem for the Chiefs is that they haven’t been ready this season. Opponents have consistently tried a defensive strategy – two deep safeguards and no flash – that sometimes frustrated Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense, forcing them to lose the ball.
Little worked in defense. They allow a staggering 7.1 yards per game, which is the last in the NFL and well above the league average of 5.7. The NFL record for a full season is 6.6.
That may explain why the Chiefs, at least on defense, are feeling the strain.
“We just have to find a way to stop the bleeding,” said Mathieu.