Over their last 26 regular-season games, the Kansas City Chiefs are 22-4. They are, however, 1-2 in the playoffs, with the one coming against Houston and the losses coming against Pittsburgh and New England.
That is why many NFL analysts feel that, despite the Chiefs’ success under Andy Reid, something is missing, especially since Kansas City has finished 20th or worse in total offense in each of the last six seasons.
So, what is it? What’s missing?
“I feel like I need to put a lot on myself in terms of the run game, being there even more for Alex than I have been, especially in the crucial times of a game or the crucial moments of a drive,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It’s hard to just say, ‘Oh, that’s the problem’ – in any offense. In any offense, it’s hard to just say, ‘Oh, that’s where we need to grow. That’s it.’ I don’t know. I think we’re still building. Each year, we’ve grown and we’ve built off the previous (year), and I think next year we’re just going to keep taking it to another level.”
It would be hard for Kelce to do more. The 27-year-old led Kansas City in catches (85) and yards (1,125) this season. In fact, he was one of just two Chiefs to finish with more than 45 catches and the only Chief to finish with at least 600 receiving yards. Kelce had five catches for 77 yards in the Chiefs’ 18-16 divisional loss to the Steelers on Jan. 15, as Kansas City lost despite not allowing a touchdown.
Afterward, Kelce wasn’t happy about it, as a holding penalty on Eric Fisher nullified what would have been the game-tying two-point conversion. Kelce ripped the officials, saying they didn’t deserve to work at Foot Locker, but replays showed that Fisher clearly held James Harrison.
“It looks bad,” Kelce admitted. “It looks bad. I also say this: At the end of the game, let the boys be boys. Let the guys play the game of football. There’s going to be a yank here and there that you’re not going to call throughout the game. Why call it at the last second? When you’re playing the game, you might get yanked here, you might get held there, you might get a pass interference here. You have to let that go so it doesn’t affect the next part (of the game). The data is in your head that, okay, this is how we’re playing the game. The refs have set that tempo to where you’re playing the game to match that physicality so you don’t get put in a situation where, ‘Oh, even if he does give me a yank, the ref isn’t calling it. I have to be able to counter that.’ A lot goes into it. I got stuck on the unfortunate side, and sure enough, I’m the idiot in the locker room that cursed on TV.”
In any event, the Chiefs will have to wait until next season for another crack at the AFC Championship. If they advance that far, they’ll likely face the Patriots, who have played in the AFC Championship six years in a row. They’re also back in the Super Bowl for the seventh time in Tom Brady’s career, despite not having all-world talent on defense.
How does New England do it?
“I feel like their team complements each other very well,” Kelce said. “When you’re playing with leads, it’s a little easier to kind of sit back and control the offense. I’ve been stuck in this. Heck, that’s what the Steelers kind of did to us: just get up early and be able to run with Le’Veon (Bell) the entire game and milk the clock. I think they do a great job of offensively taking advantage of their run game and their short pass game to do enough to keep the chains moving but still drain the clock when they’re up. And their defense has guys. (Devin) McCourty in the back end, you got Logan (Ryan), and even (Malcolm) Butler. Butler has shown and proven that he’s a big-game type of player. I think their secondary is definitely the strong point of their defense.”