The 2016 Kansas City Chiefs may have squandered their best chance to return to the Super Bowl after a 46-year absence from the big game.
Just think. Entire generations of Chiefs fans have never seen their favorite team play for a championship, the last time that Kansas City won one was when a guy named Len Dawson was their quarterback and he is now 82 years old.
It was all lining up perfectly for the Chiefs too. Riding a 13-3 record, the team won the AFC West as well as the second seed in the playoffs. After coming up just short in New England the prior year, the Chiefs were healthy and an improved defense was hoped to give them a chance in Gillette Stadium where the Pats are nearly invincible in the playoffs.
All that they had to do was to win a home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers but blew it when they couldn’t even muster enough offense to beat a team that was unable to score a single touchdown in the game.
The Kansas City offense went missing and the defense managed to limit the Steelers to six-field goals but the Chiefs ended up losing 18-16 in another gem from game manager Alex Smith whose latest stinker may have just punched his ticket out of town.
During his four-years with KC, Smith has been just good enough to lose. Mostly able to avoid the critical turnover but never able to take it to the next level to advance the Chiefs in the playoffs. His 2016 numbers were underwhelming with 3,502 yards but ONLY 15 touchdowns which just isn’t going to get it done in today’s NFL.
Head Coach Andy Reid seems to have had it with Smith and the play not to lose style of offense that the quarterback is best suited for. The team traded up in the draft to nab former Texas Tech gunslinger Patrick Mahomes II. It was a costly move for the Chiefs so you can pretty much rest assured that the Alex Smith show has only one year left – at best.
For a team that depends on a ball control, defense-heavy scheme there is not really that much in terms of running back, at least since stud Jamaal Charles’ was derailed by a series of injuries. The Chiefs will once again rely on several backs to tote the rock and they will be led by Spencer Ware who ran for 1,268 yards in 2016 and added 75 receptions.
While Ware has emerged as the go-to guy, he still isn’t a game breaker along the lines of Charles. The team did draft Kareem Hunt out of Toledo in the third round but he will only be a factor rotating with others to give Ware a breather. Charcandrick West and C.J. Spiller fill out the position.
KC took a big hit at receiver when they let Jeremy Macklin go. Granted that the former Eagle had injury woes but he was a proven player. The one bright spot in the passing game was rookie Tyreek Hill, a problem child who fell in the 2016 draft but who emerged as a multi-dimensional threat – and Bronco slayer – that Reid seems to be comfortable in building his offense around.
Tight End Kelce Travis who is second only to New England’s Rob Gronkowski in the opinion of some will once again be Smith’s big target – unless Mahomes gets thrown into the fire early.
One of the biggest reasons why Kansas City fans were actually believing that they could dethrone the Patriots was due to a stout defense that is full of opportunistic playmakers who are consistently able to get the other team to cough up the ball.
The defense will return largely intact with the exception of Dontari Poe who left via free agency for the Atlanta Falcons. He was replaced by free agent Bennie Logan, formerly of Philadelphia who the team hopes will shore up the run defense, a weakness in 2016.
Special teams have always been big in Kansas City and in addition to his offensive versatility, the aforementioned Tyreek Hill is a huge asset in the return game. With offensive problems, the Chiefs can use any edge that they can get.
So, what does it all mean?
It’s hard to overemphasize just how the Chiefs pissed away their chances last year but could make one last run with Smith at quarterback. It is literally the man’s last stand but he has had his opportunities and came up short. That’s just business in the NFL.
They will once again battle the resurgent Oakland Raiders for the AFC West crown but will likely fall short in the playoffs once again until they have the firepower to keep up with the conference’s better offenses.