By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Kansas City Chiefs failed not once, not twice, but three times to play proper defense on three separate third-and-10 plays in overtime of the AFC Championship Game. The Kansas City Chiefs failed to prevent Rex Burkhead, who averaged 3.3 yards per carry during the year, from gaining 10 yards on the snap after the third conversion of a third-and-10. The Kansas City Chiefs then failed to keep Rex Burkhead from reaching the end zone from the 3-yard line.
The Kansas City Chiefs, as a result of that multitude of failures, lost the football game and their season.
Now, the Kansas City Chiefs want to change the rules of the NFL.
This news should come as no surprise, as whispers and scuttlebutt have surfaced ever since … the Patriots beat the Falcons in overtime of the Super Bowl a couple of years earlier. A change to the overtime rules is something that many people have shown support for in the past, and as we all know, Patriots involvement in any matter tends to fast-forward the process of rule changes — or at least drive the conversation.
And so, right in line with that trend, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said on “PFT Live” that Andy Reid is in the process of preparing a proposal to the NFL that would give both teams possession of the football in overtime no matter what.
“I think everybody wants a chance for guys to do what they do. I don’t really see the downside of having that,” Veach told PFT. “Especially when you have a player like Pat Mahomes. It would have been a lot of fun. I think people, if they weren’t already tuned in for a great game, would have turned on that overtime.”
What Veach failed to mention is that the world would have gotten to see Patrick Mahomes play if the Kansas City defense had been even slightly better than porous. Had the Kansas City defense been just moderately decent for one or two snaps, then those imaginary non-viewers would have had the chance to flip on the ol’ telly and catch a glimpse of Mahomes in action.
Alas, the sport is not called “Watch Patrick Mahomes.” It is called football. And football involves three distinct units: offense, defense and special teams. It also involves coaching and preparation.
Teams that excel in all of those areas should not be punished.
Somewhere along the line, the idea that a team is not guaranteed an offensive possession became irredeemably unfair, a significant issue which must be fixed. Immediately.
As the league has trended more toward offense, the idea of making everything “fair” has really garnered a lot of support.
Truth is, though, the Chiefs had a fair chance to get the football.
A stop on third-and-10 at the New England 35-yard line would have given Kansas City the ball with great field position, needing only a field goal to win.
A stop on third-and-10 at the K.C. 45-yard line might have given the Chiefs some dicier field position to start with, but they nevertheless would have gotten their precious possession.
A stop on third-and-10 at the K.C. 30 would have forced Stephen Gostkowski to attempt a 48-yard field goal — far from a sure thing on a cold winter’s night in Missouri. A miss would have given the ball to the Chiefs at the Kansas City 38.
(At this point, should we mention the fact that the Chiefs never would have even had to play in overtime if Dee Ford had just managed to line up remotely close to the Chiefs’ side of the line of scrimmage? I feel like it’s a good time. So consider that indefensible gaffe mentioned.)
A timeout by Andy Reid after that final third-and-10 conversion might have helped the gassed Chiefs defense catch their breath. Alas, Reid just watched like the rest of us (except for those few folks that Veach referenced) as his team allowed Burkhead to gash them for 10 more yards.
Still — still — despite that cavalcade of failure, the Chiefs had a chance to get their possession. Yes, the Patriots were on the 5-yard line, but holding them to a field goal would have given the football to Patrick Mahomes. The dozens of people not watching the game would have finally gotten their opportunity to tune in.
That possibility remained intact after the Chiefs defense proved that yes, it is possible to stop a running back, when they tackled Burkhead after a gain of three yards. That brought up second-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Two more stops, and Mahomes gets the ball with a chance to win or tie.
The Chiefs failed to lay a finger on Burkhead before he crossed the goal line.
Maybe — maybe — there’s somebody out there who could or should be making the case for a change to the overtime rules. But for the Chiefs to be doing it, after that tremendous defensive failure?
That’s flat-out embarrassing.
Have a little pride.
And this isn’t something that needs to be discussed just in theory. We can point to concrete evidence of the Chiefs actively failing to play simple defense time and time again in that overtime.
I’m not entirely sure we need to do this, but you can bet your bottom dollar that we’re doing it.
