Starting slow becoming a bad habit for Chiefs

Nov 30, 2014; Kansas City, MO; Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware (94) sacks Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 30, 2014; Kansas City, MO; Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware (94) sacks Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Two straight weeks of starting slow has come back to bite the Chiefs, a team with playoff aspirations.

The inability to get the offense going out of the gate directly contributed to a two-game losing streak, which was magnified Sunday night during a 29-16 loss to AFC West rival Denver Broncos.

Kansas City converted 1-of-9 on third down attempts (11 percent) for the game and didn’t record a first down until the 7:09 mark of the second quarter already down 17-0.

And that is an obvious problem for a team lacking a quick-strike offense.

“Right now we’re not a team that can come back from a deficit like that,” wide receiver Dwayne Bowe said. “We got to start early and keep the pedal on the gas, and keep pounding the ball until we get a victory. We got to start faster and finish stronger.”

The statistics from Sunday night are mind-blowing for what proved a horrendous effort from the Chiefs, who had more than a week to prepare for the Broncos.

Kansas City started with the first possession of the game, but did nothing with it, much less the first 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, the Broncos produced 130 yards of offense in the first quarter compared to the Chiefs’ minus 10 yards.

“It kind of snowballed on us,” tight end Anthony Fasano said. “A couple of plays don’t go your way early on and you really can’t recover when you play a good team like Denver. So again, it’s a big learning lesson for us.”

Denver finished the game with 388 total yards, while the Chiefs totaled 151. And the numbers keep piling on to highlight the Chiefs’ brutal effort.

The Broncos ran 80 total offensive plays compared to the Chiefs’ 44, more than half of Denver’s plays coming on the ground to the tune of 214 yards rushing on 45 attempts.

The Broncos also held the ball for 38:47 compared to Kansas City’s 21:13.

“We got to go back and look at the film,” Bowe said. “They came out more aggressive, more physical than us. They just jumped out on us.”

Fasano agreed.

“I don’t think we played like ourselves and that’s disappointing,” he said. “We weren’t executing well, got behind in early downs and really couldn’t recover from that. Disappointing loss against a division rival at home on Sunday Night Football.”

The last two weeks of ugly losses should serve as a wake-up call for whatever postseason aspirations the Chiefs harbor.

A sudden inability to convert on third downs and a defense vulnerable to the run provide two major issues to address with four games remaining.

Kansas City’s defense has allowed two 200-plus yards rushing in two of the last three games, while the offense has gone a combined 3-of-23 (13 percent) on third down conversion in Weeks 12-13.

“A little bit of a check for sure for all of us,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “Really felt like the last two weeks were uncharacteristic of who we are as a team and it’ll be a little bit of that, a little bit of a gut-check time.”

Smith, who was sacked six times on the night, also doesn’t believe it’s time to push panic buttons.

“There’s still a lot of football left, a lot of meaningful football left for us,” he said. “It’s going to be a matter of what we do with it. A little bit like the start of the season I think.”

Bowe echoed his quarterback, adding the team needs to return to what it does well in hopes of defeating the slow starts that have become a bad habit.

“Keep our heads down and just know it takes one game to get back into it,” Bowe said. “We got to start by that one game. I think we’re going to get back to the basics next week and just start off with Chiefs’ style football, pounding and grinding and open it up with the play-action.”