Second-half offensive struggles plague Chiefs in 17-16 loss to Tennessee

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs posted plenty of their own marquee come-from-behind wins this season, but now they know how it feels on the other side, surrendering a 14-point first-half lead and a 10-point halftime margin in a 19-17 home loss to the Tennessee Titans as the team’s offense suffered another second-half slump.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith drops back with the ball during the team's 19-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium Dec. 18, 2016. (Photo courtesy Chiefs PR,
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith drops back with the ball during the team’s 19-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium Dec. 18, 2016. (Photo courtesy Chiefs PR,

“I though we were awful on third down and we didn’t capitalize in the red zone,” said wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. “We could have put that game away much, much earlier. We have nobody to blame but ourselves.”

The Chiefs (10-4) could have clinched a playoff berth with a win. The Titans (8-6) kept their own playoff drive alive with the victory. But the game turned on multiple occasions when the Chiefs offense needed just a single yard or two yet could not convert.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” tight end Travis Kelce said in summing up the team’s struggles at moving the ball at critical short-yardage situations.


The game’s start did little to suggest a hard-fought struggle. The Chiefs raced out to a 14-0 nothing lead with more than 4 minutes left in the first quarter. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill took an inside handoff for a 68-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Alex Smith later added a 10-yard scramble for a score.

The Chiefs scored 14 points on their first six offensive plays. Yet the offense only mustered three more points over its final 51 plays.

Kelce said while he didn’t blame the play calling, he believe the offensive failed to execute at key junctures.

“I felt like we got a little conservative,” Kelce said. “I don’t know if it was the weather or what. I just don’t know. I’ll have to look at film and see what happened.”

The team’s offensive struggles began near the end of the first half. After wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas nearly scored on a handoff, the Chiefs faced third-and-goal from the Titans 1-yard line. Running back Spencer Ware could not punch it in on two tries, and the Chiefs turned the ball over on downs.

Approaching the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter with the team clinging to a 17-16 lead, the Chiefs faced a third-and-2 from their own 33-yard line. A first down almost certainly sealed the victory with the Titans holding no timeouts.

Smith ran to his right on an option read. Smith had the option to pitch to Ware or keep the ball and turn up field. With a defender draped all over the running back, Smith had no choice but to keep the ball. The run netted no gain and the Chiefs were forced to punt.

“That is something where we were trying to isolate the edge defender and then put pressure on him,” Smith said. “Once he took the pitch guy, I wasn’t trying to make anything bad happen there, that’s something dangerous with a guy playing out on him.”

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota then drove his team 40 yards downfield in just 62 seconds to setup a game-winning 53-yard field goal try by former Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop. His first attempt felt short of the goal post, but coach Andy Reid called a timeout before the kick.

Reid said he wanted to call the time out before Succop had a chance to boot the ball.

“I tried to do that,” Reid said. “I actually called it relatively quick. It didn’t work.”

Succop’s second try sailed through the uprights for the win.

The loss marked another second-half struggle for the Chiefs offense, which has now has scored zero second-half points in the team’s last three games.

Maclin, who led Chiefs receivers with six catches for 82 yards, said the offense had its opportunities to score.

“We just haven’t executed our plays,” Maclin said. “The defense put us in great position today. We got the ball down in the red zone a few times, just couldn’t come away with points.”

Reid blamed the that inability to convert turnovers into points as another failing in the loss.

“You have three turnovers, you only get seven points off of it,” he said. “It’s not like us.”


Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for and the Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.