On the initial third-and-10 of overtime, you can see that the safeties are playing 15 yards off the line of scrimmage:
Some simple pre-snap motion from Julian Edelman led to confusion in the two cornerbacks, which allowed Edelman to get off the line completely uncovered. The safeties also dropped even deeper from their pre-snap positions, dropping all the way to 20 yards off the line of scrimmage.
Combine the cornerbacks’ confusion with the deep safeties, and what you have is the recipe for a much-too-easy 20-yard gain.
Tom Brady completed that pass because he’s Tom Brady. But Brock Osweiler could have completed that pass. That defense was atrocious.
But, well, long game, mistakes happen. Get ’em next time, tiger.
“Next time” came three snaps later. And what do we get on this third-and-10? Why, we have … are you kidding me? We have safeties dropping to 15 yards and 18 yards off the line of scrimmage at the snap:
The cornerbacks didn’t screw up this time, but Edelman still easily beat Charvarius Ward off the line. That wouldn’t have mattered if the Chiefs had somebody — anybody — roaming the middle of the field. Alas, they did not. With the safeties sitting a full TWENTY-ONE YARDS off the line of scrimmage, Edelman had enough space to lay down a picnic blanket and pour himself a glass of wine before Brady delivered the pass.
Tom Brady — no surprise — completed the pass. But Johnny Manziel could have completed that pass. That defense was atrocious.
Safety Daniel Sorensen, though, was able to have a good view of the completion after stepping up from his 21-yard drop, and he offered some polite applause for a job well done:
Sorensen was almost able to get within 10 yards of Edelman at the time of the reception. Close, but no cigar.
If you’re still riding here with me, we’ll take a look at the final third-and-10, when — lo and behold — Sorensen didn’t drop to 15-20 yards at the snap. Instead he stood right at the sticks, like a well-prepared and well-coached safety might have been in the first two instances. The past didn’t matter this time, though; Sorensen was making sure that Julian Edelman did not burn them again.
And he succeeded!
One problem: By stepping up and toward the middle of the field at the snap, he opened up a passing lane to Rob Gronkowski, who was in man coverage while split out to the left.
Brady pinned a spiral to the breastplate of the hulking tight end, who hauled it in for a gain of 15 yards.
That play did require a quarterback of Brady’s caliber to make it work, but still, too easy.
At that point, Any Reid should have called timeout. His defense was a mess, but the game could still be salvaged. The Patriots were 15 yards away from the end zone. All that was needed was three snaps of focus, energy and effort, and the Chiefs could get the ball to Patrick Mahomes with a chance to win the game.
Andy Reid should have called a timeout to give his players a breather and to let (since-fired) defensive coordinator Bob Sutton mentally wrap his head around the challenge.
Instead, Reid just stood there. Perhaps he was crafting the new overtime rules proposal in his head.
Then his defense played like this:
The defense was either completely gassed, or the players on the field had just completely quit. I don’t know which one is worse. But a coach worth his salt would have recognized the scenario and either prevented it from happening or at least tried to fix it after that humiliating showing on a first-down run in OVERTIME OF THE AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME.
(At this point, should we mention the fact that as a head coach, Reid is now 1-5 in conference championship games? Should we point out that his playoff record is 12-14? Should we note that it’s 2-7 since 2009? Or that he’s 2-4 with the Chiefs? Should we add that he owns an 0-3 record in the playoffs when going against Bill Belichick? I feel like it is a good time. So consider that unmistakable awful track record in big moments mentioned.)
Alas, Reid didn’t recognize it. He still didn’t call a timeout after it. From there, Burkhead ran for two yards, and ran for three yards, and the Patriots made the Super Bowl, and the Chiefs went home for the winter.
Since then, Reid has fired Sutton and crafted a proposal to change the rules.
Offense does matter in the NFL. Obviously. But so does defense. So does coaching. Good coaching, good defense, and big plays can allow a team to overcome any perceived moments of unfairness that spring up over the course of a football game.
Reid and the Chiefs don’t want to recognize any of that, and they clearly don’t want to use the events of this year’s AFC Championship Game as an opportunity to improve. They just want it to be easier next time.
What a joke.